Emotional agility for freelance writers

Susan David’s TED talk about emotional agility isn’t intended for freelance writers specifically, but it does offer a lot of very useful insights for us:

Our emotions contain flashing lights to things that we care about. …If you feel rage when you read the news, that rage is a signpost, perhaps, that you value equity and fairness —and an opportunity to take active steps to shape your life in that direction. When we are open to the difficult emotions, we are able to generate responses that are values-aligned.

Freelance journalists may experience those same intense feelings not just in the news we consume but in the stories we cover, be it Cape Town’s Day Zero or President Trump in the US, even if we know it may be in our own best interests to have some detachment from the subjects.

If I rail about a third of Cape Town’s population who are already living without running water at home before Day Zero becomes reality, those intense emotions may make it difficult for me to return to the work each day. But without the actual feeling of injustice, it’s far easier to wave away the plight of more than a million people and not focus on telling their stories.

Freelancers have ample opportunity to learn to work with difficult emotions. Show me the freelance writer who hasn’t at some point felt fear and self-doubt when sitting down to write a pitch or an article; who hasn’t harshly judged themselves for procrastinating; who hasn’t layered guilt and shame about not earning enough, not writing enough, not writing fast enough, not writing well enough; or who takes the rejection of a pitch as a rejection of the self, of the soul.

Whether you like FDR’s statement that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, or the Buddha’s observation that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional, fear gives us the chance to step up and act courageously.

As David says, our emotions are data that can guide us to what’s most important. If you didn’t care about landing that assignment, getting the right source to speak with you, or finding just the right words in your final draft, there’d be little to no emotion, meaning, or possibility of growth.

Click below to watch the video:

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