As freelance writers, sometimes we get hired to write about tough topics. I’ve written about mental health issues, domestic violence, rape, and any number of other negative issues. And it can be rough to get through!
However, writing about depressing topics doesn’t have to depress you.
If you stay positive, you can write about any topic — and get paid for it! — without having it affect your day-to-day life.
First, Tackle Your Own Issues
I stayed away from rough topics for a long time because I simply couldn’t deal with them. They messed with my head.
You see, my life hasn’t always been super peachy-keen. I’ve had my fair share of abusive relationships (both physical and mental/emotional) and I was raped when I was twenty-two (not the best way to lose your virginity, lemme tell ya!).
Even talking about mental health issues was a struggle for me at first, because I was so close to the topic. I have severe OCD, Major Depression, General Anxiety, and a mild case of PTSD. And talking about mental health — even though I knew it would help others who were struggling similarly — would send me into panic attacks.
In order to talk about rough topics — especially when they hit SO close to home — you have to deal with your own issues first.
Therapy helps. Also having a strong support network of family and friends who you can speak to openly and honestly.
Don’t keep your past hurts inside of you. Get them out. Talk about them. DEAL with them.
As soon as you start to get a grip on your own traumas, you can better write about them to help other people deal with those situations too!
Or, if you haven’t had any past traumas (lucky you!) then go ahead and skip to step two.
Second, Focus on the Good You’re Doing
The wonderful thing about tackling tough topics is that they almost always help someone in need. And that’s a wonderful feeling.
Instead of focusing on what you’re writing about (the gnarly situations), focus on all the people you’re going to be helping with the information you provide.
I know from experience, that my writing about rough topics does help people. I’ve received countless e-mails from readers telling me that my articles have helped them get through tough situations. I’ve even had a few tell me that my writing stopped them from committing suicide — essentially saving their lives!
You’ll probably never meet the people you help — and not all of them will write to you about it — but they’re out there. Your writing is making a difference.
When you focus on the positive outcome of what you’re writing, rather than the negativity of the topic at hand, it’s really hard to feel terrible during the writing process.
And, if changing the world for the better isn’t enough to keep you positive: you can always focus on the fact that you’re getting paid. It might not be as fluffy feel-good as the other reasons, but money always makes me feel better about the topics I’m writing about lol.
Sometimes, it’s okay to be a little selfish in the name of positivity. For me, knowing that I’m going to have a full fridge to feed myself, my man, and my cat makes me feel a LOT more positive about the writing process. Maybe I’m not as “zen” and free of material needs as I could be, but knowing that I’ll have a full belly after I get paid is great motivation for me to keep going. Food — and other things I can buy — makes me feel happy. And focusing on the fact that I’ll be able to buy those things that give me that happy feeling as soon as I’m done writing keeps me smiling, even when I’m writing about heinous situations.
In short: find something outside of the topic at hand that can keep you going.
Whether you’re helping others, helping yourself, or a mix of both…focus on the positive. You’ll be able to tackle any topic with ease!
Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She’s written hundreds of bylined posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers. Thousands if you count all the articles she’s ghostwritten (but she’s not allowed to talk about most of those).