Friday, December 29, 2017

9 Tips for Dealing With Writer's Burnout

My entire life is build around words.

I'm an indie author who's also seeking traditional publication. I write a blog post every Friday...and also (if I remember) a newsletter once a month. I'm a Youtuber, the Phoenix Fiction Writers Multimedia manager, the Live Events Coordinator for WriteOnCon, a reviewer at Constant Collectible, and a writing consultant at my college.

What does that mean? It means I'm writing and reading all. the. time. Query letters, searching for literary agents, editing, drafting, formatting, marketing, blogging, outlining videos and podcasts, sending business emails, reading blog posts, reading books, talking about books, helping other people read and write and edit.

I'm drowning in words. And, occasionally, it gets to the point that I'm so sick of the things that I think maybe I'd be better off switching jobs and becoming a Master Underwater Basketweaver.

It's not that I have writer's block. I can (and do) continue to write. After all, I have deadlines to meet. But the words don't feel the same: They annoy me. They feel cramped and not quite right. And my fingers, brain, and soul all want a break.

Do you know the feeling? Probably. Otherwise you wouldn't have clicked to read this article. So how can we, as creators of words, keep writing without suffering from the horrible Writer's Burnout?
9 Tips for Dealing With Writer's Burnout
1. Know there's no avoiding it. Notice I didn't title this post "Tips To Keep You From Ever Experiencing Writer's Burnout." Which may have been a good idea because that type of clickbait would greatly increase my views, but no. I didn't because Writer's Burnout isn't something you can avoid. If you are writing as a career choice, then you're going to get sick of words every so often just like you'd get sick of any other job you have. Writer's Burnout isn't a monster. It's just something you have to learn to handle in a healthy way. It's normal and not something to be afraid of. So when you come up against it: Don't stop writing. You like writing. You really do. Just keep going and remember that it'll get better.

2. Take daily breaks. No, not a once-every-so-often-right-after-I-finish-this-sentence break. Daily. Breaks. Eat lunch. Go for a walk. Drink some water. Get out of that chair and go do something for just a few minutes. Your writing will still be there when you get back. I promise. Unless you have an old, unreliable computer or a paper manuscript and a dog. In which case: I can't guarantee anything.

3. Change your view. Stop writing in the same place every day. Switch from your desk to your bed to your couch to your dining room table. Switch from your house to a coffee shop to a library. Redecorate your desk. Try listening to a new type of music or no music at all. Reschedule your writing time from the morning to the night. Make some changes so you aren't doing the same exact thing over and over and over. That may work for the people in the LEGO movie, but it doesn't work for you.

4. Engage in a non-writing hobby. And by non-writing I mean one that doesn't involve the written world. No writing. No reading. Take up cooking or knitting or painting or surfing or volunteering or martial art-ing (yes, that's a thing). Engage in an activity that uses a completely different part of your brain.

5. Unplug. Get away from your screen. No laptop. No computer. No phone. No TV. No, not even your Kindle. Take at least ten minutes each day where you're doing something that doesn't involve a glowing electronic device. And no, eating and showering do not count. Nice try, though.

6. Diversify your writing. Do you write fiction? Try writing blog posts. You write books? Short stories are cool. So maybe you write sci-fi, but what about horror? Or historical fiction? You could do that, couldn't you? Of course you can. Try writing something new on the side of your big project to keep you from going completely insane.

7. Organize. I keep telling you that it's important to schedule your writing time, but do you listen? No. Well, listen now: You need to get organized. One of the issues that leads to Writer's Burnout is because you have deadlines and projects you're trying to finish, but you can't quite complete any of them because you're too busy wasting time on being un-organized. And then you get frustrated. It's your own fault. Look at your writing desk. Organize it. Look at your schedule. Organize it. I know it's not considered "cool" for us creatives to be all rigid, but you'll get over it.

8. Have a conversation. When was the last time you Beyond complaining about your writing? How do you expect to get new ideas or find the encouragement to keep going if you don't go talk to other humans? Not on social media, but in real-life. Use your mouth and not your keyboard.

9. Be healthy. Exercise. Stop eating so much sugar and consume something green. Hey! Put down that green Jello! That's not what I mean. Also: I know writers are supposed to be fueled by caffeine, but you're taking that a bit too far. It's not good for you. Bring it down a notch.

If you follow all of these steps, will you never again have writer's burnout? Sadly, no. You'll still get burnt out. But now you'll be able to handle it. And it will happen less.

What have you found helpful when dealing with writer's burnout? I'd love to hear your tips!

Related articles:
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity 
How to Stay Motivated to Write When Life Gets Hard
7 Tips for Balancing Your Writing with the Rest of Life

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  1. Spot on, Hannah. You are one busy woman! Kudos for giving voice to the issue of writing burnout. I also take sabbaticals and put writing on hold for a week or two during different times of the year (gasp!).....Come back refreshed and ready to enjoy writing again.

  2. I laughed a bit sadly at #7. But you're right, I didn't listen ;)

    I did organize my desk today though, and I'm feeling so much better for it. I know not everything will stay exactly where I have it right now, but at the moment, it's very pleasing to the eye.
    Scheduling writing time, however, is a bit foreign to me. I don't have a busy schedule at all currently, yet I hardly ever seem to just sit down and write; mostly because at the moment I don't seem to enjoy anything about my own writing :-/ I have a few story idea's I've been putting off because I keep thinking 'Well, I'm not there in my writing skill level yet. I should probably wait.'
    That type of thinking is probably what's getting me in trouble.

  3. This is just what I needed to hear. I've been struggling recently with my writing, and even had a break for a week because it was a good time too. But now that I'm back it's a bit hard for me to settle into daily life and writing again.
    So that's a challenge to overcome.

  4. I've found that #6 on your list works pretty well for me. I have two vastly different writing projects (one an epic fantasy, the other a YA contemporary), so I can switch between the two when I get worn out. The good thing about writing purely for enjoyment, and with no deadlines save for those you set yourself, is that you can also just take a day off. You can even take a week or two break if you want, and you come back refreshed and raring to go!

  5. I agree that to remain refreshed having hobbies unrelated to writing, and joining interesting clubs/organization(s) are important. I also believe that wide experience is an excellent burn-out preventer -- e.g. having regular employment, operating your own business, military, higher education, extended travel, exploring the outdoors, raising a family, etc. Takes time, energy, passion, but your writing will develop unique authenticity which will be hard to match. Hemingway continually worried whether his writing was sufficiently "true". I do not think he meant writing like a travelogue or documentary, but weaving true fears, joy, conflict, defeat, heroism and such into your story. Thank you for a thought provoking blog. -- TEC

  6. *quietly pins this for reference next year when she inevitably gets burned out on a massively busy writing schedule*
    I've been going more and more crazy with #7 since August... First putting together a blog schedule, then deciding on social media schedules, and now as the new year approaches, scheduling basically my entire year and my usual writing day so that I can stay on task... Now it's basically equivalent to a full-time job. Thank heavens for being homeschooled and having time to write.
    But hey, what do you mean green Jell-O doesn't count as green food? Sure it does! (Also, why is that, like, the most loathed Jell-O flavor on TV shows and movies? I love green Jell-O!)
    Breaks... I need to work on those. I tend to get absorbed in a project once I start it and have trouble breaking away from it. I've actually set alarms for meals to prevent me from missing them because I'm so bad about getting absorbed in whatever I'm doing.
    Awesome post, as always. :)


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