Most writers would say they want to be able to write every day. Whether that’s working on their novels, their memoirs, their fanfics, whatever, I think most of us could agree that writing all the time is the ultimate bliss.
But, like anything, writing every day has a shadow side: burnout.
Writer’s Burnout isn’t talked about much, probably because we all fantasize the perfect writerly ideal where we write all the time and never question inspiration and have ideas and words flowing from our fingertips non-stop.
But it’s really important to talk about. Burnout can make you feel tired and overwhelmed, can also compromise your work, make you more judgemental of yourself, and hinder your writing.
So today, let’s talk about burnout and what to do when you just feel…tired.
Know Your Limits
You know when you’ve reached the end of your writing rope: you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re probably writing to just get.it.done. You feel guilty if you do something other than write. You’re dreaming of a few blissful hours with a good book or in front of a tv show.
We’ve all been there. And writer friends, this is so important:
Know when you need to stop.
Take this as your official reminder: you can take breaks when you need them. No one is standing behind you breathing down your neck, expecting you to finish on time. Most of us writers write for fun or for far out deadlines. Some of us (*raises hand*) make our own deadlines.
But your writing will suffer if you try and write through burnout. So just don’t. Know your limits. Know when you need to take a break.
I know, I know. I’m always saying get writing, go write, write for five minutes today! I love to motivate you guys to get writing every day, to get those beautiful stories in your head out onto paper.
But sometimes, you have to step away from all of it.
Don’t open your Google Docs. Don’t reference your world maps. Don’t carry a printed rough draft with you to edit “when you have a minute”. Don’t dwell on the outcome of characters or if you explained your MC’s heartbreak well enough.
It’s ok. It’s alright. The world, your world, won’t end if you separate yourself from your WIP for a few days. Your character’s heartbreak will be waiting for you wax eloquent about when you return to your story.
Take some time to anything but write. Really.
Do Something You Love
With no strings attached. So no watching tv shows to analyze how they tell stories or read a book while taking notes on prose.
Watch some trashy tv if that’s your thing. Spend hours on Tumblr or Pinterest. Try out a new DIY that you’ll probably never use. Read a story just for the pleasure of it. Get outside. Stay in bed all day. Have a good long chat over tea with your best friend. Go play a board game or a lawn game. Disconnect entirely.
I know this is hard. My stories are like my children and it’s hard to just leave them.
But space can bring the best clarity. By taking some time away to not think so hard, you’re letting your brain recoup. When you come back, you’ll be loaded with ideas.
Let Inspiration Come When It Will
Don’t spend your break constantly searching for inspiration for a new story. Let it come from where it will. Carry a notebook around with you just in case and take notes whenever you see fit.
But don’t obsess. Don’t ride the bus for hours writing down people’s conversations. Don’t sit in a park attempting writing exercises. Just live your life, take lots of deep breaths, and let the inspiration come when and how it sees fit.
Then move on.
Go Back When You’re Ready
Don’t wait too long, and don’t use Writer’s Burnout as an excuse to avoid stories that need your full attention. But when you’re ready, when you’re feeling inspired again, sit down at your desk and open up your documents. Read through your notes. Marvel at your world maps. Take a minute to remember how you felt when you were brokenhearted. Translate that to your MC’s heartbreak.
You’ll write better. You’ll feel better. And you’ll be back in the swing of things in no time.