The Burnout Effect. No, I’m not talking about what you become after smoking certain ‘cigarettes’ or eating special brownies. I’m talking about writing burnout. What causes it? Can you prevent it? How do you recover?
It the last few weeks, I’ve suffered from writer’s burnout. We’ll call it the Burnout Effect. #notthebutterflyeffect
Spending the last few years writing non-stop, then revisions, then editing…I’ve married myself to my books. While that may work for some people, it sure doesn’t work for me.
Some may compare writer’s burnout to writer’s block. I guess they can be same. Though for me, writer’s block is when I cannot find anything to write about. The story’s has come to a standstill and I can’t get my creative juices flowing again.
Writer’s burnout is different. The creativity is there. The story plays out in my mind, but I don’t have the ‘energy’ to write. I can sit down in front of the computer with every intention of editing my masterpiece, yet when it comes to getting busy, well, I don’t. It’s almost as if I’m dreading the entire process. That I don’t want sucked into the void.
So what causes writer’s burnout? If you’re like me and marry yourself to your writing, you’re probably writing too much. This leads to burnout issues.
When I write, I can’t seem to do anything else. I focus on the story and the creative process to the point I’m obsessed. The rest of the world seems to pass me by. My husband calls it an abyss. It scares him. #seriously.
If you don’t allow your mind to breathe and concentrate on something else, you’re only causing harm to yourself and your story. It’s storytelling suicide. You have to give your mind a break.
So what can you do to prevent burnout?
- Walking: Something as simple as walking away from your keyboard for a drink or a short walk outdoors can do wonders. I find that walking helps me to clear my mind. Some days it helps me to think about the million other things that I have going on in my life. This allows me to process these thoughts or stew on them enough to place them on the backburner and get back to writing. Did I mention that walking also help reduce stress? #youbetterbelieveit
- Exercise: Your body needs exercise to stay fit. But it also releases special chemicals in the brain called endorphins. The chemicals give you’re an overall sense of happiness and well-being. This in turn helps with the writing process. If you’re unhappy or depressed, do you think you’ll be able to think coherently? Highly unlikely, but there are exceptions to every rule. I’m not one of those exceptions.
- Goals: I think that setting goals on how much to write each day is helpful. Of course, it doesn’t always work out the way we want it to, especially if you’re a pantser, as I am. Still, trying to accomplish too much in one day is not going to get you closer to finishing your story. It may even hinder your creativity. Set a word count you want to reach and try to stick with it.
But what do you do if you’ve already reached the burnout stage?
- For starters, take a day off. Your story isn’t going anywhere. If you don’t give yourself a break, it never will go anywhere, at least, not in the direction you want it to go.
- If you’re determined to sludge it out, give your mind a breather. Stand up and stretch. Walk to the mailbox or around the block. Even walking into another room will give your brain a much-needed change of scenery.
- Be kind to your body. This includes your brain. Give it something else to concentrate on like reading a book or watching TV. If you continue to obsess over your writing, you’re not distracting yourself enough. Try something different.
These are just a few tips that I’m learning to implant into my writing life. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m starting to feel better. Don’t get me wrong, I still obsess over my writing. The days I do, I don’t do anything productive. My inner critic loves giving me crap about that. She’s such a @$#&*.
If you have any tips you would like to share, please feel free to add them in the comments below.