As I write this, I’m suffering from acute sleep exhaustion after pulling an all-nighter. I stayed up until 5:30 a.m. to finalize not one, but two entries for RWA’s Golden Heart contest (the big contest for non-published romance writers) before the deadline.
I’m glad I completed everything on time and met the deadline. However, I’ve now spent far too long staring at a blank “Add New Post” screen on my blog and lacking any motivation to do even more writing for a blog post when I’m running on less than three hours of sleep.
No matter how much we love writing, we can sometimes feel burned out. I wrote 61K words in November for NaNoWriMo. (Yay!) And then promptly didn’t write any fiction for the next couple of weeks. (Boo.)
Was that the fault of the chaos of the Christmas season, or did I simply need a break? Honestly, it was probably a little of both.
Is Overdoing It a Given for Writers?
Mental health professionals recommend that we avoid stress and overdoing things, but writing is a career of deadlines. The techniques to avoid burnout (getting enough sleep, saying no to deadlines, not taking on too much) aren’t always compatible with a writing career.
This past weekend, I’d recovered enough from Christmas and NaNoWriMo to write over 10K in two days. In the 48 hours after that, I edited over 100 pages, critiqued another 100 pages for a fellow Golden Heart entrant, formatted almost 400 pages, wrote a synopsis from scratch, and revised said synopsis. And uh, didn’t sleep much. *smile* So it’s understandable that I wanted a little downtime before plunging into a blog post.
Sometimes overdoing it is just a fact of life for us. And when that happens, we need to allow time to cope, recover, and restart.
However, if we want to produce words faster so we can release more books, we have to shorten the duration of downtime we need before doing it all over again. That means learning the most effective downtime techniques for us.
Dealing with Burnout by Recovering Faster
Depending on the cause and severity of our burnout, some techniques might help us more than others. Heavy writing days might make us feel like we have no more words. Lack of sleep can sap our motivation.
Whatever the cause, knowing our options can help us find the right cure for our situation. These suggestions are roughly in order of light to deep recovery strategies:
- Sleep: Deep sleep is most helpful.
- Relaxing/Socializing: In my case, this often translates to playing on Twitter. *smile*
- Replenish the Words: Do activities that fill us up again and give our muse new ideas, such as reading for pleasure, watching TV/movies, or listening to music.
- Exercise: Get the blood moving.
- Explore Other Creative Outlets: Gardening, painting, etc.
- Be Mindless: Wash dishes, do laundry, vacuum, etc.
- Change the Scenery: Try writing in a different location: at a cafe, in a park, etc.
- Rediscover the Passion: Remind ourselves why we want this career, such as by rereading the story that first made us want to be a writer or by reading one of our own stories for pleasure.
- Resolve to Cut Back: Sometimes our dread of upcoming stresses makes us feel burned out before we even start. Try eliminating some of those stresses.
- Take a Vacation: Ditch the kids at the grandparents for a weekend for a stay-cation or get away and have new experiences.
- Identify Our Blocks: If we’re feeling negative about doing writing of any sort, there’s usually an underlying reason (resentment, self-doubt, depression, etc.).
- Evaluate Priorities: Are we happy with our current path, or do we need to change our approach? Are our deadlines the career equivalent of busywork, or will they help us achieve our goals?
Now, as I’m typing the end of this post, I can point to what worked for me this time. A few hours on Twitter gave me the break I needed to dive into writing again. Some days that’s all we’ll need. Other days, we’ll need a lot more.
You’ll notice that just banging our head on the keyboard, hoping words fall out, isn’t on that list above. We all need downtime. The key is discovering what kind of a break we need to get us back into productive mode quickly.
Have you suffered from writing burnout? What triggered it? How did you recover? Were you frustrated by how long it took to recover? What do you think you could have done differently? Do you have other suggestions for how to recover from writing burnout?Pin It