Whether you’re a full-time writer, working on your first book, or can write 1,000 words in 30 minutes, you must be cautious of writer’s burnout.
Writer's burnout can prevent you from finishing your book. It can also make your work sound mundane, tired, and below your best. Avoiding writer's burnout is important for professional and novice writers alike.
To continue producing great work here are 11 practical tips to avoid burnout and what to do if you're currently experiencing it. But first up, let's discuss what it actually is.
What is writer’s burnout?
Writer’s burnout, which is not to be confused with writer’s block, is when writing feels like a burden. You have stepped out of the creative flow and writing becomes mechanical.
You’re able to get the words down on paper, but it doesn’t feel like you're creating your best work. Instead, you may feel like a machine massively producing content. The words are there but it’s nothing that is inspiring or captivating.
If this scenario sounds like something you've gone through, you may be wondering how you ended up like a car running on fumes.
When writer’s burnout usually happens
Writer’s burnout usually happens when you don’t prioritize writer self care.
Most writers are under some type of deadline, whether it be for a new book release, getting writing assignments in, or trying to produce a blog post every week. These time restraints can cause you to write too much in a short period of time making writing feel stressful.
You can also experience this writer's fatigue towards the end of a big project. Very similar to how running the last mile of a marathon is the hardest.
If you put too much pressure on yourself while writing, it can make writing one paragraph feel exhausting.
Why writer’s burnout usually happens
You may be out of your creative flow for a few reasons. This can be a result of:
- Taking on too many projects
- You're forcing yourself to write
- Feeling uninspired or disconnected from your creativity
- Not interested or passionate about the topics you're writing about
What are practical ideas to avoid writer's burnout?
If writing is a full-time gig or a lifelong passion the best thing you can do for yourself is avoid writer’s burnout. Follow these tips to avoid burnout and practice writer self care.
1. Break away from the routine
Having a writing routine is practical and necessary in order to meet deadlines and produce consistent content. But sometimes the routine can feel mundane and put your creativity in a box.
Mixing up, adding to, or even changing your routine can reset your brain and get those creative juices flowing like a waterfall instead of a dried-up stream.
A simple way to mix up the routine is to try doing your routine in reverse. For instance, if you typically spend the morning writing, try writing in the evenings instead.
You may also try adding different elements to your routines such as listening to music while you write, or writing in a new space such as a library or a co-working space. Sometimes a shift in scenery for your writing sessions can make all the difference.
2. Write for shorter periods of time
Writing can sometimes feel like a long-distance race. Many writers will block off 4-6 hours a day to write. Although this method is practical you can still be productive by writing for shorter periods of time.
For example, you can write for 30 minutes, take a five-minute break away from the computer, and then come back and write for another 30 minutes.
Self care for writers can be setting a goal for your writing such as writing 4 paragraphs or 20 pages and repeating these intervals of time until you’ve reached your goal.
3. Keep yourself inspired
As a writer, inspiration is your best friend. When you’re inspired the words come out like spreading butter on bread. But inspiration isn’t always easy to come by, that’s why it’s important to keep yourself inspired.
There are little things that you can do every day that will keep you motivated. On the blog Share to Inspire they recommend having a support group, breaking down your goals into smaller tasks, tracking your progress, and practicing gentle self-talk.
And one great way to stay inspired is to follow what inspires you. Read a book, go to a concert, take a hike in nature, and learn something new. Sometimes experiencing life can be the best inspiration.
4. Keep a journal
Many writers started their careers by journaling. Having a notebook to write down your raw thoughts and ideas can be helpful professionally and therapeutically.
There are many ways to use a journal to help you avoid writer’s burnout. You can keep a journal with all your ideas and topics of interest, that way you'll always have ideas.
You can also keep a journal to practice free writing, to get those creative juices flowing if you feel stuck.
Even keeping a gratitude journal is a fantastic way to practice writer self care and prevent burnout.
5. Have hobbies unrelated to writing
Being a writer, it’s common that your life is consumed by writing. Perhaps you go to all the writing workshops, and network with other writers. But if all you focus on is writing and no other interests, writer’s burnout is sure to come knocking at your door.
This is why it’s important to have other hobbies. The Every Girl blog suggests taking up hobbies such as calligraphy, cooking, working out, and learning how to create your own soap and candles.
6. Do fun writing exercises unrelated to a project or work
As mentioned before writer’s burnout can happen when you’ve been dedicating too much time to one project. Especially for authors, you may grow tired of your own story, but worry that if you stop writing you’ll lose momentum.
To keep your writing skills intact try different writing exercises such as writing a letter to your younger self, writing a short story with five hundred characters, or re-writing someone else’s story as if it happened to you.
Whichever exercise you decide on, make sure you enjoy the process.
7. Take care of your physical health
As a creative soul, you want to dedicate your time and energy to creating your masterpiece. But that doesn’t mean it's okay to sacrifice the basics such as drinking water, eating three meals a day, and the often unappreciated 8 hours of sleep.
The reality is, although writing isn’t a physically demanding activity, maintaining a seated position for several hours can affect your posture and energy levels.
Writer self care can include taking breaks to walk outside. Exercising regularly and reaching for a bag of carrots instead of the usual bag of chips can also help.
8. Take care of your mental health
Just as it’s important to take care of your physical health, your mental health is equally as important. Mental health is something that's often neglected by first-time authors.
To improve your mental health be aware of your negative self-talk. Being overly critical of your work can lead to self-doubt which makes it harder to write.
Meditation is also great self care for writers. It helps you relax your mind and ease your stress.
9. Say no
When your writing career takes off and you start getting offers for writing gigs, it can be tempting to say yes to everything. However, saying no might be one of the biggest ways to practice writer self care.
If you take on more projects than you can handle, you are jeopardizing the quality of your work, and depriving yourself of the time and space to produce your best work.
Saying no doesn't always feel comfortable but it’s a necessary part of every writer’s growing business. To make the process of saying no easier, an article on Fellow suggests being clear, honest, and straightforward.
10. Connect with other writers
Writing by nature is a solo activity. Days and months go by with your main interaction being with a computer screen and occasionally your editor.
This isolation can lead to writer’s burnout. Like every human, you need a connection which is why community is important for writer self care.
To find other writers, try connecting to them through Facebook groups or local meet-ups. Clever Girl Author has a great post on questions to ask an author to help you get practical advice from other authors.
Investing in the services of a writing coach to guide you and keep you accountable could also be helpful.
11. Have fun
Your whole life shouldn’t be writing. As an author, freelance writer, or copywriter, stringing words together is fulfilling and fun. Yet if all you do is write without any other source of achievement and joy, you are sure to hit writer’s burnout.
Make sure every day you are doing something fun, whether it’s laughing with friends, playing with your children, or just watching your favorite tv show. Life is meant to be enjoyed.
What to do if you’re already experiencing writer’s burnout
There is a chance you’ve read through this information and realized that you’ve hit the point of no return. You’re burnt out. If so, here's how to help yourself get out of your creative rut.
Stop beating yourself up
Having difficulties putting words onto paper or struggling with your plot development doesn’t make you a bad writer. In fact the more you beat yourself up the harder it'll be to write.
If you’re not happy with what you’ve written, walk away, let the piece breathe, and try coming back to it with fresh and more compassionate eyes. Review your work with a lens of how to make it better instead of focusing on the negative.
In a perfect world, you'd be able to cut off any distractions and focus all your energy on writing. But the reality is, you can be so close to completing a project when some uncontrollable event in your life erupts.
Whatever happens that delays you from finishing by a certain deadline, it’s okay to ask for more time. When done in advance many publishers, editors, or businesses are flexible if you ask for an extension and communicate when you can get the assignment done.
It may not be possible to say no to assignments but it is possible to delegate some of your work.
Whether your writing assignment needs research, editing, or proofreading, these extra tasks can be outsourced. Meaning you can pay other people to do some of the extra work that goes along with writing while you focus on the main part.
Outsourcing is like having someone chop the vegetables while you prepare and cook the main meal.
Take time off
The best self care for writers is to take time off. Give yourself time and space to rest, relax and rejuvenate.
Although hustle culture can have you believe that resting is unproductive, it is actually a form of writer self care. Decide on a good time frame for your vacation and dedicate that time to not working.
Remember that resting is an essential part of the creative process.
Writer self care is crucial for success!
Writing is a unique profession as it requires creativity and discipline.
The best way to sustain a career as a writer is to avoid writer's burnout by enjoying hobbies outside of writing, taking care of your mental and physical health, practicing writing exercises, and taking time off.
Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t write your masterpiece if you’re burnt out. But you can move past writer's burnout by using the tips mentioned above, and by learning more about writing routines and book writing ideas.