Writer Wednesday: Working Thru Burnout
Hello writers! We've made it through to another Wednesday. With the holiday season looming fast, many of us are experiencing a lull in productivity as our personal priorities shift and shimmy, weighed against other responsibilities from work and home. This time of year also brings out the burn out, particularly with authors who pushed through the frenetic NaNoWriMo season or raced to meet those pre-holiday deadlines. This year seems to be the year of Writer Burnout, as many of us have had to re-examine our priorities or put other priorities before our writing. I, myself, have had to juggle remote learning with my kiddos and two part time remote jobs amid editing and writing deadlines. I am not alone in needing to juggle dozens of responsibilities. Current events make the juggling act even harder than normal.
There seems to be a myriad of advice on how to avoid writing burnout, or how to recognize one has writing burnout. The lack of motivation, the constant exhaustion, the constant struggle to make words, as if each word is pulled through your typing fingers, kicking and screaming. Writing feels like an insurmountable task and you find yourself making more and more excuses to avoid doing it until you realize its been days, weeks, months since you managed to create something. Creativity is not an endless resource and stress has a way of draining the well dry.
A lot of advice that centers on recovering from Burnout involves allowing yourself to take those breaks rather than trying to force yourself to write. Get away, get some air, read, watch movies, meditate, anything to refill and replenish your creative well. However, sometimes, you might not be able to take an actual break from your writing. It might be your primary source of income. There may be deadlines you cannot extend or shuffle further than you already have. How do you continue through burnout until you can give yourself the break you need?
Take a Break from the Places You Can
You might have to be present for family. You have to go to work. But you can give yourself a break from other forums. Social Media presence, while helpful to an author in many ways, can also be a drain on your resources and energy. It is very easy to fall down a doomscrolling rabbit hole. If you can tear yourself away for a night, or better yet a weekend or longer, the break may help level off the energy drain of trying to keep up with everything day in and day out.
Actively Fill Your Reserves
This also extends into having a cut off point in your day for writing. Instead of struggling for hours and hours, give yourself a cut off time to relax, rest, and replenish. You might not get all the words that you need done for the day, however, the added stress and strain of forcing yourself to sit at the keyboard for hours doesn't help your productivity either. Take those breaks and refill your creative tank. Read a couple chapters, watch an episode of television, or listen to music. Take a walk outside. Stare at the sky and let your mind drift. Or take a nap. Bank rest where you can get it and your body and mind will thank you.
Be Kind to Yourself
Kindness, especially to ourselves, takes effort. Taking breaks is a small part of this effort. A larger part is training your mind away from feelings of guilt and self flagellation for not writing or not creating. It is very easy to mire ourselves down in a vicious cycle of guilt, doubt, and lack of self worth when we are in the depths of burnout. We tie our self worth to our out put, we feel guilty for not creating and we continually beat ourselves up for not performing. That knot of emotion creates a choking point, making it even harder to break through and start writing again. It is important we forgive ourselves for not being as productive as we want to be, to recognize that sometimes the expectations we place on ourselves are too demanding and that it is okay to give what we can. It is important to forgive ourselves for off days. It important to allow ourselves breaks without beating ourselves up for not working instead. Training yourself away from guilt doesn't happen overnight. It can seem insurmountable, but over time, letting go of that guilt can feel like a stone dropping off your neck.
It is never easy working through Burn Out, and eventually, you do need to give yourself a true and honest break away from writing, if possible. But if you must keep working, try to make your writing as easy as you can for yourself.