Feeling burned out — drained and unmotivated from the stress of writing? It happens. But it’s not supposed to happen often.
Burnout can send you into a state of zero productivity and poor performance for hours, sometimes even days at a time. Here’s why it keeps happening to you, and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
You’re spending too much time writing
You may be a writer, but you’re not a superhuman writing machine. There will be times you’ll have to work long hours to Make Writing Success Happen, but you can’t work 24/7 and neglect other parts of your life. It’s not what your body and your mind want, and they’ll tell you so. Watch a movie, go on a Netflix binge, read a book — don’t spend all your waking hours trying to write more words if you don’t have to.
You’re not writing what you want to write
I burn out the fastest when I’m working on multiple projects I’m not fully invested in. While you’re going to have to agree to writing some things you’d rather leave to someone else, if you never grasp opportunities to write what makes you feel fulfilled, you’re going to constantly feel drained. It takes more mental energy to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. Much of the time, this isn’t good for you.
You’re not putting writing in the right place
For some people, writing is the first task of the day. For others, it’s the last. Where writing fits into your schedule is completely up to you. But if you haven’t figured out when that is, you’re probably really struggling to find the time (and the “motivation”) to get more writing done. This can make you feel burned out simply from stressing about not sticking to a self-made promise. If you have a set time where writing can happen without any interruptions (e.g., writing at 5am when it’s harder to make excuses to go somewhere or do something else), you’re much less likely to skip it and feel guilty.
You’re bored writing the same stuff
It’s important to switch up your writing regularly, especially if you want to avoid burnout. If I only wrote posts for this blog and never anything else, I’d lose my mind. You can’t just keep writing the same exact things every day — you’ll get bored, and the temptation to quit will only get worse the longer it continues. Do something different tonight. Write a poem, a fanfiction, it doesn’t matter what — just go in a completely different direction.
You haven’t taken a break lately
You’re probably more guilty of this than you care to admit. There’s time for small breaks, if not during the week then definitely on weekends. No one should have to work seven days a week, and writers who claim they do this probably don’t spend all day every day working on writing projects. Take small breaks throughout the week or spend two or three full days off per week. Consistent rest is one of the keys to writing success, whether you like it or not.
You have yet to come to terms with your procrastination
Procrastination is stressful, especially when you’re still convinced you need to stop. Some of us are just procrastinators — it’s who we are. The reasons why we do it aren’t as important as figuring out how to manage it. In other words, it’s not about finding a cure, but learning to live with it for the rest of your life. There will be tasks you cannot procrastinate on, and you need to learn to put those first. Some you can afford to push to the side until the last minute. Let those happen. There’s no use in stressing over what you haven’t gotten done if it’s not an absolute priority.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.