We’ve all said it: “I’m just so burned out.” Whether it’s your job, the demands of your family, or, yes, even a hobby, burnout happens. It’s that feeling of being pulled too thin or that you’ve lost your spark for something that typically brings you joy. When it comes to creatives, it’s even more common to experience periods of lackluster. But don’t worry, we’ve got tips for avoiding the dreaded burnout and helping it to pass quicker.
First, let’s get one thing clear: Writer burnout is not the same thing as writer’s block. Yes, both of these conditions interfere with the creative process, but in very different ways. Burnout is when you can write but don’t want to. You have the time, the idea, and the means…but the energy just isn’t there. On the other hand, writer’s block refers to when you want to write, but the words and ideas won’t come. See the difference? Neither is fun, and neither is helpful for the writing process…but both are more common than you might think.
So, let’s talk about burnout.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? You’re tired. You sit down to write but would rather do something else. Your creative motivation is zero. You’re stressed out working on a project. You’ve been working for so long without a break. You want to throw in the towel because you question your ability.
These are all symptoms of writer fatigue…aka burnout. When you’re in this place, it’s frustrating, and you probably want a quick fix. But overcoming burnout takes time and really digging into the root of the issue. Sure, stepping away from your computer and getting fresh air can help to break up some of the cobwebs, but that’s just the starting place. Here are a few tips for what you can do when burnout strikes.
Recognize the issue
You know what they say: Acceptance is the first step in changing. Maybe you haven’t been able to put a name to it all, but once you do, it’s liberating. Recognize your symptoms and accept that this is what’s happening. It’s okay! Writing is a mentally exhausting job. It’s a lot on your brain and can be creatively draining. Compared to writer’s block, burnout typically lasts longer and is harder to overcome. But knowing that you’re not alone and that most creatives experience burnout helps to prove that it will pass…if you take the right steps.
Take a break
This might seem like a no-brainer and a welcomed excuse to get away from the computer, but it’s actually a critical part of busting burnout. We all need breaks. You can’t force creativity. So if it’s not flowing, take some time off. A day, a week, a month, whatever you need. Pull back your expectations. Maybe you don’t write for a set period of time, but you shouldn’t stop writing completely. Instead, try a different medium, like journaling or poetry. Don’t criticize yourself for this break—it’s needed if you want to come back refreshed.
Make a schedule
Sometimes planning takes away the spontaneity, but other times planning is just what you need. If you’re feeling burned out, it’s tempting to want to abandon writing altogether. Don’t! Block out time on your calendar for writing, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Making a schedule will keep you accountable, and starting with small chunks of time won’t seem overwhelming. If the creativity doesn’t flow during that scheduled time, don’t worry about it. Try again next time.
Sure, you sleep at night, but are you getting enough sleep? When your mind and body are overexerted, you need even more sleep than usual. During a period of creative burnout, your brain is depleted, and rest is the remedy. Make sure you’re getting the expert-recommended eight hours of sleep each night. Take naps if you can and want! Just like healing a pulled muscle, it takes time.
Try a new hobby
You’re a creative person by nature, so chances are writing isn’t the only thing that gets your juices flowing. Exploring hobbies outside of writing can help stretch your creativity in new ways and reduce stress. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a cake-decorating class, or you have space at home to prop up an easel and canvas. Perhaps you want to take it out on the gym, or you’re interested in sitting at a pottery wheel. Why not get your hands dirty in the garden, or sit back with a sudoku puzzle? There are tons of creative outlets to choose from. Find one (or more!) that fits your personality and makes you smile.
Find inspiration from others
As we’ve said, writer’s burnout is a very common feeling. You’re not the first person to experience it, and you certainly won’t be the last. While that might sound depressing, it’s actually hopeful. It means that there are others to whom you can connect and relate. Talk to writer friends, share what you’re going through, and listen to those who have been there before. There’s comfort in community, and now is the best time to tap into it. Not only can fellow writers relate, but they will be the ones to support you and cheer you on. Find inspiration in their experiences and work. Sometimes taking a step back from your own project to appreciate the work of others is just the spark you need.
All in all, if you’re living a creative life, chances are you will run into burnout at least once. Knowing that it’s temporary will help to avoid discouragement. And while you wait for the clouds to lift, follow our steps to recover and regain your motivation.