After churning out 16 titles in 4 years, I’ve decided to change focus in 2017. I’m now focusing on promoting my books and have slowed down the actual writing. Part of the reason is practical; thanks to the arrival of the wee one, my writing time has been greatly reduced. But I was also starting to exhibit some of the symptoms described below. Instead of letting writing become a chore, I decided to shift gears. So, this post is particularly relevant to me. Hopefully, it will be helpful to you, too.
This is a guest post by Rachel Jackson, a mother of 2 beautiful boys. Rachel loves to hike and write about traveling, education, and business. She is a Content Manager at VPN Compass – a leading portal on VPN services and internet.
How to Recover From Writing Burnout
Writing burnout is the worst. It’s a complete headache when you write as a hobby, but it’s a nightmare when you write for your job. You can’t find the words to say, and you don’t know where things are going to go next.
When you would rather clean out the rain gutters or alphabetize your bills from the past five years than sit down to write, burnout has a stranglehold on you. This stranglehold may go away on its own, but who knows when that’s going to happen? You can expedite the process and be back to writing in no time.
1. Completely Step Away
When you know you’re burned out, don’t try to write. You’re only going to heighten your frustration. You wouldn’t try to drive a broken-down car or watch a television that hasn’t been plugged in. The power isn’t on, and you’re only going to feel worse if you try to force it. This isn’t about getting back up and trying again. Forcing yourself makes things worse. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing – the moment you feel stuck, put it down and walk away.
2. Work on Something Else
Is the burnout limited to a single writing project, or is it taking over all of your projects? If it’s only one project, that’s good news. If it’s everything, pick up a completely new hobby. Immerse yourself in something that feels easy or enjoyable for a while. You’ll be able to come back with a clear head and a fresh perspective. You’ll have some time to let your thoughts roam around, and you might even find some new ideas in the process. Don’t obsess over the things that aren’t working – devote yourself to the things that are.
3. Get Some Helpful Apps
There are tons of helpful iPhone and iPad apps for writers. These will help you sharpen your skills and develop the new methods you might need to get back to writing the serious stuff. If you use Scrivener, you can always get the Scrivo Pro app and take your story with you anywhere. If an idea comes to you when you’re stuck in traffic, you won’t have to forget it. If you don’t have an iPhone to use these writing tools, you can always pick up a secondhand one for cheap and unlock the iCloud.
4. Look at What Everyone Else is Doing
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known”
-Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
At first, that quote may seem dark. It isn’t. We all feel inspiration from the people around us, and that’s what helps us become the best version of ourselves. Every author you’ve ever loved was influenced by the authors before them.
Read a bunch. Decide what you like about certain writers. Do you love their ability to explore certain concepts? Do you love the catchy way they write dialogue? Stick to your ideas, but recognize what it is that you love to read. That will help you write something that you can love, and you’ll never feel burned out doing something that means a lot to you.
5. Maybe You Aren’t Even Stuck in Burnout Mode
Perhaps you aren’t burned out. Maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner. This can happen a lot with fiction in particular. You’re coming down from something big, or you’re still building up to it. You have a transitional period to write, and this can be frustrating. You might just need to shake things up.
Kill off a character or two. Doing that has made George R.R. Martin a rich man. Uncover some betrayal. Turn an insufferable character into the main love interest. Take a wild idea and run with it. If you feel shocked when you write it, you’ll know it was the right idea.
No matter how much you hate feeling burned out, remember that you don’t hate writing. Even if the only thing you can do is wait it out, it’s worth waiting for. Never abandon your passions or talents based on a momentary setback.