How To Overcome (and Avoid) Writer’s Burnout

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Ahh, writing. Nothing compares when passion ignites and you’re immersed in the movie of your thoughts. Writing is by far the most enjoyable form of self-expression – especially to introverts like me.

But to be honest, writing isn’t always rainbows. While writing becomes every writer’s refuge, there could be days where you shower in frustrations, wondering why such interest becomes so dragging and soul-sucking.

“I never thought I’d hate something I’m passionate about,” I told myself once.

If you ever told yourself the same line, then, you’re probably too drained and have also suffered a writer’s burnout.

Signs of a writer’s burnout

First of all, what’s a writer’s burnout?

A writer’s burnout happens when a writer loses the motivation to go back to writing. You may want to write, but at the same time, it’s the last thing you wanted to encounter.

Here’s a list of signs that you’re having a burnout:

  • You know you should write, but can’t muster up the motivation to do so.
  • You find no purpose and fulfillment in what you write.
  • You’re too disconnected so you’re not satisfied with the final output.
  • Wanting to give up and abandon in the midst of a project.
  • Suddenly, writing made you anxious.
  • Thinking about writing somehow scares you.

It’s easy to call yourself a writer. “I write, then I’m a writer,” right? What else could you be?

But as new writers dive into this profession and experience the detailed process of crafting a worded piece, they soon realize how much toll it can take – both physically and mentally.

To be consistently passionate in writing requires herculean willpower. Days come where blocks of paragraphs won’t make sense despite how hard you revise. There are days where you feel unfulfilled and on the verge of abandoning the work.

But I must tell you, despite the frustration and anxiety you experience right now, writing exhaustion is nothing but temporary.

How to Overcome Writer’s Burnout

How do you get rid of writer’s burnout? Here are 5 tips I personally do to counter and avoid writer’s burnout. Here we go:

1. Use procrastination to condition your mind.

Pushing yourself too hard is a form of creative and mental torture. You’ve probably written stories, articles, or chapters more than your body and mind can accomplish.

Boatloads of writing can use up all your creative batteries when done carelessly. And sooner or later, you fall into the lot of burnout.

Instead of a short rest, you start fearing to experience the same writing torment. Your one-day rest becomes a week, and then a month until you never get back at it.

How do you avoid writer’s burnout?

Here’s an advice from a master procrastinator (that’s me): Productive writing doesn’t mean writing consistently for 8-hours straight. To be more productive, include procrastination in your schedule. Yes, you read it right.

Contrary to people’s belief, procrastination isn’t always negative. In fact, it’s vital to keep your flow.

According to Harvard Business Review, our mind can only take so much focus. While focus can help you achieve goals, a “focus overload” leads you to short-circuit. Your engine overheats.

On the other hand, the state of unfocus (or I’d say procrastination) helps you reorganize your thoughts. You think better with a calm mind so when you go back to writing, you begin with fresh packs of creative solutions.

With that said, whenever you’re writing, rest every now and then. Rest for 5 minutes. Or 10? Or a day. I, myself can procrastinate up to 2 days (if my piece doesn’t have a deadline) before I go back to writing. During procrastination, watch movies, Youtube videos, and read books for inspiration.

Don’t push yourself to your breaking point. Make fragmented productivity instead of extracting your energy all in one go.

2. Read and research more about the topic.

Type. Delete. Type. Delete.

You can get stuck in the same paragraph, and it feels like reaching a dead-end. Slowly, but surely, you get agitated.

Certainly, having little knowledge about a topic confines your scope of creativity. It stops your rhythm and builds the writer’s fatigue.

Trying your best becomes futile when “you don’t know what to write.” This is one mistake I always did when I was beginning – only relying on what I know.

Yes, you may use personal experiences or any stock knowledge, but without extra research, you end up circling all year round on a key point, writing 10 pages of it, without a clear takeaway.

What to do? Research.

I assure you, you’ll gain a flow. Whenever you run out of things to say, you can always go back to your notes and extra researches to back you up. Moreover, a writer can create a well-crafted piece multiple times faster when they’re equipped with information, and not solely relying on imagination.

3. Shoo away the doubts.

Don’t let doubts stop you from writing.

Imagine the first time you wrote a story. How confident were you? I tell you, without people’s criticisms, I felt superior. I had no care in the world, aside from translating my thoughts into writing.

Those were the days. Whenever I have doubts, I reminisce about that time and grab the confidence from the younger me. “If some people responded positively to my crappy story back then, why give up now?”

Don’t underestimate your growth as a writer. You don’t notice it in a matter of days or weeks. But it will be evident after months to years – as long as you continue to write and study other writers’ advice and techniques.

Also, rejection is pretty normal in the writing industry. People may see your work unfit for their publication, or require a certain writing style, or they may be too stuffed with submissions.

Accepting and rejecting your work is part of an editor’s job. It’s nothing personal. Don’t let them discourage you. Your main goal remains the same – to finish a write-up you feel satisfied with.

4. Make progress little by little.

“What, I still need 1000 words? Ugh.”

On bad days, my haste weighs me down. It’s exhausting. And if you imagine how far you are from completion, it leaves you wondering if you will ever finish what you’re doing.

How should you counter such overwhelm and fatigue? As for me, deadlines make me work.

It’s nice to have deadlines. But contrastingly, working on personal projects is more tedious. There are no deadlines so I need to work up my motivation myself.

How do you get back to writing when you don’t have the motivation?

If for example, I need to edit a first draft (which is the worst part, I must say), I usually push myself to read the first-ever sentence, like really focus on its sentence construction. Then I edit it.

Usually, the worst part of writing is finding the motivation to begin. So, it’s a conscious effort at first, until you pick up the rhythm.

Bite-sized progress eventually leads you to completion. Editing the first sentence leads you to the second, and to the next paragraph, until you reach finalization.

Yes, you will feel anxious before starting. Anyway, start.

As long as you continue writing, with proper research, and an outline, the write-up will always meet its completion.

5. Be consistent on writing until you form a habit.

Once you form a writing habit, it almost never leaves, and it’s dangerous.

Ooh, I love dangerous – shutting off my doors, the urge to write while in an online class (and I’m the teacher), writing on my phone while waiting in line, and putting off priorities… Dangerous.

How do you do it? To form a habit for writing, you have to:

  • set a goal
  • a deadline, and as much as possible,
  • involve other people

I recommend that you participate in 30-day writing challenges to instill a writing habit.

You can form a habit in 18 days, while you need 66 days to make your body move automatically.

Fiction writers involve themselves in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where writers track their progress in an attempt to produce 50,000 words of fiction.

If you wanted to be a fiction writer, involve yourself with like-minded people. Join communities.

If you prefer personal essays, journals, or articles, you can publish your work in Medium, and receive feedback from a friendly writer’s community. Also, you can find various writing challenges and contests there to hone your skills.

I started in Medium, so I highly recommend it. It’s by far the most engaging writer community I have joined. You can publish there any topic within their policies – fiction, poems, journals, tech articles, and such.

If that interests you, you can join Medium as a member through my referral link. But rest assured, although you don’t sign up as a member, creating a free account still allows you to publish your piece.

Writer’s block is manageable.

Writing exhaustion doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer. Neither does it mean you’re not fit. Although it’s soul-sucking at times, such exhaustion is temporary. If sooner or later, you grab a pen or open your file once again, then that means writing is innate with you.

There’s a way around writing exhaustion. To counter it, you need rest, inspiration, and passion, while aiming for little progress at a time. Hope you get back to writing soon!

M. Mathias


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