By David E. Sharp
Whether you are closing in on your NaNoWriMo word count or plugging away at your magnum opus, those rigorous word counts take a lot of think-juice. You have been diligent, laying one word after another, watching the chapters take shape. Your verbs are immaculate. Your adverbs are scarce. You always attend a date with your word processor. Even when you’re tired, you push through. And things are going great!
Until they aren’t!
Suddenly, the words won’t come. You try to force it, but the… words… just… don’t… writing… goodly… anymore! What happened? Is this the dreaded Writer’s Block?
No. It’s Writer’s Block’s evil twin. Writer’s Burnout.
When you have Writer’s Block, you desire to write, but the ideas won’t formulate. Thoughts swirl like a formless chaos of inspiration, but you can’t transform them into anything. Writer’s Burnout can be a little more persistent. It is a feeling of being depleted. You feel obligated to write but need more think-juice to draw from. The well is dry. And it may be weeks to months before the desire to write returns.
While a month of dedicated word generation is excellent for creating a foundation for a manuscript, it can also take a toll on you. If you keep your nose to the grindstone for too long, you wind up without a nose. So, I have scavenged the internet for tips to keep you fresh, protect yourself from burnout, and write like the word champ you are.
Keeping a healthy balance in all aspects of your life can help stave off burnout in the first place, but it is also a crucial part of recovery. A regular sleep schedule, healthy foods, and physical activity are good for anybody. Remember to consider the importance of coming to your writing fresh and rested. Healthy habits are tantamount to healthy word-count production.
What happens when your loved one enters a room to find you munching on guacamole dip and says, “I thought you were writing?” You will reply, “I am writing.”
“It looks like you’re eating guacamole dip,” says your loved one.
“This is part of my process,” you will say, hoisting another avocado-graced chip to your mouth. “This is writing.” Loved one may scoff, but you know what you’re about. Avocados are an excellent and tasty way to stave off writing burnout. So, break out those tortilla chips!
Change Things Up.
Breaks are okay but can also contribute more to the problem than the solution. Conventional wisdom says it is best to keep a writing habit going. But it’s all right to step away from your opus and write something different. Write something unimportant. Try a parody, a limerick, or a blog post. Anything that changes up your usual process is fair game.
The goal here is to revive your creativity. Make the writing fun again. Get with fellow writers, pull up some randomized prompts, and try five-minute spurts. Let the hilarity begin. Add a few cocktails if you like, and see how bizarre your creativity can get. It’s not wasting time! It’s part of the process!
Read, Read, Read.
The root of my writing habit is always my reading habit. Grab a favorite book, pick a title from your tallest to-be-read stack, or grab a dark horse candidate way outside your standard fare. Let the creativity of other writers reignite your own. Enjoying a good book may inspire you to create a great book. Even reading a lousy book can help you build confidence. You can’t go wrong.
“Now you’re reading?” says a loved one. “What part of writing this manuscript involves actually writing a manuscript? And thanks for leaving me some of that guacamole.” Uh, oh. That last part sounded sarcastic. You didn’t eat all the dip, did you? Never mind. Let’s move on to the next tip.
Burnout of any kind comes from an overtaxing schedule. While clearing things from your calendar is difficult, it is often necessary. Prioritize your obligations and minimize whatever you don’t need. Make some free time and spend it relaxing. Dominate a trivia night at a local restaurant. Take your loved one with you. Explain that this, too, is part of the writing process.
Before you know it, your Writer’s Burnout will melt away. And now that it’s gone…
Get back to that manuscript! Seriously, it isn’t going to write itself!
For more on dealing with your burnout, check out these resources: