When you’re excited about a new writing project, you’ll probably have so many great ideas that your fingers can’t type fast enough to capture all of your thoughts – but that’s okay because you’ve got lots of adrenaline to keep you going. Sometimes, when I’m eager to write, my wrists actually tingle.
You may find yourself writing late into the night, or before dawn or when you’d normally take a lunch break. You think about your fantastic idea as you fall asleep, and the notion even finds its way into your dreams.
Unfortunately, many of us have also experienced the lack of these feelings – disinterest, fatigue, lack of focus – which means that we may be experiencing symptoms of burnout. Job-related burnout is real phenomenon, recognized by places as diverse as Psychology Today magazine, the Mayo Clinic andForbes – and is a real danger in today’s “we need lots of quality content and we need it right now to please Google” world that we live and write in.
If you aren’t sure if you’re suffering from this condition, Cheryl Reifsnyder offers a short quiz in her post, Writers’ Burnout Quiz: Do You Need a Break?
Fortunately, we’ve found lots of wisdom on the web and will share highlights here, starting with Sara Toole Miller’s important piece of advice found in Burnout: A Writer’s Dirty Little Secret:
“Admit it. This is the hardest step for me. Sometimes you have to admit that you’re burned out. For me this usually begins with a plea to my husband. ‘I will pay you one million dollars if you write this article for me.’ This is followed by a lot of pacing and staring at a blank computer screen. And then finally, after much prodding from my level-headed husband, I am forced to admit that I’m burned out.”
The best part about admitting your condition is that you’re freed up to find and implement solutions, including this valuable piece of counsel that appears in numerous articles online: when you’re feeling burned out, disconnect; take a break; do something different, something enjoyable; and fill yourself up again before sitting down to pour more of your thoughts out in writing.
This could include:
Here’s an article in Psychology Today (Writer’s Block and Burnout: Getting Unstuck by Carolyn Kaufman) where multi-Emmy-winning television sitcom writer Gene Perret demonstrates how dramatic writer’s burnout really can be:
“Burnout, especially in TV which demands so much product, is a real phenomenon. Writers get weary of turning out so much similar material. I worked on one sitcom where in the middle of a show, one of the writers stormed out of the viewing room saying, “I hate this family” . . . Many times my partner and I would struggle to get a new sketch idea. It would be so hard that we would often have words with one another and sometimes partners almost came to blows. Then we go to lunch, tell each other a few stories, trade insults, pay our bill, come back to work, and discover that one or the other had come up with a great idea for a sketch.”
PJ Sharon, in Top 10 Signs of Writer Burnout, reminds us that there is no shame in seeing a therapist when necessary, saying, “I’m serious. A good counselor can help you put things into perspective (when you’ve clearly lost it and are convinced the world will end if you miss a deadline), support you without judgment, and assist you in discovering coping strategies that your addled brain cannot come up with on its own.”
And, Stella Tarakson offers great advice in avoiding future writer’s burnout in 3 Ways to Avoid Writer’s Burnout. She reminds us not to set unreasonable goals and deadlines, because that’s just setting ourselves up for failure. “Be realistic about what you can achieve and when,” she says. “Consider all your commitments, your capabilities, and be kind to yourself.”
Finally, Whitney Potsus, in her post Dealing With Professional Burnout, offers these “rut-busting reading recommendations”:
What strategies do you have for fighting burnout – or overcoming it once it settles in and starts making itself at home? Share in the comments below.