I would argue that one of the scariest moments in a writer’s career is not the moment they hit publish for their story, but rather, the moment that they start believing they have no stories left to tell.
The Writer Community knows how exhausting being a writer can actually be. Your friends who don’t write may not know it, maybe even your family doesn’t quite understand. But other writers? We get it. We get feeling burnt out and scared that you’ll never be able to finish that story you used to be so passionate about. We understand the weight of mental exhaustion that doesn’t seem to lift, no matter how many times you sleep an extra hour. Writer burnout is terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are tips you can store away in your “Writer Tool Box” in order to combat burnout, but most the most important thing we want you to know--I want you to know--is that you’re not alone.
Writing is hard, especially when you’re doing it as more than a hobby. But first, I want you to ask yourself this question: Am I experiencing writer’s block or writer burn out?
Writer’s block tends to be caused by issues in your plot, not your creativity. You might feel stuck in your story, like you can’t figure out where to go next, but that is not writer burnout. Here is my favorite tip for dealing with writer’s block, if you think you have it.
Go back a few chapters or scenes in your story and re-read what you’ve written. All too often when I think I have “writer’s block” what I actually have is a plot hole--a moment in my story that doesn’t fit with the others. That plot deviation or hole makes it impossible for me to move forward with the story. This doesn’t mean I have to fix the issue right then and there (I’m a firm believer in not editing as you go) but knowing the issue is there, making note of it and how I might fix it later, will often release the block in my mind and show me a new path through my story.
Writer burnout surfaces when you’ve pushed yourself too far and / or spread yourself too thin. Do you ever find yourself thinking,
I’m just too tired to write.
I don’t care about this story anymore.
I have nothing meaningful to say.
Maybe I wasn’t meant to be an author.
You may not have the energy left for creativity, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. And it most definitely does not mean you should give up.
There are many ways you can overcome Writer’s burnout, but in my experience, these three are the simplest tools for your toolbox.
Don’t stop writing.
You may be feeling burnt out right now, but you will be feeling much worse if you give up on the writing habits you’ve already established. Try to stay consistent about when you write, regardless of how many words you manage to crank out during that writing session, having a consistent habit will raise your spirits. Instead of calling it quits, reorganize how you write. Perhaps the project you’re working on at the moment needs to go on the backburner for a while. Work on something different until you are feeling more energized. Or maybe you just need to cut back on the hours you spend staring at a screen--switch to writing in a notebook instead. Try a few different changes, but don’t ever stop writing completely. Writing is a skill, just like any musical instrument or sport you play, it takes practice and consistency, even when things are tough.
Ask yourself why you started.
Every writer has a “why.” For me, I started writing because I wanted to tell the stories that lived in my head. I wanted to share the characters that I loved with the world. And most importantly, I wanted to show the world that you can follow your dreams. So when you’re feeling hopeless, like you don’t care about your story anymore… ask yourself why you started writing it in the first place? Write that “why” down in a notebook every single day before you start writing. Post it to the walls of your office or on your refrigerator! Whatever it takes, make sure you see that “why” on a daily basis.
Forgive yourself instead of comparing yourself.
I have a real problem with social media’s black and white portrayal of the “author life,” because I think too often we miss the opportunity to share in our struggles and end up comparing ourselves to one another instead. That is something The Writer Community is committed to addressing, though. We see your struggles, and we want you to know that you’re not alone.
I have a saying plastered to my walls and notebooks: “Life happens, so live it.”
You only have one life to live and it doesn’t revolve around just writing. There are probably other important aspects that take attention in your life as well. But it’s all about balance. If you want to be an author, you have to learn to forgive yourself and remember you’re only human. Maybe you missed a day of writing --it’s not the end of the world. Write tomorrow. Don’t let yourself fall down the rabbithole into giving up on your dreams, but instead, tell yourself tomorrow will be better and that you’re doing your best. Your best is enough.
You can overcome writer’s burnout. It might not always be as simple as these three steps, but we hope that this sets you onto a path to finding your passion once more.
Remember, your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so be honest with yourself. Ask the hard questions and reach out to others in the community if you’re struggling--reach out to us on Instagram @the_writer_community to connect with other writers (including myself) and learn more.