Writing is mentally exhausting, and if you work for long stretches of time, it can be physically exhausting too. This is where writer burnout comes into play. Writers are just as prone to burnout as anyone else, and if you’re writing on top of going to school or working a full-time job or taking care of a family, you’re especially at risk.
Burnout can show up in any number of ways: writer’s block, mental or physical exhaustion that you just can’t shake, lackluster work, difficulty concentrating, or a feeling of dread when you sit down to write (or just think about writing).
Even if you’re in the midst of writer burnout, there are ways to mitigate and calm that feeling. Here are ways to fix your current writer burnout—and how to keep it from coming back.
4 ways to fix writer burnout
1. If you need a break, take a break
One of the most common bits of advice writers receive is to write every day, no matter what. This is a great habit, of course, and one of the best ways to prevent writer’s block and stay on track to meeting your goals—but it can also make you feel worn down.
This is your permission to step away. Sometimes you just need a break, and that’s OK. You might find that after a day or two away, you’re ready to get back to the page, or you may find that an interval system works better for you (more on that later).
2. Balance your mind
Sometimes you can’t take a break from writing. When this is the case, adopt a meditation practice. You can start and end your day with meditation or simply start and end your writing session with a moment of mindfulness.
Learning how to quiet your mind at any time of day will help you manage, and eventually smooth out, that feeling of being overwhelmed.
3. Be an editor for a while
If you’re feeling stuck on your manuscript, forget you’re the writer and become the editor for a while. Editing is an important part of any writing project, so when you need a break from the burn and churn, pretend you’re the editor. Review your manuscript with a critical eye and imagine how a reader might experience your manuscript: Mark questions for the writer, note where your mind starts to wander or where the language is unclear, and jot down ideas for new material.
4. Change the topic or play with form
You might not be burnt out on writing altogether, just your current project. If you want to keep writing, consider tackling different subject matter or writing about the same subject matter in a different form (like fiction to essay, for example. This can give your brain a much-needed break and even stoke your creativity and give you new ideas for your regular projects.
3 ways to prevent writer burnout
1. Write in sprints or intervals
Writing every single day may have contributed to your being burnt out. If daily writing sessions aren’t sustainable, develop a rhythm to your discipline by writing in sprints or intervals.
Maybe write every day becomes write every other day. Maybe you alternate long writing sessions with short ones, or write for three days, then take a break for two. Maybe you write for two weeks, take one day off, then edit for a week.
You may have to experiment with writing schedules to figure out what works for you. But to keep yourself on task, make a calendar that you can easily follow and plan for. If you need accountability, share your writing calendar with a friend or writing buddy who can help you stick to your new schedule.
2. Join a writing workshop
Writing workshops and writing groups are a great way to balance discussion, writing, and critiquing others’ work, which can help you stay inspired and engaged with your projects.
3. Balance writing with gathering material
Writing doesn’t always mean sitting at your computer or at your desk. Writers also need experience. It’s where we get our ideas and inspiration, and it’s how we let the magic of our brains turn fragments into thoughts and ideas and, eventually, into words on the page.
There’s no need to take a big trip or invest in deep research. Gathering material can be as simple as going to a coffee shop to people-watch, taking a walk in your neighborhood, going to the park, or visiting a museum to take in a new exhibit. Make sure you have a pen and paper on you, though—just in case inspiration does strike.