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What is writer’s burnout?
Burnout is very different from writer’s block. It’s worse. Many years ago, I experienced a bad case of writer’s block that stopped my writing for 2 or 3 months. I’ve also experienced the normal day-to-day writer’s block, as well as weeks of writer’s block. And, yes, writer’s block can last a year.
But writer’s burnout is not writer’s block. Writer’s burnout is something you feel deep down…bone-deep. It’s just like when athletes burnout from working themselves too hard and too much for too long. They can lose their love of the sport, physically and mentally. You can get writer's burnout from doing anything related to being an author.
I had been writing since I was twelve, and I mean seriously writing with the goal of publication. I wrote nearly every single day. Of course, as I got older and started publishing, I couldn’t write every day, but I still wrote most of the time.
September 2016, I fell headfirst into a spiraling abyss of depression. This depression went on for nine months. I couldn’t write. I struggled to even want to blog. In the beginning, I could hardly eat. April 2017, I finally felt like my old self, but something was still wrong…I wasn’t writing.
I did experience one week of great writing in August. And I did write during the last few days of 2017 and the first two days of 2018, but then…nothing. I tried. I did everything I could possibly do, but I couldn’t focus on a single project longer than a day or two. Writing a paragraph was a mental and physical challenge. For months I had a scary thought but didn’t want to admit it. And then, one night, I knew it was true…I was burned out as a writer.
The next day, I took to Facebook to confess the struggle I’ve had for so long. I got lovely support from many writer friends.
I ended up having to add an update to my post saying I wasn’t looking for advice. I just wanted to be honest and to share my problem with writers who may also be facing burnout. And all the advice I was getting, I had tried. Several times. I did all the things I tell others who suffer from writer’s block to do, but again…I didn’t have writer’s block. The normal tricks were falling. Although the advice was given out of love, they were given by writers who didn’t quite understand, which is not their fault. It was their support that really boosted me, and I did get messages from a couple of writers who did know just what I was talking about and also dealt with extreme depression. It was nice to know I wasn't alone.
3 Tips to START Reversing Burnout:
It was thanks to all of the comments I got that I realized a big step to hopefully reversing my burnout was what I had just done and didn’t realize…
I spoke my truth.
I shared my personal struggle.
I let others in.
BACTINE #1: If you are afraid you’re facing writer’s burnout, or if you have writer’s block, or even if you’re not sure…share your struggle with others.
A light bulb went off in my head. From then on, I shared my journey back to writing on my author Facebook page.
Sharing each and every day how I did was a great way to be accountable, to at least try so I had share something with my supporters. And knowing that made me want to try harder.
2. It’s a journey.
I may be doing the journey alone, but by sharing it I am including others…I’m not alone anymore.
3. Daily Log/Progress Meter
I posted in the evening to share how I did that day, like a daily log. It was an update for the people who wanted to know how I was fairing, but it was also a journal for me, something I could look back on to see my progress. That in itself was motivating.
BACTINE #2: Post daily progress reports on a social media platform of your choice. In my updates, I shared my word count, if I wrote that day, or what I did that was writing related that was a step out of my comfort zone or was new and inspiring. I also shared how I reward myself each day, even on the days I didn't write.
BACTINE #3: Reward yourself, too. Whatever you accomplish that day, whatever you do, reward yourself.
Did you write? Reward!
Did you go to a writer’s meeting? Reward!
Did you start reading a writing book? Reward!
Did you do things on your to-do list that prevented you from writing? Reward!
I’ve talked about rewarding yourself in two other blog posts (for submitting stories/queries and seeing rejections as badges of honor), so I really do believe in this practice.
I’ve rewarded myself with hot baths, chocolate, and binge-watching Charmed. It can be anything, and it helps me to relax, which is a big reason why I burned out in the first place. I was working myself too hard and not rewarding myself enough. Don’t make my mistake.
More Bactine posts for Writer’s Burnout coming soon!
QUESTIONS: Have you ever been burned out? How'd you get over it?