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October 03, 2018

Writer’s Burnout Part 2 (Write YOU)



What is writer’s burnout?

Burnout is very different from writer’s block. It’s worse. 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.





More Tips to Help You START Reversing Writer’s Burnout:


TIP #4: Write about yourself.

I know many people hate the rule “write what you know” for how restrictive it is, and I write about things I have to research all the time, but in this case…writing what you know really does help.

When you write about yourself, things you know and have experienced, you don’t have to worry about being vivid or creating good dialogue. You don’t have to worry about hooks, passive voice, slipping tenses, or all the “rules” that are floating around. Just write what you remember. You can add all the details you want, though, including what you saw, smelled, tasted, felt, and all of the emotions you had then, but there’s no pressure to be perfect. And you don’t have to worry about revising what you wrote. This is for you.


Don’ts:

To get yourself writing again, don’t push yourself to write your current WIP.

I did this. A lot. And it just made my burnout worse.

Don’t try to write another project.

I did this, too. I would be positive about it for a couple of days and then plummet, which would make me feel even more worse about myself.

Don’t even try to write flash fiction.

It may work for some time, but if you have writer’s burnout, forcing yourself to write flash fiction, especially if you have a goal to write one flash fiction piece a week or a month, it can burn you out even more than before you started.


Dos:

Start slow.

Start small.

Start with YOU.

After I shared my truth and my struggle on Facebook (see Part 1), I started to write about me. Young me. Elementary school, middle school, and high school me. It was cathartic and revealing. I wrote about being bullied by my siblings and by other kids in school. I wrote about growing into a little woman. I got to explore lessons I learned and my hardships and how things from my past have shaped me.

I wrote these memories into essay form. Some were a single page. Others were a few pages long. Length doesn’t matter as long as you write.


TIP #5: Write essays or journal entries. There’s no pressure with this simple format as there is to write a novel or short story.


Write:

- Memories. Those memories that pop into your head at random about your childhood, school life, or work life. Things that you have maybe even said you should write down for yourself or your children or grandchildren.

- Lessons. What were some tough lessons you learned as a child, teen, young adult, man, woman, parent?

- Experiences. What are things you’ve done?

- Thoughts. What do you think?

- Your writing journey. Start from the beginning and write about your hopes, dreams, and struggles all the way to where you are now. Yes, even write about your burnout, your struggle, and how much it sucks.


TIP #6: Create a meaty list of topics/memories you can write about and work your way down the list one essay at a time. No pressure.

I had a list, and when I would write one essay on a similar topic/memory, I would then want to write another. This is how I wrote 7 essays on my first attempt to reverse my burnout.


TIP #7: If possible, write at least one memory a day. Remember, the length doesn’t matter. Just write what you remember.


TIP #8: And, again…reward yourself. Always.


More posts for Writer’s Burnout coming soon!


QUESTIONS: Have you ever written down your childhood memories? Or wanted to?



78 comments:

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Great tips for burnout :-) Happy IWSG day!

Ronel visiting on Insecure Writer's Support Group day: Course Correction

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I should write down some of the crazy things my cats have done. That might make a whole book in of itself. (And even as I type this, Rocket is racing up and down the hall for no reason whatsoever.)

T. Powell Coltrin said...

These are great tips. We all experience burnout in our lives. Currently, I'm experiencing compassion fatigue.

Teresa

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I used to try to journal regularly but that didn't work for me. Picking up a notebook and writing feelings, thoughts, memories - no holds barred! - just when I felt the need to do it helped me more than a daily practice.

I do find writing flash fiction helps me sometimes, but I need a jumping off point, like a crazy word limit or a certain topic.

The Cynical Sailor said...

I've never written about my childhood, but I can see how it might be a therapeutic and useful approach. The really key takeaway for me from your post is "no pressure." Smart advice :-)

Julie Flanders said...

I haven't, but I've thought about doing it a lot lately. I'm struggling with some burnout related to depression so I may give it a try. Thanks as always for your great advice, Chrys.

Lidy said...

Hi Chrys, it's been awhile since I stopped by. Maybe should've done so earlier as I've just now slowly, starting to climb out of my writing struggles. Thanks for the great tips. They're much needed and appreciated. Planned to do NaNoWriMo again this year and need to turn this writing lethargy around.

Meka James said...

I don't tend to write about myself. I've been in the writer blahs and not much got done WIP wise. I play sims. It's fun and carefree and I write little stories about the pixels I'm in control of. That's how I get through.

Unknown said...

I've strongly considered publishing my old journals, though haven't done any actual memoir-writing outside of blog posts from some years back. I participated in a bloghop that ran in October, where we wrote about our lives year by year (i.e., starting at birth and going through each year of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood). I believe that hop ran again a few more times, but I only participated the once.

Carrie-Anne said...

Sorry, that didn't show up with the right name! I recently made a more professional e-mail address, and didn't realize my blog commenting profile automatically switched over to that ID!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Write about me? Well, that will certainly make my current story seem so much more exciting in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Interesting tips. I've never written about my past, but there was a few years in my teens where I hung out with some potheads that would probably make for interesting stories.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great tips Chrys. Burnout is so hard to dig out of - I've had to do it a few times, and am currently climbing up that slippery slope.
I haven't tried writing about Me but I think you're right - it's a great way to ease back into being that writer!

Jacqui Murray said...

I haven't experienced writer's block or burnout, for which I am quite thankful. It would be traumatic to not be able to experience to high I get from crafting a well-worded sentence.

Thanks for your tips. These sound like they would be a great help.

Juneta key said...

Great tips as always. Happy IWSG.

dolorah said...

Thanks for the tips Chrys :) Writing about myself is complicated. I tried journaling, but prefer fiction writing. Easier to process my emotions when its happening to someone else. But I've been burned out on writing for a while. I'm working my way back though.

Chemist Ken said...

I don't think I've ever had real burnout. There's been a couple of times where I've backed away from writing for a few days or week, but the joy of writing has always come back on its own after a little time away. Of course, then I feel bad about myself for having frittered away so much valuable writing time.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy reading your journey and love that you're using it to inspire others. That's so awesome! I have written about my childhood (which had some rough times) and it also quite freeing after I was done.


Elsie

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the tips. They make writing about yourself seem more interesting. I used to write in journals when I was a teen and young adult, but they really just kept going over the same things.

emaginette said...

Great advice, Chrys. Thanks so much.

Anna from elements of emaginette

Crystal Collier said...

Great suggestions. I've been there too, and I just stepped back for about two or three months, then eased back in. It worked.

Sarah Foster said...

I think I've only written about myself when I write poetry. Which is good if you're uncomfortable writing about yourself because you can make it more abstract.

Pat Hatt said...

Great tips indeed. I've slipped me, sorta, into one of my current ones. Can make it more interesting.

Jennifer Hawes said...

Starting a new novel or getting back into your WIP can be daunting. I keep a notebook and fill it with ideas, lists, maps, characters etc. It really gets me in the mood to write!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chrys - I'd hate to write about me ... but I guess in someways I do - it comes out in tiny snippets in the blog posts. Burnout - hope that doesn't come my way. Blogging certainly inspires me to be curious and to learn ... take care and enjoy Autumn - cheers Hilary

Liz A. said...

Some good advice. No, I have never written specifially childhood memories. But then again, I haven't written much in a while.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent advice. I've never written about my childhood memories, but some of what I've experienced gets mixed into my fiction.

M.J. Fifield said...

I don't think I have ever really written about any childhood memories, but the occasional memory, or partial memory, will make it into a WIP. Mixed into the fiction, as Christine said.

Olga Godim said...

I think I'm in a burnout right now, have been for almost a year, but I'm slowly crawling my way out of it. I want to write again, and I have a complete story in my head that struggles to get out.
As for writing about oneself - I'm not sure it works for everyone. I never wanted to write about myself. Still don't. A few biographical essays I did write were about some unusual events in my life and mostly concerned interesting people I met. Writing about oneself takes courage, maybe more that I possess. Even if (especially if) you don't write for publication, you must be honest in your autobiographical pieces. Otherwise, what's the point, right? But what if I don't like who I was then? What if I don't want to put in writing what I know about myself?
It might be therapeutic for some people, but not for others. Like any medicine, really.
This post inspired much thinking. Thank you.

Elizabeth said...

As soon as I started reading this, I knew I had to go back to your first post :) I journal a lot even (or especially) when I feel overwhelmed or depressed. I once started a story about my childhood, but I think I was trying too hard to fictionalize it, when maybe I just needed to write about what actually happened. I have tried all of those don'ts from Bactine #4. I think it's time to try something else, and I love these ideas!

Stephen Tremp said...

I take time off from writing. Yesterday and the day before the most recent. Gotta do this to refresh the hamster in the wheel inside my head once in a while.

Magic Love Crow said...

Excellent tips! Thank you!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I've never had writer burn out, but I get marketing/publishing burnout quite often.

Loni Townsend said...

Your don'ts remind me a lot of what I don't force myself to do. I'll spin off into drawing or some other craft, though some voice in the back of my mind is pouring on the guilt for not pushing myself. But I think I come out better for it.

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Ronel! I'm a week late getting to these comments, but happy belated IWSG Day to you!

Chrys Fey said...

You could have a collection of cat stories. :)

Chrys Fey said...

We certainly do experience burnout in all areas of our lives.

Chrys Fey said...

Writing in a journal when you need to is good and therapeutic. Daily journal writing can be tough unless you're diligent long enough for it to become part of your daily routine. I tried that but fell short. I read that it takes two months to form a new habit.

Chrys Fey said...

"No pressure" is exactly what so many of us need. :)

Chrys Fey said...

That sounds like exactly what I was dealing with. It can't hurt to try it. :) You're welcome, Julie! I wish you all the best.

Chrys Fey said...

Hi, Lidy! You're very welcome for the tips. I hope they help you with your writing struggle. Good luck with NaNo!

Chrys Fey said...

That sounds like a fun writing exercise!

Chrys Fey said...

That sounds like a really interesting blog hop. I'd consider doing something like that.

Chrys Fey said...

No worries, Carrie-Anne! :)

Chrys Fey said...

But surely Ninja Captain Alex, the creator of IWSG, has some interesting stories to share with other writers, right? :D

Chrys Fey said...

I bet those would make some interesting stories. lol

Chrys Fey said...

I wish you all the best with navigating up that slipper slope and hope you make it to the top without any bruises.

Chrys Fey said...

I hope you never do, Jacqui!

Thank you!

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Juneta!

Chrys Fey said...

That's great that stepping back worked for you. I had tried the same, but it didn't work for me. I couldn't step back in no matter how much I tried, so I had to attempt other ways to get me back into writing.

Chrys Fey said...

Something I've done is fictionalized non-fiction, meaning I write about certain events from my life as a fiction story. It really helps me.

Chrys Fey said...

It;s great that the joy of writing comes back to after a little time away. I felt that joy deep down but couldn't really access it.

We all need time away, though. Whether it's to prevent burnout or not.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Elsie! I hope to help others experiencing what I've gone through.

I, too, had rough times as a child.

Chrys Fey said...

My journal entries are boring, talking about boring things that happened during the day.

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome, Anna!

Chrys Fey said...

Poetry is a wonderful way to write about yourself and your thoughts/feelings. I used to do that with song lyrics. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Definitely!

Chrys Fey said...

I had many story ideas I could've written, and I did attempt to write a couple, but it just wasn't working for me. I really had to fight to get back to writing as I had before.

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad blogging inspires you. Blogging can certainty lead to a lot of inspiration and new knowledge.

Chrys Fey said...

Hopefully you'll be able to write more soon.

Chrys Fey said...

I like to mix thing I've experienced into my fiction, too.

Chrys Fey said...

I do that, too. Like with Flaming Crimes, all of the fire scenes were inspired by my memories. I love to do that when I can.

Chrys Fey said...

No, writing about yourself won't work for everyone. It does take courage to examine yourself and things that had happened, and many people don't like to do that, which is understandable. I'm just sharing what helped me and offering techniques that writers can try. No harm in trying something different, right? Especially when you're experiencing writer's block or burnout. Some of these tips for this series will work for some and not others, but I hope that at least one post will inspire all different kinds of writers. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I've fictionalized events in my life that were too hard to write autobiographically. Like the fire that almost took my childhood home...I couldn't write about that as myself, but I could use those memories for Flaming Crimes. And the difficult things I experienced as a child with my half-brother I also couldn't write from my perspective, but I'm working on a book based on those things and gave my feelings to my MC and fictionalized many of the things I went through.

Chrys Fey said...

Oh yes. A day or two here and there can really make a difference.

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome!

Chrys Fey said...

I know exactly what you're talking about. lol

Chrys Fey said...

That's great. Drawing or immersing in another creative outlet can refresh us and even get the juices flowing.

Mark said...

Good advice:) I find that a solid routine really helps me avoid burnout.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Sounds like a good exercise. I just found some old writing prompts I'd responded to. The starters were "I am 18 years old," "I am 12 years old," etc. It was a great set of prompts, simple, meant to draw out those personal stories and shut off the editor. I've set them aside to see what I want to do with similar essays.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Although I've drafted two novels, I've struggled for far too long to revise them into versions that satisfy me, and it let me feeling frustrated and discouraged. It was only once I started writing my current WIP, a memoir titled Obsessions of a Workaholic, that the words started flowing again; the story is full of memories of my childhood, teen years, college, etc. Writing something that comes more easily to me has made it easier for me to feel re-energized to write fiction and to write in general.

Birgit said...

I think we place to much stress on ourselves which results in feeling guilty and feeling regret for not being a Stephen King who sneezes words out. If we have to take time off, even if it is a year, then we do because our mind is telling us to do this. I think writing about what we know, even if it recipes or the weather or ourselves is a good way to keep the mind active. I also believe in walking in nature, volunteering to help either animals, people or whatever keeps us active. When we go through such horrible times in our life, it may be a way to teach us tolerance, patience, compassion because we can relate.

Lisa said...

Yes, I have written about my past. I plan on doing something a bit more 'sturdy' in a year or so, once I've finished what I'm working on now. I kept a journal through high school and into my early twenties. Lots of things to read now, and remember. I like writing memories though, as they aren't always the same as what I wrote in my journal!

Chrys Fey said...

That's great!

Chrys Fey said...

Prompts can really help to get the juices flowing.

Chrys Fey said...

Sometimes all it takes is a new project to invigorate our muse. :)

Chrys Fey said...

For me, I wasn't putting stress on myself to be like anyone else, certainly not Stephen King. lol Depression got the better of me and my writing. It's funny that you mentioned walking because of my later posts is all about the impact of walking and how it can help our creative selves. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Writing about memories years after the fact definitely has a different feel than what we'd write in a daily journal. For me, it's often whiny. lol But writing about memories really gets me reminiscing.