Let me be very real with you all on this, before I dive too deep in.
Burnout happens to the best of us. The worst of us. All of us. It can be avoided, but its easier said than done and requires a lot of commitment. Well, commitment and timing.
Like most writing barriers, it’s important to first unpack what burnout is and what it does before coming up with a strategy to avoid it. You might be thinking “I know what burnout it is! It’s when you’re too tired to write your book!” And, I mean, yes. But it’s not that black and white!
What is Author Burnout, and What Causes It?
Author burnout isn’t just being too tired to write your book. Or just not wanting to write it. Rather, I like to think of burnout as the evil of cousin of writer’s block. Just instead of not being motivated or stuck on what comes next, you’re now looking at you’re writing as a chore rather than something you love to do.
It’s that tense relationship you seemingly have with your WIP that came out of the blue. And, at the risk of sounding crass, it’s something we do to ourselves.
Say you sit down to write, and you just get SO. IN THE. ZONE. You’re writing good quality narrative, dialogue, world building, and so on! So much that you’re invested in your own story and can’t wait till you unearth more of it even for yourself! You start to think you’ve hit a point where you can write and write with little to no hindrance, so you do that same process the next day. Maybe the day after that. But the day after that…
…you don’t even want to so much as THINK about your book. In fact, writing your novel becomes the very last thing you want to do. You’re tired of it, drained from it, and so on. This is because you’ve now burnt yourself out.
Again, it happens to the best of us.
What Are the Signs?
I’ll be totally genuine with all of you… I just crawled out the burnout cave myself. Like the chaotic gremlin I tend to be.
So, these signs or symptoms are fresh in my head. I think I even ended up experiencing ALL of them.
It always starts while you’re in your writing process. You stare at a page, maybe you write a sentence, or it could even be a paragraph. You take a 30 minute break. You get your coffee, use the bathroom, watch an episode of something who knows. You then come back, write maybe a bit less than before, and then you take another 30 minute break. Then maybe an hour break. And the next day, maybe you sit at your desk 45 minutes late into your hour block of time you kept for yourself.
Now, the next bit is usually one of two things. If you’re really lucky like me, it’s both.
First, it evolves into a hiatus from the writing process all together. Maybe you’re being a couch potato, or you may even be productive elsewhere. Either way, the thought of writing pops into your head, and your stiff as a board. The crumb of an idea makes you tense, hesitant, almost as if you’re about to confront someone on a sensitive topic.
Kind of like that ex you don’t want to see anymore but still has your complete, extended box set of Lord of the Rings and you need to get it back. (Sorry, got a little personal there. Tender subject LOL)
There’s also the possibility that you never stopped writing, but everything you write is… ehhhh…. Mediocre, at best? Like instead of saying “Rex made a stride with each passing step, darting a flirtatious eye at Darla with an unsettling grin.” You instead write “Rex walked and looked at Darla. He winked and smiled, and she was displeased.”
Like, wow. I can feel the nothing that just happened.
Even if that’s what happens, you’ll get to that point of never wanting to write anyway. This is when the burnout really announces it’s arrival. You push your writing session back and back, to an hour later, to a day, to the next weekend, and so on.
Which in turn, rains on that fire you have to write in the first place.
All of this sounds scary, and like it’s a lot to fight off. So how can you steer clear of this?
The Fight: Combatting Author Burnout
Keep in mind, I’m speaking from my own experiences. Maybe these are things you’ve tried, maybe these aren’t. Either way, you’re more than welcome to use these.
In my opinion, burnouts worst enemy is awareness. Once you acknowledge that your burnt out, the process of getting back in the groove is a little easier. Granted, it’s not like writer’s block in which the best course of action is to get your brain used to a schedule. Again, your brain is what’s taking the brunt of this right now.
Try getting your mind stimulated; get you excited to write again. Maybe read a book in the same genre, which will amp you up for your own story.
Be it a comfort novel for that feeling of grounded consistency, or something completely new. Reintroduce yourself to the tone you’re going for!
After awhile read through either all or the last couple of chapters you wrote. Now you’re getting’ back into the groove with what you’re about. Book baby! When you read through what you’ve already done, your brain sort of fills in a lot pieces of the puzzle, and sometimes it’s just the kick starter you need!
After that happens, remember your writing schedule and try to stick to it! Don’t force yourself to go over and push your limits. Again, sometimes we get in the zone and that’s great! Just don’t get carried away. Keep in mind, even if it’s something we love, our brain will still get tired. You’re still working it. ALLOW yourself a break.
That’s my take on the subject! These tips are what help me with my writing (and Christina’s coaching, of course).
If you’re wanting to know more, tune into Christina’s podcast episode THIS FRIDAY!! Write Your Best Book on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the website! Episode 69: Dealing with Author Burnout
Remember to take your time, pace yourself, and don’t cause yourself to get burnt out!