Do you ever get so fed up with your stubborn characters and tangled plots that you just want to throw it all out the window?
I do. Regularly.
Writing is one of those professions that you have to be crazy to do, but you don’t have to let it make you completely crazy. This was a lesson I learned the hard way, after trying to push my way through a burnout and finally shutting down my writing altogether for almost a year.
I’m getting better now at seeing when I’m headed for a burnout and taking steps to avoid it. Here are a couple of strategies I’ve come up with for binding up a broken writing spirit:
- Put it away. It’s okay if you miss your word count goals for a day or two or even a week. Or a month, if that’s what it takes. You won’t write well if your manuscript is grinding you into the ground, and you’ll make up for the missed days when you attack it with fresh eyes.
- Read. Sometimes, I feel like writing has taken all the words out of me, and I have to refill my depleted stores. That’s when I drop my writing and binge read for a day or two. In the past three days, I’ve read four books, and I’m working on number five. (Don’t worry, I look up every once in a while to make sure my child is still breathing.) Once I’m nice and full of brilliant words from brilliant authors, I can get back to putting my own words on the page.
- Explore other creative outlets. Things you’re good at, things you’re not good at, things you’ve never tried. I’ve dived into piano, guitar, baking, Italian lessons, harmonica, sewing, sketching, coloring books (that I ostensibly bought for my toddler–ha!). The possibilities are endless. Just find something to throw yourself into for a while so you can expel all that creative energy while giving your poor, overworked writing brain a break.
- Go somewhere new. In a burnout, I often feel trapped in this stupid storyline that I’ve created. The easiest way to shake that is to go somewhere I’ve never been before. Explore a new park, find a new museum, get in the car or on the bus and just go.
- Do something physically challenging that you love. I hate running for the sake of running, but I will chase after a soccer ball or a tennis ball until I drop. For some people, it’s rock climbing. Other people, weights. Just take the strain on your mind and put it on your muscles instead, and have some fun along the way.
There are my strategies. What do you do to avoid writer’s burnout?