Dodging Burnout

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?


  1. Fabulous ideas, and quite applicable to burnout. I think I’ve tried most, if not all, of these methods to avoid burnout or simply to be inspired again when my writing juices have dried up. Many times, I’ll binge on movies, as much as I binge on books. The visual stimuli is wonderful to get the creative juices flowing, and it’s entertaining, to boot!

  2. Unlike you, I do not have any large projects going. All of mine are in baby stages, but I know what you mean about burnout. I was starting to feel it the other day, so I put the pen and paper down and started reading. And I’m starting to feel it again, so since I need to finish a book to review, there is a perfect excuse to stop writing.

    I feel guilty about the burnout, but it doesn’t work to try and push through it with me. So I feel you.. I’m not sure I could ever get 4 books read that fast, but hey, if I didn’t have farming to do, I probably could. 😀

  3. Oh, is that why there’s no sequel to Demon Heart yet? *hint* I’m hanging–what happens to Rustav? Anyway, I try to read when I hit burnout. I also walk or run when my creative push wanes, and if it’s really bad, I watch movies or TV videos.

  4. I haven’t worked on my novel in almost two months. I’ve barely been blogging. But I’ve been reading and I started a yoga practice and I got a puppy and I’ve been watching a lot of TV. The most popular writers’ advice is to write every day, but sometimes I just can’t and I just don’t want to. And, thankfully, writing isn’t my career so I don’t have to. If it’s just for fun, and I’m not having fun, what’s the point? (Besides, you know, self-control and discipline.)

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