Writing is one of those things that demand a lot of energy. I’m talking about creative energy. Words just don’t pop onto the page. They need to be created in the mind first, and these words need to be strung together in a way that tells a compelling story that will keep the author, and hopefully reader, engaged all the way from the beginning to the end.
The longer the story, the more writing the story is going to feel like a marathon. I know we’re not out running or lifting heavy weights, but we are using our creative muscles. We still need to be disciplined in our goal of finishing a book. We need to stick to it even when the story isn’t as bright and shiny as it was when we started it. This involves a lot of pacing on our part. Long-term writing, especially, requires a good schedule that you can stick with.
Over time, however, even the most disciplined of writers who have a solid writing schedule that gives them a realistic publishing schedule can face the dreaded burn out. Today, I’m going to offer some tips on how to deal with this when it comes knocking at your door.
1. Take a break.
I’m not a fan of writing every single day. I think the creative mind needs a breather. We would never tell a doctor or a teacher they need to work every single day or they aren’t a “real” doctor or teacher. So why are we doing this to writers? Writer is a person who writes. It doesn’t matter how little or how much the writer writes. As long as they are writing, they are a writer.
And it’s healthy for people to rest. Not everyone will need the same amount of time to rest. We all have different things happening in our lives. Someone who is taking care of an elderly parent or young kids will have more already on their plate to deal with. Also, people who work can’t use a “full 24-hour day” to fit in some writing. Or maybe you have health issues. Perhaps you’ve been steadily writing and publishing a book or more a month for a year. That kind of pacing will wear anyone out.
The more exhausted you are, the longer of a break you’ll need. Don’t let anyone tell you how much of a break you should take. You take all the time you need.
2. Set up a realistic pacing system for your life.
I know some authors brag about writing 5,000 words a day and publishing 2-3 books a month, but that’s not realistic for everyone. Some authors do one book a year, and there is nothing wrong with that. My advice is to tune out authors who make it sound like you’re a failure if you’re not rapidly writing and releasing books. You are not a failure. Your lifestyle is just set up in a way that doesn’t make 5,000 words a day the best option for you.
I think it’s a good idea to track down how you use your time for one month. Then at the end of the month, take a look at what you’re doing. Are there areas where you’re wasting time doing something that could be spend writing? Then fill in that slot to write instead. Until you know where your time is going, it’s hard to figure out when you can write. Not everyone has the ability to sit down all morning and write. Some people need to wiggle in 30 minutes here and there. There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as the free time is there and you want to spend it writing, go ahead and do it.
3. Eliminate as many stressors as possible.
This is probably the trickiest part since we can’t always control the stressors in our lives. My advice is to look for moments in the day where you can get away from everything else and just relax. Give your mind a break from all the noise.
I have music to help me with this. When I sit down to write, I have a playlist of music ready to go. Sometimes I put on headphones to tune out everything else around me. I don’t let myself get tangled up in social media or anything else during this time. All I do is write. I’ve also had to start going to bed without listening to anything negative. The negative stuff at the end of the day makes sleeping more difficult, and the harder it is to sleep, the harder it is to be well-rested and ready to go for the next day. So those quiet times, however you can find them, are extremely helpful to being in a restful state. The better rested you are, the happier you are, and the happier you are, the easier it is to create stories.
Sometimes getting out and physically moving can help. The endorphins created during exercise offer a natural boost of happiness that can help offset the effects of stress, and burn out is a major source of stress.
5. Eat Well
There is definitely a connection between what you eat and how you feel. We all know what foods are healthy and which aren’t, so I won’t before anyone with a list.
6. Do things you enjoy.
Just because you have a day where you can write, it doesn’t mean you have to do that. You can give yourself permission to engage in other activities you enjoy. The story will always be there when you get back to it.
But just make sure you aren’t using those other things as an excuse to put off writing the story forever. The goal of starting a book should be to finish it.
7. Ignore the blog posts and social media threads on how to make more money as a writer when you’re feeling down.
In my experience, this is one of the biggest sources of stress. You can’t control how sales go for you. If you’re feeling exhausted or stressed out already, this is only going to pile on the negative emotions. My advice is to worry about marketing when you have a ton of creative energy already flowing through you, and writing is coming fast and easy. If you’re focusing on marketing where you’re struggling with enthusiasm, it’s only going to make things worse.
8. Write what you love.
When you’re writing what you love, it’s much easier to get words down on paper. Maybe this is something you have to do while writing on the stuff that makes you money. There’s nothing wrong with carving out some time for a “guilty pleasure” that only you will enjoy. It could be the very thing to help fill up that creative well within you.