How to Avoid Burnout as a Writer
Burnout can happen in any area of our lives, but I don’t often see it discussed in the context of writing. Yet when it happens, it can be devastating and take a long time to recover from.
It’s important to distinguish burnout from writer’s block. Writer’s block is when you get to the page and can’t seem to to write anything. It can be transient, and you can usually work through it.
Burnout is when you want to get as far away from writing as possible, and never want to write again. It’s often caused by stress and overwork.
As a writer, you’re going to have good days and bad days. But you can take a few steps to keep the bad days from totally overwhelming you.
Don’t compare yourself to other writers
It’s easy to look at a writer who makes more money than you, or seems to be more talented or more prolific, and get discouraged.
In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about the despair when her writing friends were doing really well, and she was living in poverty and struggling to get a book published.
But what you don’t see when you see other writers beam about their accomplishments are the sleepless nights when they worked on their craft for years, or the the stacks of rejections they collected.
You can look to other writers for inspiration, but don’t worry if you’re not as popular as others. You’re just in a different place in your writing career. Comparing yourself to others, and thinking that you’re falling short, will only give you stress.
Know what you can handle
Most writers can write more than they think they’re capable of. But if you set lofty goals and then can’t reach them, that’s a recipe for discouragement.
For example, I know I can’t release a post every day, but I can certainly release 3–4 a week. If I can release more, great! But if I can’t, I don’t beat myself up.
It’s also important to take breaks. Some people can write seven days a week, for years on end, without taking a day off. But not all of us. There’s a reason why most work schedules are Mon — Fri, with two days off. If you need it, take some time to relax and recharge.
Keep a passion project
People who write for a living know that you have to write for the market. But often, what you want to write and what your audience wants to read aren’t the same thing. If you go too long without writing something you love, you can get burned out.
To combat this, keep a passion project, something you love that’s just for you. It doesn’t even have to be writing; doing something creative for fun can reduce stress, which helps prevent burnout.
For example, I work on my novels and read books to reduce stress.
It’s important to keep a steady pace when writing, without comparing your journey to that of others. It’s also crucial to avoid overburdening yourself, and to take a break to do something you love.
That way, you can keep on writing, recharging your creative batteries as you go.