Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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February 25, 2022

Dear Writer, What Causes Burnout?

by Kris Maze

There are several possible causes of Burnout and some are listed below.  This list is only a sample of what could trigger Writer Burnout.

Whatever you think your cause may be, know that each of us is unique. You have circumstances that are different from any other writer. Be sure to get to the root of your Burnout and check with your health professionals to be sure.

  • Working too much. 
  • Holding multiple jobs
  • Care-givers – having many people rely on you (Kids? Aging parents?)
  • Perfectionism
  • Various fears (failure, rejection – you know, the basic writing experience we all go through, but to an extreme)
  • Feeling overworked or not having the tools to complete the job well
  • Not getting recognition for one’s work
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Type A personality

Are you Stressed or Burned Out?

A top-rated blog focused on mental health offers insights on the effect of stress and it’s connection to  Burnout here.

If you are not sure whether you are going through a stressful time, or heading towards a writing shut-down, look at these two lists. Which do you most relate to?  One leads to the next and becomes progressively worse. 

Characteristics of Stress

  • Characterized by over-engagement.       
  • Emotions are over-reactive.        
  • Produces urgency and hyperactivity.      
  • Loss of energy. 
  • Leads to anxiety disorders.         
  • Primary damage is physical.       

Characteristics of Burnout

  • Characterized by disengagement.           
  • Emotions are blunted.
  • Produces helplessness and hopelessness.
  • Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope.
  • Leads to detachment and depression.
  • Primary damage is emotional.

The more you relate to either of these lists, makes you more susceptible Writing Burnout. Being aware of pitfalls and bolstering your creativity can get your writing moving forward again.

Help Guides 3 R’s to Recover from Burnout

 If you find yourself in the Burnout danger zone. There are ways to get out of it.  Check out the Help Guides 3 R’s to Recovery here. It can be a starting point to turn around what is ailing you and rekindle your writing life.

  • Recognize – Watch for signs of Burnout
  • Reverse – Find support and ways to manage your stress
  • Resilience – take care of your emotional and physical health

Writerly Reference for dealing with Burnout

If your writing life is going well, you may still want to prevent yourself from sliding into a Writing Burnout. It doesn’t happen over night. Set up positive patterns for your writing and enjoy your author life more. Protect your writing ability and preserve your joy of writing with these suggestions.

Broken into the 3 main categories where Burnout starts to show, consider these ways to keep the Dreaded Burnout from occurring in your writing life.

Work – Writing

Schedule

  1. Create a schedule for your writing and stick to it.
  2. Celebrate. Not only showing up and trying, but celebrating what ever words land on the page.
  3. Clock out. Be sure to respect your muse and clock out when you say you would.
  4. If you are energized and want to write more, let that feeling carry you.  Let it settle in and rekindle.  It will be there when you start your next scheduled writing session.

Podcasts

Six-Figure Authors – an episode about Burnout with personal anecdotes.

Indie authors are their own CEO and although they enjoy the creative control, they are not immune to over-working. This episode was a hard look at what got them into and through Burnout and Writer’s Block.

From the podcast notes you can see the topics these three successful authors discuss.

Overview of the topics:

  • Definitions of writer’s block and burnout.
  • Whether they’ve experienced burnout and under what circumstances.
  • How long their burnout lasted and if it effected book sales/royalties/fans.
  • What they did to overcome it (if they’ve overcome it).
  • Being stuck on the plot or something about a particular story.
  • Tips for getting unstuck.
  • How we know if we’re experiencing burnout or writer’s block.

Reading

  1. Read for fun.  Rediscover what makes great writing sing and find books within your genre or explore others. Fill your writerly well with good words and they will seep through into your writing as well.
  2. Take note of the characterizations and world-building in a casual way. What is working for you as a reader? 
  3. Join a book club and experience the joy of reading from other’s point of view. Reconnect in a personal way with readers. It can encourage your muse to come out to play and to seek to write again with purpose.

Education

Here at WITS we have many wonderful guest posts and resources to glean from. Take this time away from writing to refilling your knowledge tanks. You can read blog posts, peruse craft books, or catch up with how-to videos on YouTube. There are also many writing classes and workshops one could attend, especially since many live events are becoming the normal again. 

Working on craft is always a smart writing investment.

-Your Muse

I recently took an Immersion Class from Margie Lawson, and it has revitalized my writing. Her system embedded the editing process into my work, making second, third and fourth edits much easier. I have more ease and direction when working through a manuscript. My beta readers have noticed the change in my writing, saying it is smoother and more interesting.

Spending a few hours with Margie and Immersion Grad students helped me connect some of the writerly segments between a solid first draft and a polished manuscript.

Set aside time and resources to invest in yourself and your writing career. 

There are multiple benefits to taking a class or attending a workshop.

  • learning with like-minded potential friends
  • getting feedback and encouragement from other talented writers
  • giving feedback can spark your confidence
  • reconnect with your own writing chops

Lifestyle – Relationships

Body

1.Your relationship with writing, with friends, with family, with work all show up in your physical being. What are you like as a person? Does your persona change with how well your writing is going? If you can relate to this, you are not alone. Ask a housemate if you are not sure. I bet they have an answer they would love to share, if you have a household anything like mine.

Are you easy going because your writing journey is a smooth passage? It shows in your interactions. Stressed out and cynical? It can hurt those around you as they deal with your grumpiness.

2. Do you remember the Rule of 4 from my previous post here at WITS?  It states that we have 3-4 hours tops of our best concentration.  Make them count. If I work for an hour, I have 45 minutes of solid productive writing. Take a little less time, if your burnout demands it. See a typical writing session where I build in break time.

Then, I allow myself 5 to 10 minutes to ease into my project. After a 30 - 45 minute session I give myself 10 minutes to walk around, do a small cleaning project, or go to the mailbox. It gives my body a break, but also resets the mind to tackle the next scene or tricky section of dialogue. Win-Win!

3. My go-to exercises are walking and yoga because they are low-impact and low-stress, but my exercise app also accepts house cleaning.

True. I feel better when I’ve added more movement to my daily routine. Trying to move a little each hour helps me from getting body aches and grouchy moods, which is a good reason to exercise. It can also keep your mind off obsessing about why you are not writing. Also, true.

Endurance

Miffie Siedeman knows a lot about endurance. As a multi triathlete and writer, she has tips for writers who need help getting through the tough parts. Check out her recent post at WITS for more practical ways to make your writer day smoother and cross that writing finish line.

Sleep

  • Be sure to get enough sleep to feel rested. 
  • Set an alarm to go to bed instead of only for waking up.
  • Avoid screen time before you go to sleep to enhance your sleep mindset.
  • Seek professional help if sleep is an issue. Some underlying causes like sleep apnea can rob a person of a healthy night’s sleep.

Food

  • Be certain to eat plenty of healthy energy providing foods.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that could be a crutch for the over-worked lifestyle. Too much caffeine? A little alcohol to relax?  Theses can have adverse effects when not consumed in moderation.

Personality - Self

Impose Limits

  • Limit the times you write and stick to them. 
  • Stick to your social obligations. Allow others to refuel your creativity. Enjoy spending time with others (even you introverts need human interaction!).
  • Fill your writer well with writer greatness and find great stories to consume. Here is permission to dip into the limited series you wanted to watch on TV. Or better yet, read the book it came from!

Restore Before More

This simple mantra has been very useful to me. When my schedule opens up, I don’t simply do more work like I want to, I reflect on whether I am ready for it. I am balancing my input activities to keep my writing output fresh and the writing well flowing.  After I hit my word count and writing task goals for the day, it is time to honor the hard work with something fun and/or relaxing.  I suggest you do the same to avoid Burnout.

Grace and Kindness

Take care of you. Give yourself space to rebuild your energy. Reflect on how to avoid this type of burnout in the future, by using the 3 R’s. And relearn how to love your writing life.

How have you taken a fun break from writing recently? What suggestions do you have to keep your writing life fresh and engaging?

* * * * * *

About Kris

Kris Maze is an author, writing coach, and teacher. She has worked in education for many years and writes for various publications including Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish and the award-winning blog Writers in the Storm where she is also a host. You can find her YA sci-fi and horror stories and keep up with her author events at her website which is currently getting some new fun features!

A recovering grammarian and hopeless wanderer, Kris enjoys reading, playing violin and piano, and spending time outdoors with her family.

Leave a Reply

6 comments on “Dear Writer, What Causes Burnout?”

    1. Hi Tiffany,
      I agree, and it was something many people related to when I researched the topic. If these suggestions help someone know that they are not alone in this struggle, I'm happy this post was useful.
      🙂
      Kris

  1. Thanks, Kris, I can use many of these helps. Another contributing factor to writer's burnout is chronic pain. I deal with arthritis and Type 2 Diabetes, but I was doing fine until my doctor took away the NSAIDs (including Celebrex) and Tylenol. NSAIDs are hard on the kidneys and Tylenol is hard on the liver. Turmeric alone didn't help. I'm on my first month of using Relief Factor, which combines Turmeric with several other naturopathic substances. I never realized just how badly chronic pain affected my energy and creativity until the pain was gone. Some days are better than others, but I'm able to write several hours a day with little or no pain.

    1. Hi KC,
      Chronic pain can put a damper on anyone's best intentions; I hope you are finding success with your treatments now. I believe there are pain clinics to help get to the bottom of the root problem - which can help one get back to a pain-free life.

      My battle was with rebounding migraine headaches that put me in a pain spiral that my life just wouldn't allow. (Toddlers don't understand my mommy stays in a dark room for 2 days when she usually takes them outside for a walk twice a day.) It went on for years before I got a solid grip on my pain situation. It always seems to sneak up though, when I am overbooked and take on too much!

      Thank you for your insights, KC, and I hope you have a relaxing weekend.
      Kris

    1. Hi there, Denise!
      It's true, working on a few different projects for me can revitalize my other WIPS because when I go back to them I have a fresh perspective. But what I am finding now is I have a few too many, and that an be overwhelming, too. So, I leave a few on the back burner to simmer while setting myself very short term and simple goals to keep moving forward.
      Enjoy your weekend, Denise. I hope you have some fun events planned. 🙂

      Kris

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