by Kris Maze
Do you have the same energy and enthusiasm you had when your idea was just a kernel? Are you in a creative slump? What you could be experiencing is either Writing Block or Burnout. Both are difficult when you work in a creative field, but when considering the impact each has on your ability to write, one is much harder to overcome.
Today, let’s check in with our writerly selves. Are you in that honeymoon period of starting a project you just love to pieces? Are you on the top of your audience engagement game with fans galore? Are you racking up writer accolades or mastering the algorithms to market your best-seller?
Maybe you relate more to grinding out each page or tiptoeing through the edits on your first draft. Painful paragraph by paragraph. Being aware of how you feel at each stage of your writing journey can help writers avoid creative lulls or worse, a dreaded burnout.
So, how are you doing with your WIP?
There is a difference between Writer’s Block and Burnout, and we are going to dig into each in this 3-part series. Read on to identify key aspects of each, signs you may be experiencing one, and what to do to remedy each situation.
It has been said that knowledge is power, and this knowledge, dear writer, could keep you out of a difficult place where writing is not an option. We at WITS want you to keep your writing enthusiasm intact.
Read on to find out how you can avoid losing your writing mojo.
To keep the writing life healthy and balanced, we need to stay aware of how we feel about writing. Taking time to check on their relationship with their creative work can save us long recover times associated with Writer Burnout and to getting back into the writing groove.
Let’s begin with a few definitions of each term. According to Mayo Clinic, Burnout isn’t a medical condition, but it affects our health.
Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.
And according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary writer’s block is a psychological condition.
a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.
Writer’s Block is more associated with temporary inability to write on a specific piece. We have all gotten ‘stuck’ on a project. And we can usually work our way around this difficulty. Writers are great analysts and can diagnosis the issues that hold us back on a project.
Often our Writer’s Block stems from a flaw in the story. We look into the characterizations or world building. We drive the stakes higher and add compelling details to build our interest in the story. We will delineate more ideas to work through a writer’s block in a later post.
This serious condition goes far deeper than not writing the ending to a complex chapter. Burnout derails your writing ability all together. The desire, the energy, the whole lifestyle is challenging and affects your work, relationships, and even personality. This is exceptionally stressful if your income is dependent on writing, but all aspects of the writer’s life can be miserable due to Burnout.
The good news is that Burnout can be avoided. It can be monitored and reversed. If you are on a trajectory towards burning yourself out, take steps to avoid this debilitating condition. Burnout takes much longer to return to writing than simple Writer’s Block. See the following list of behaviors and feelings associated with Burnout.
Look at this list from the NY Book Editors Blog. If you can relate to several of these over a long period of time, you may be in a stage of Burnout.
Look for the signs! One copywriter describes his experience in a blog post here.
As he took on writing as a full-time job, Jon Meitner found that his plan to ghostwrite a novel a month was not realistic for his life. He was confident he could accomplish this because the math worked and because his strength was to easily write 4 thousand words a day. But he quickly found that he didn’t plan for the toll that daily grind would take on his overall health.
Here are takeaways from his article on how to handle writing burnout.
You may be able to write thousands of words, but how long can you sustain that? And at what cost? Not all of us can produce like Stephen King, and we shouldn’t need to be successful. Examine your goals and be sure they won’t put too much pressure on you.
How much recovery time do you need? Writing takes a lot of focused energy and writing too much can tax your writing quality. Plan how much time you need to stay away from writing. Savor the time you schedule to work on your WIP and honor your downtime as well.
Where are your energy levels? Pushing through the tough times works when you have a Writer’s Block, but with Burnout, getting back to normal is a slow incline. Pushing too hard can be counterproductive. Plan small breaks and reward yourself for the time you try to write.
This topic is easier said than is exemplified in real life. With effort and intention, you can regain your love of writing, through setting limits on your time and energy. Prioritize the important things in your life. Perhaps these are parts of your life you ignored when power-writing in the past. Parts of your life that used to bring energy to your writing. You may not write as much as you once could, but it can be a time of writerly growth. Look for ways to find that writer fuel again. Consider the following:
You need to get your groove back. That is more important than your word count right now. Celebrate your successes and keep coming back to the keyboard.
In my future post, we'll look at causes of Burnout and how to reverse them. Some are familiar in our hard-working writing lives, like dealing with deadlines and other pressures to produce. Pressure is the creative enemy, as we will soon see. We can also become over critical or demand perfection from ourselves, but it won’t help. Pressure leads to writing paralysis in the case of Burnout.
Keeping a balance perspective is one important way to notice whether you are overextending yourself, but what can we look for to avoid it? Next up in this series, we will explore many examples and causes of Writerly Burnout.
Until next time, take care of you and know that even a baby step forward is positive progress.
What creative methods do you use to keep your writing mojo fresh? Share what writing fuel works for you with our readers.
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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.
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