If you have a blog or a newsletter or are facing a blank page in a book or website project, sooner or later you may experience burnout.
Bobbi Linkemer, an experienced and prolific writer gives us five tips that will get us over the coals and onto the other side!
5 Things to Do When You’re Experiencing Writer’s Burnout
The word burnout was not even in my vocabulary when I first started writing. I knew I would never tire of it, never want to do anything else, never stop. I wrote at every opportunity. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, except that I was young and obsessed. I ran on adrenaline and addiction to writing, I suppose.
All I wanted in life was to write full time. Strangely, that addiction has never wavered. I have been writing for 40 years and can’t think of anything I would rather do. Yet, having said that, I must admit that I have been worn out, exhausted, and blocked more than a few times over the years. Being a full-time writer means you write all the time. That’s pretty much all you do, except for gathering the information you will write about.
For the first 20 years, I had a series of great writing jobs, ranging from managing a city magazine to managing a marketing communications department. If I was burned out at that point, it was more with the vicissitudes of corporate life than with writing. But, to be sure, I was burned out.
For the second half my work life, I have been a business owner – a one-woman band who, in addition to writing, does everything else. When frustration has reared its head, it has been caused by the need to create some sort of balance among work, life, and the unbelievable number of administrative and financial tasks that come with the job.
The writing has been challenging, comprising virtually every industry, every subject, and every genre. The variety has stretched me, educated me, and stimulated me. What has driven me crazy is the uncertainty of finding work when there is too little, doing the work when there is too much, holding on to the work in the midst of a chaotic business environment, and continuing to love the work, no matter what it entails. Keeping all of those balls in the air all the time sometimes seems impossible. It is certainly a recipe for burning out.
Here is what I have learned that may be of help to you when you see BURNOUT in neon on your computer screen:
1. Never say never. This advice applies to everything in life. It is the one word that is guaranteed to trip you up because we never (whoops) know what life is going to throw at us or how we will feel when we must deal with the unexpected.
2. Admit it. You’re tired. You’re sick of what you’re doing. You hate your boss/editor/client. You’re uninspired. You have writer’s block. You wish you were a carpenter. You want to scream. The point is, don’t deny it and fight your way through it. Stop, and be aware of what’s going on inside of you. The body never lies, and, if it’s turning you into pretzel knots, there is a reason.
3. Don’t panic. When you feel yourself burning out, getting tired, writing mechanically, or feeling too blocked to write at all – and you will – take a break. (Oh, but I can’t; I have a deadline!) Yes, I know, but whatever you’re doing or not doing isn’t working. So, stop and take a walk, a nap, a movie, a meal, or a vacation. Read a book, veg out in front of the TV, put on your favorite CD, wash the floor, fix your car, do yoga or tai chi or karate. Do anything but write.
4. Know that it will pass. You are still a writer, a good writer in fact. You haven’t lost your skill or your love of the craft. It’s probably premature to throw up you hands in defeat and job hunt. Be a Taoist: go with the flow. You don’t beat yourself to death when you have the flu; why do it when you are suffering from temporary malaise? Chalk it up to a passing phase, and get on with your life.
5. Think it through. If it’s serious, if it’s continuous, if it’s painful, and it won’t go away, you may have to do more than go to a movie or roller-blading. You may have to examine what is going on and whether it is indeed time to move on to something else. My guess is, that given time, you’ll find some way to refresh your mind and your creativity. But if that doesn’t happen, you have a right to switch gears and find another outlet for your talents. You did not sign a life-long contract to be a writer. If it’s time to do something else, go for it.
Burnout is stress on overdrive. It affects your health, your psyche, and your work. When you are a writer, burnout can stop you in your tracks, rendering you incapable of doing the one thing you can and want to do. Recognize it and respect it.
About the Author
Bobbi Linkemer has been a professional writer for 40 years, a magazine editor and journalist, and a book-writing teacher. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurs who want to enhance their credibility and build their businesses.