Writing Is A Bad Habit: Up In Smoke! a.k.a. Writing Burn-Out

It’s been a while, my friends.

If you couldn’t tell by the title of this article, I’ve been essentially in burn-out recovery for the past few weeks. Many of us who write know of the stress that attempting NaNoWrMo can bring on, trying to write an entire novel-length manuscript in a month.

Try doing that three months in a row. Three whole novels in three months with deadlines and marketing windows to hit and all of that good grid.

It’s enough to change a man!

But enough about my problems! What this experience has enlightened me to is the stark reality of writer burn-out, as well as methods to rehabilitate that strained writing wrist. You see, before this experience, I wasn’t entirely sure that writer burn-out was a real thing.

Oh sure, there were times when I wouldn’t feel like putting in as many words in a day as I usually would or I might have episodes of writer’s block (where the will to write was there but the creative path wasn’t open), but the creative spark was always there. Then this happened, this marathon of writing, and that did it. At the end, I didn’t want to scribe another word, even a website update.

How it came to be was obvious in hindsight. It wasn’t that I had a deadline, as I’ve worked with those in the past. It also wasn’t the difference in the writing scenario this time, being a collaboration as opposed to an independent project.

No, for me, it came down to being forced to create so much content in such a short time. You’re likely crying foul right now, saying ‘Hey, isn’t that just the same as having a deadline?’, to which I have to say ‘No, not at all’.

Deadlines, despite the scary name, can be rather reasonable things. If treated well, given plenty of space, and attended to daily, a deadline can be rather well-behaved even. In fact, a good deadline allowing for proper time to complete it can be be a positive motivator, helping to fend off procrastination while not being an excessive burden and source of stress.

So what this was wasn’t so much a deadline but an unrelenting source of pressure. I think what we can derive from this isn’t that it was specifically an incredibly short deadline that was the issue specifically, but the undue amount of stress caused by it. In truth, any excessive stress placed upon or caused specifically by the act of writing can lead to burn-out.

Part of what makes writing such a joy, such a great thing that can be constantly attacked day-by-day is that it is an activity that actually leads to destressing for many of us. The creative acts make us feel better, but once that sours, when creating leads to undue stress, it leads to burn-out. Even though we feel we have to do it, we no longer want to do it and that lack of passion turns a joy into a slog.

But any injury, even a creative one, can heal. The biggest way to get over burn-out, at least for me, is to get back to creating something that inspires passion. Find something you want to write about as opposed to feeling ‘required’ to write about.

It’s also important to avoid the elements that led to stress in the last writing project. If it was an oppressive deadline, go into a project with a loose time frame. If the genre didn’t thrill you, go down a new creative road. Do whatever you need to in order to get your mojo back.

I know this is a bit rambling, but I do hope this gives some insights and help for others who get in the middle of writing burn-out. If you have any comments or questions, comment below!

Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!

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