Many years ago I experienced burnout. I was working as a youth worker on a deprived housing estate in England. The work was intense and went beyond normal nine to five hours. I forgot about setting boundaries and threw myself into the job with passion and a commitment to help young people who were disaffected with life. However several years into the job I began to get ill. I got to the point when I didn’t want to speak to the young people and I began to feel anxiety and had panic attacks. I had hit mental burnout.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because writer’s can also experience burnout. This can happen because of the pressure some writers are under to meet deadlines. They set themselves unrealistic targets, perhaps while running a family and holding down a day job. The writer can compare themselves unfavourably to others and become resentful of the success their peers achieve. Sometimes the writer may feel that they are being held back from true creativity because their publishers and editors expect something else from them. Writer’s block can become an obsession and the thought of returning to their writing fills the writer with the fear that they cannot perform.
Have you experienced some of the above? Do you feel that you are a burned out writer? Do not worry. You are not alone. Here are three tips for you to reignite your passion for the written word and get you back on track:
As far as possible take some time out if finances allow take a vacation and turn your mind completely away from writing. If a vacation isn’t a possibility then take the time to do something else you enjoy, and don’t feel guilty about it. Read a book, watch some movies, go for walks, listen to music. In fact do anything that can focus your mind on something else for a while.
Socialise. Spend time with the people who matter to you. Often we become so involved in our writing that we do not give our families the attention they are due. The only way we connect with friends is through Facebook. By taking a break from writing you will be able to reconnect with those people you love and care about. Talk about anything but writing. Enjoy their company and let them enjoy you.
Restructure. It may be that you have a number of deadlines to meet and you cannot totally take a break from writing. Then restructure your time. Give yourself a day in the week and the weekend to take a break from writing. Spend those days on doing something you enjoy and spend time with your loved ones. Set yourself a shut off time, the moment that you will stop working for the day. People in other careers force themselves to shut off when they come home from work and so should you. If you are tired and burnt out be kind to yourself and manage your week to allow you time to do and think about other things. If you are not burnt out do this anyway. We all deserve a break.
You are a gifted writer and you do not want your passion to die. So do take a break, but do not wait until you feel you are approaching exhaustion. Make it a regular part of your day and week. Remember too that it’s okay to be say “no” sometimes too. You do not have to take on every assignment handed to you no matter how financially useful they may be. Your health matters more. By giving yourself a break you will enjoy your writing when you go back to it. You will allow your mind the space and time to renew its creative energy. Read the steps above again and make a conscious effort to heed them. You will not regret it.