Some weeks ago, I felt empty and dry. I was experiencing a term commonly referred to as ‘writer burnout’ and it was so bad that I began to forget names and places and my head for many seconds would just go blank. I had these blog post ideas before me yet I couldn’t do anything about them. I just stared at my laptop, weak and tired.
Fine, I desired to build my writing career, I wanted to see it bear so much fruits in years to come. I had read about writers and how they were able to live off their writing passion and I wanted that for me too. I knew it required serious work yet I was willing to pay the price. But in the midst of trying to be on my A-Game, here I was, struggling to keep my sanity in shape.
The question remains: How can writers deal with burnout? How do you keep your sanity even as you write?
1. Get your work organized and draw out a schedule.
One of the things that made me frustrated with writing was the tons of ideas that kept jumping into my head and the need to attend to them all.
One moment I am working on a blog post and fleshing out a fictional piece and yet another moment, I’m trying to figure out scene treatment for a screenplay, and then there is research to do and knowledge to grasp. They made my mind so clustered that I couldn’t even figure out how to begin.
Well, this is where organization comes in. I had to learn to plan my day long before I set out to work. I also learnt how not to overwork myself.
If you are a blogger, no matter how much you want to build traffic and see your blog grow, take it easy on yourself and don’t overstretch. Rather than expend your energy on five blogposts that’ll wear you out, stick to one or two drafts and gradually you can increase the number of words you write. .
A major reason for burnout comes when your writing career is in many facets. You blog, publish books, take freelance writing jobs, write screenplays, and then there is the day job that demands your attention. This is apart from the research you must do regularly to keep your content solid. It can be overwhelming really. But I have discovered that, with a good plan, your day can run smoothly and you can reduce burnouts.
As a blogger, I have a list of proposed blog posts for the month. I break it down into weekly posts and depending on all I have to accomplish for the day, I decide how many drafts I want to make.
Some days I just work on a post and for some other days, I scribble more than one article. Whatever the case, I’m learning to take it slow and steady.
There are days that all I do is just research and bookmark sites and outline my points. The most important thing is that I am doing something everyday to reach my goal.
Even if you are not a blogger, the principle still works. For each chapter of your book, spend time drafting out what you want to see in that chapter. Pen down related research topics and then slowly build your work. A chapter a day is fine, if that’s how much you can handle.
For screenwriters, do a scene treatment. Don’t set yourself up for disaster without having an end in mind. Decide on the number of scenes you want to work each day. To keep your mind alert and excited, drop your pen at the point of conflict. I’m telling you, by the time you pick up the following day, you’ll have something great to start with.
Take it easy as you work. A chapter a day is better than ten chapters a day without completion. Take it easy dear writer.
2. Give space to recreational activities.
Let me just confess at this point. This is the key reason for my burnout. I can work for hours and then get home and instead of doing something to relieve the stress, I’m thinking again of what I have not completed or reading about a successful writer.
Yes, I know my life can be boring some times. I don’t need a prophet to tell me that and I can see how much it has affected me. I can’t even hang out for more than 30 mins without thinking of how I should have been spending time writing or working on a blog post.
There are days I’ve felt so depressed after churning out words because my mental faculty had reached a breaking point yet I’ll stay in my room alone, my head releasing superheated steam.
Nobody needs more time to connect with fun-loving people and nice recreation time than writers. We don’t realise this, but it’s the truth. It’ll save us from depression. If you are a writer blessed with a spouse who’s extroverted or knows how to carve out some fun moments, you are blessed.
Many of us are lone rangers. We are comfortable in a world of our own yet it’s not the best for us. You will not die if you take out time to go out and have fun. Treat yourself from time to time. Go out with friends and while you are with them, turn off your work button.
3. Read books a lot.
One of the things that causes writer burnout is when you have poured out all that is in you and your reservoir is empty. If you are feeling dry and empty, shut your system or close that notepad and pick up a book from a genre you enjoy.
Feed your mind on articles and stories. Watch videos that’ll inform and educate you. Get your mind renewed with knowledge. This exposure will create a spark that’ll revive your mind.
4. Prayer works.
On some days when I’m dehydrated mentally. I just close my eyes and talk to God. Through uplifting songs and praying in the Spirit, I find strength to commence work again. Prayer brings great relief.
Have you ever felt dry and worn out in your writing career? Would you mind sharing those experiences with me?