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Writer's Burnout

So I've realized a pattern in my writing and in my life. I get into a good place with my writing. I feel energized and passionate and happy with what I'm working on. I'm writing for myself and enjoying it because it's my passion and what I love to do. It feels so good and so manageable and easy that I put ridiculous expectations on myself and pile more and more WIP's and projects onto my plate than I can handle. I like being mentally busy and as a writer, working on several different projects at once keeps my mind always going, always thinking and always on different stories at once. For a time it works out. I feel good and excited and like wow I am so good, I'm doing so much and being such a productive writer. Writing isn't so hard, I don't know why people complain. This is a piece of cake. But then for some reason (I'm still not sure how this happens) this productivity and passionate good place I get into with my writing starts to morph into something not so great.
Maybe it's because I give myself too many projects to work on at once, but I start to put high expectations on myself. I start to carve out time every day to write even when I don't feel like it because hey productivity and it felt so good to write this much just the other day so it'll make me feel good today too. I start to put pressure on myself. Then it starts to feed into comparing my writing, my writing career and my writing journey to others. And without even realizing it, writing suddenly turns into a chore, a task to complete, a job. Not a fun job. A hard job. I stop writing for myself and writing what I want and start writing for an audience that is nonexistent in the first few drafts. I start putting ridiculous expectations on myself and start thinking about what will sell and what won't sell and what I'm expected to write and what I shouldn't write. All of a sudden, writing isn't fun anymore. I have no passion, no drive, no motivation. I just feel stuck and frustrated and drained.

This cycle is something I've struggled with for the past few years ever since I first realized that I do this to myself. And every time, I always manage to pick myself back up. It takes a little while but then I take a deep breath and remind myself that I do this first and foremost for myself. Because I love it and it makes me happy and I wouldn't be a sane person without my writing. I remind myself to write what I love and write for myself and stop thinking about what other people might think of what I'm writing. To stop paying attention to this imaginary audience that I feel like I have to appease. I start to get back into writing for myself and loving it and the cycle starts all over again...

I was just looking through all my blog posts over the past year. December rolls around and everyone starts looking back on their year and all they accomplished and all they didn't. So, I was just looking through my posts and everything and I think it was around the beginning of the year, the first few months or maybe even last December or November, that I wrote a post about how I want to write for myself and not put expectations on myself. It was about not rushing to publish, to take my time and not put so much pressure on myself. And I stuck with that all year. Really I did. I've been in a good writing place all year, especially this Summer. But then the cycle started up again and November hit and I think I put too much pressure on myself this nanowrimo. I tried not to but I failed big time in not making a big deal about my word count. Nanowrimo was what pushed me over the edge. I got to the end of Second Star and just wanted to be done with it. I was so sick of that first draft I rushed through the ending and was so relieved to stow it away on my flashdrive and click the X button on that Word document. Just the thought of starting revisions makes me feel overwhelmed. And I feel horrible about that. I feel so bad that I feel that way about a project I am so passionate and excited about. I love that story and it has so much potential! But I just... can't bring myself to pull up that document and even look at the first draft. It's a horrible feeling... I know it'll pass, it will, but right now it's just not a fun place to be in.
I finished revisions for Hunter's Heritage and all I have to do is read through it and I'm good with that. Once this semester ends (next week!!) I'll be able to focus more on that and not dread reading over it so much.

But, yeah, I guess that's my long way of saying I have a major case of writer's burnout. I thought I have before, but I have never felt so burnt out in my writing before. Over the past few months I had a lot of classwork to do, I had places to be and things to do and a book to publish and Nanowrimo and it all just piled up and now I'm feeling the consequences for not giving myself a break. All I want to do is write. I want to start fresh and be excited about a new character and story, but just the thought of starting a whole new full length novel makes me want to hide.
A full length novel feels like too much and so daunting right now. And yet, that's what I really want to do. It's so weird to have two parts of me contradicting each other and clashing. On the one hand all I want to do is jump into a new project while the other part of me just can't bring myself to do it.

There's just a lot going on in life right now. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Some seasons of life are just really busy. Some are physically busy, like going places and doing things and seeing people. Others are mentally and emotionally busy. I'm in a mentally and emotionally busy season of life right now. A lot is changing and I don't know what I'm going to do about that or how to feel about it and I think that mixed with the past few months has contributed to this writer's burnout.

I don't want this post to be all gloomy and sad and me complaining, so if you're experiencing writer's burnout here's what I plan to do to help myself get better. To like re-energize myself and my motivation to write.

  1. It's Ok to Not Write!! This is something I struggle with. Just writing that sentence made me want to cringe. Not writing means you're not being productive which means you aren't being a good writer, right? No. That is not true. Just because you're not putting words to page, doesn't mean you're no longer a writer. As a writer my brain is always going. Always turning over new ideas, always thinking about writing and characters and storylines. But it is Ok to not write words every day. It is Ok to take a break. Writing that is hard for me because I'm not even sure I fully believe that, but I want to and I think this December I'm going to learn to. I need a break from writing. That doesn't mean I won't write if the inspiration suddenly strikes. It just means I'm not going to force myself to write or come up with an idea just because I'm bored and feeling unproductive. 
  2. Start writing for myself again. Stop catering to an audience that isn't even there yet. Stop thinking about what might sell and what won't sell. Stop comparing your writer's journey to someone else's. Just start writing for myself again and not putting so many expectations or so much pressure on myself to make a first draft perfect or finish a project. Despite popular belief and advice from many writers, it is Ok to not finish a first draft!
    Yes, there are seasons of life and certain projects that you should not give up on. Project Hellion has been a two year process. So has Hunter's Heritage and I have a feeling my sci-fi alien Golden trilogy is going to be something that will also take many years. Some projects are worth fighting for and worth coming back. Other ones? They're important to your growth as a writer and good practice, but they don't have to be finished. Especially when you're feeling burnt out, it's Ok to leave a half finished first draft if you're not feeling the exciting and passion. If you try to keep writing even when you have no love for the story, writing will become a chore and feed the burn out. I don't want to do that. I don't want to feed the burn out. 
  3. Self-Care is a real thing and it is important. But what happens when part of your self-care is writing?? I always thought of my writing as self-care cuz that's how much writing makes me feel so happy. That's how much I think writing is fun. But... what happens when writing is the reason you need to do some self-care? I kind of don't know how to answer that question. All I can say is, do something else. When I'm "taking a break" from writing (or more when I'm having writer's block and am frustrated that I can't seem to get anything written) I like to do something that is still story related. I usually read a book or delve into a TV show or movie. I do something that could give me ideas and inspiration and that I enjoy. I've actually been rewatching TVD, kind of immersing myself in the show and that world because I kind of need a break from words in general, which includes reading. (Though one of my Buffy comics came to the library today so I am totally going to be binge-reading comic season 11 of Buffy). So yeah, do something you enjoy. Read, watch a show, take a walk, pick up one of your other hobbies or come up with another hobby. Or write a blog post. Writing a blog post is different than creative writing and that is why I am still happy to write posts like these. Because its a different branch of writing and fun to do. 
  4. Do some Reevaluating. This one should probably be higher on the list, like one of the first things you do. But think about why you're feeling burnt out. Are you putting too high expectations on yourself or too much pressure on yourself? Are you having doubts or comparing yourself to others and feeling bummed out because your writing "isn't as good" as theirs or that you don't have much exposure as them? Or is there something else going on in your life that is weighing heavily on you? Any number of things can cause burn out. Sometimes its a whole accumulation of things. 

So yeah, those are four things I will definitely be doing to try and recover from this major burnout. I also will be praying about it and asking God to show me the way. I have to trust Him with this and pray that He can lead me out of the burnout and back to a place where the gift He gave me makes me happy and becomes fun again.

I hope this has been helpful and lets you know you aren't alone if you're feeling burnt out too.


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