Are you a workaholic who doesn’t know the term “finished”?
I get it. As a freelance writer and blogger, I’ve learned that the harder you work, the more successful you will be. But even the best of us fall off our work grind sometimes. Whether we like it or not.
If I could tell you when I’ve been motivated to stop working, I’d probably say it’s when I have to, not when I want to. Because the truth is I never want to stop writing. That sort of pressure is bound to crack something eventually.
It’s called writer’s burn-out, and it can lead to worse things than broken motivation, like writer’s block or, dare I say it…giving up!
I’ve been there myself, and burn out is never fun. When my mind is in burn out mode, I tend to rethink my whole business plan, ready to throw in the towel when all I really need is to retreat back to my corner for a while and regroup. Bad days don’t mean you have to quit, they just mean you need to practice a little mental self care.
So how can we avoid writer’s burn out? Here are 5 strategies that have been proven to keep those creative ideas flowing and that mental energy in tip top shape.
Set Up A Queue
If you are a blogger who is trying to create consistent material for your site, it can be difficult to stay motivated and mentally fresh. Everyone has days when the words just won’t come, no matter how long you sit in front of your computer staring at a blank screen.
By setting up a queue, you allow yourself time to experience those off-days guilt free. This gives your brain time to cool off and destress. That time buffer can make all the difference in your life, making your writing career enjoyable and not a constant race against the clock.
You can set your own pace for your queue.
I have mine set to one quality post each week, with little extra posts in between. At the beginning it can be stressful trying to write three or four posts for the month in one week, but after that buffer is set up, you’ll have a whole month to plan the next month, and then two months after that to set up one more month.
As you can see, the more queue you add, the more time you have to think of quality posts. This is also helpful if you plan on taking vacations. Your blog will still be updated weekly with your queued posts while you enjoy a mojito on the beach with your favorite people. And if you have a monetized site, that also means you can sit on that beach drinking a mojito while your queued posts are making you money. Now that’s the life.
Balance Your Time
You may be tempted to power through 8 hours of writing just because you’re having a good day where the energy and ideas are flowing, but it’s important to balance your time and stop while you’re in a good place.
If you stop working when you’re in a good place, you will be eager to return to your work, but if you keep working until you begin to lose patience and become frustrated, you may be unwilling to start again because you have now tied negative emotions to your writing.
Schedule Writing Time
Consider writing like your job. Would you work 24/7 at your day job? Chances are good you wouldn’t. After you come home from your job you most likely eat dinner with your fam, relax in front of the tv, take your dog for a walk, etc.
It’s a good idea to schedule in your writing time so that you don’t run over. For example, you can wake up an hour earlier and spend that time writing, or you can write before bed from the hours of 9-10.
Remember to spend time with your loved ones, eat, and stay hydrated. Take mini breaks to use the bathroom or go for walks. And when you leave your work for the day, leave it entirely. Don’t think about it. Constantly thinking about your work is a sure-fire way of burning out even the best sparks of inspiration.
I know, I know…most creatives will tell you that the opposite of this is true; that you must allow yourself free expression with no limits, but we are talking about how to avoid writer’s burn-out here. Not how to harness unbridled creative energy.
This is where having a monthly calendar comes in handy. Not only can you use it to balance your time by setting up a writing schedule, you can also keep track of yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. It’s amazing how much more motivated you will be to keep at it if you have something to work towards.
Some examples of goals you can set are…
If you know where to go next, you will be more likely to want to continue working on your writing, and if you hit a roadblock, you can always jump to another goal on your list. Conversely, you will also be less likely to want to push yourself to the point of burn-out. Even if you’re on a roll, if you hit a goal, you can put your work aside for the day knowing you accomplished what you set out to accomplish. When you set goals, it’s like breaking up your work into chapters, or good places to stop.
Take Your Time
What’s more important to you–quality or quantity? As a blogger, I know it can be so tempting to write multiple blog posts in a day because you’re feeling the creativity flowing, but what if rushing through things means losing some focus and quality? Take your time to create something you can be truly proud of, free from typos, grammar errors, and lazy writing.
Let’s take Game Of Thrones for example. Season 8 is full of lazy writing. Why? Because they rushed through everything. Had they taken more time to expand some of those ideas, we may have had a more satisfying final season. It’s obvious that they are so done with writing Game of Thrones, and because of it, the show is suffering. A perfect example of taking your time is examining season 1 to season 8. You could teach a whole film course on taking your time with your writing by using Game Of Thrones as an example.
Let’s jump out of that example for a moment. If you are working on an essay or thesis for school, you may hit the middle mark and enter the rush mode. You just want to get it done with! And your writing will suffer for it. Step back, take a day off, go back to it when that feeling of pressure lessens. Allow time to work at a comfortable pace. Don’t wait for the last minute. I know. I’m one of those procrastinators, but it’s really much more successful if you balance your time a little better.
Also, just because someone else wrote a novel in one year doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Your level of productivity might be slower, and that’s totally ok. Don’t rush things. Take your time. Go your own pace. Create something you are proud of.
Allow Time To Forget
As mentioned in my previous post, 3 Ways To Instantly Improve Your Writing, allowing time to forget will save you from a lot of headaches when it comes to writing.
I actually learned this tip from reading On Writing by Stephen King. He concisely stated the same sentiment. Leave your manuscript, not for a day, not for a week, but long enough that you completely forget that it exists. Only then are you able to clear all that clutter from your mind in regards to that specific piece of work.
Then, when you go back and take another look at what you’ve written, all of the stuff that doesn’t fit with your original idea will become blatantly obvious and hacking it apart and cutting things out will be a whole lot easier.
Ok, so how does this help prevent writer’s burn-out?
By allowing time to clear your mind, you take away the pressure caused by the task at hand. Have you ever stared at something so long you want to rip your hair out and throw your whole laptop out the window? Allowing time to forget gives you plenty of time to regain your sanity before diving back in and getting all fired up again. Writing is a fine balance of working and forgetting.
Now that I’ve shared my wisdom on how I go about avoiding writer’s burn-out, what are your thoughts? Is there anything you do to take the stress off? What do you do when you have writer’s block or can’t stand to go back to your work?