Hello, SEers, it’s John with you again. Today I would like to discuss a condition whose very existence is hardly ever acknowledged and certainly not discussed openly. The condition that I mention is an affliction with many labels but is most commonly known as burnout.
Burnout can happen to anyone on any occasion and any activity. Burnout can occur at a point in a task where the individual has spent too many hours facing the same situation with the same unsatisfactory results.
So, what does burnout have to do with writing? Like any activity, writing is not immune to stress-inducing situations that require diligence to overcome. For example, think of drafting a 96,000-word manuscript and then realizing that the ending falls flat. The ending left unfixed would ruin the entire book. Depending on the amount of work put into the document, this realization could push one over the edge and create the desire to quit. I have had bouts of burnout that I thought would be terminal to future writing.
Burnout should not be confused with the so-called “writer’s block.” Writer’s block is a temporary lapse in creativity that a little bit of time can fix. Burnout is quite another animal. It is a realization that to continue doing the current activity would be more painful than quitting. It is a pretty extreme place to be in and requires measures to counter. Otherwise, the result could be disastrous to a writing career.
Symptoms of burnout could include
Feelings of fatigue.
Lack of creativity.
Certainly, not good feelings for a writer
I have experienced burnout and it had me convinced I never wanted to write again. So obviously, I did not give in to the conviction and am still writing. What did I do when I thought burn out was staring me in the face? I took action to eliminate it. I did five things, which I think would be useful to combat the effects of burnout should it ever rear its ugly head.
Five things to do to fight burnout
1 Leave the work and do something else. By ‘leave the work,’ I mean close it up, walk away and find different activities. Different means activities that are not related to the specific writing project.
2 Stay away from the work for at least a week. Do not open the file or go near the book (or whatever is causing the burnout) until a week has passed.
3 After a week, go back to the work but do not tackle the most pressing problem. Do a side project connected with the work. Maybe write a blurb or fool around with a cover idea.
4 Take one more week away from the project.
5 Return to the project and make a note of how you feel about it now. If you are anxious to begin working on the project, then do so. If you have the same feelings of dread about the project, then take some more time away. The critical point is to permit yourself to shelve any part of your writing that causes you to believe burnout is an issue.
I would never recommend a writer quit writing entirely. Usually, an author can remedy the feelings associated with burnout.
I hope you found this post irrelevant to your situation. However, if you experience some of the symptoms, I hope this post offers a useful path.
Did you ever have a bout of burnout? If so how did you deal with it?