There comes a point in a lot of writers’ lives where they feel like giving up. Nothing they write feels good enough. No blog post is getting their message across, and no website copy is delivering the branding that’s needed.
It’s frustrating and feels so much worse than a mere case of writer’s block.
And it is worse. If you're feeling like this then you probably have writing burnout.
So, what’s the difference between writer’s block and writing burnout?
Writer’s block happens when you either don’t have any ideas in your head, or you can’t get what’s in your head onto paper. No matter how much you try, the words just won’t come so you’re left staring at a blank page in frustration.
Writing burnout is a lot worse. You know you have writing burnout when it’s not just that you’re frustrated at the blank page, but you’re actually hating the whole writing process. You’re tired and you’re fed up, and even if you do get something written you hate it. You feel like giving up completely because what’s the point? Do your words even matter anyway? (Yes, they do, by the way.)
Burnout can happen to anyone, not just writers. It comes about when you’ve been working hard at something for a long period of time without any let-up. You’ve used up all of your energy and you just don’t have anything else to give, so you become dejected and feel like it’s just not worth the effort.
If you think you might be suffering from burnout, don’t despair too much. There are a few things you can do to re-energise yourself and get your writing back in gear:
1. Clear Your Workspace
The saying ‘a tidy desk is a tidy mind’ is a cliche for a reason. Having a clear workspace can help to clear your mind of any clutter that might be hindering your writing.
Clean up your desk and get rid of anything you don’t need. That chewed-up pen you’ve been hanging onto because there’s still a little bit of ink left in it? Bin it. The old plant that you had high hopes of keeping alive, but didn’t actually last past week one? Chuck that too.
Only keep the things that will help you get your work done. Your new clutter-free desk will not only look good but will keep your mind focused on what needs to be done as well.
Writing burnout can be stressful, especially if you’ve got deadlines to meet. But one of the worst things you can do is try to plough through when your mind is past exhausted. You’ll only stress yourself out even more.
Do something that you know will relax you, like taking a bath or going for a walk. You’ll not only feel calmer, but these kinds of activities also clear your head so you can focus more and prioritise what’s important.
Try to resist the temptation of social media, though. Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram is not as relaxing as you might think it is. You’re trying to declutter your mind, not add more stress to it.
3. Leave Your House
This tip is for those who write from home. When you’re at home all day every day it’s easy to get distracted (and overwhelmed) by everything that needs to get done around the house. The laundry is piling up, the dinner needs to be cooked, and the beds sure-as-hell won't make themselves.
All of that pressure is just adding more stress to your already exhausted brain. Go to a cafe or to your local library to work, even just for a few hours. A change of scenery might give you the boost you need to focus on your writing, while also leaving all the housework where it belongs: in the house.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Burnout can often be caused by factors not related to work at all, such as not getting enough sleep. If you’re not sleeping well you’re going to feel groggy and exhausted during the day, and you’re definitely not going to feel up to writing copy or content for 8 hours.
Have a sleep schedule and stick to it. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and making sure you get the recommended 7-8 hours a night.
Do something before you go to bed that will help you wind down, like reading a book or having a cup of tea (Pukka do a delicious chamomile and fennel tea called ‘Relax’ that has me out like a light, or Heath and Heather do a great ‘Night-Time’ tea too).
5. Do Something That Isn’t Work-Related
Your brain is exhausted because you’ve been focusing on one thing for so long, so step away from that thing to give your brain a rest.
If you’re worried that if you stop writing completely you’ll lose your mojo for good, then just try to write something different than the normal work stuff. Write fiction instead of blog posts, or poetry instead of website copy. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be different.
You probably spend a lot of your time reading content feeds and blog posts to research your own content. But how about taking a break from this and reading a fiction book. It can help take your mind off the stresses of work, while also reminding you that there are more ways to use words than just jargon-filled copy.
6. Take The Hint
Writing burnout isn’t something that you should just shrug of and hope will go away. It’s your brain’s way of telling you that it’s tired and needs a break. Don’t ignore it. If you keep pushing yourself when you genuinely don’t have the energy to spend you’re going to do more damage than good.
Take some time off work if you need to, even just a couple of days. Remember that it’s okay to say no to a writing job, especially if you’ve already got a full schedule.
If you’ve got a deadline coming up that you just don’t think you’re going to be able to make, ask for an extension. Your client might be annoyed at first, but handing in a well-written piece a few days late is better than getting a crappy piece in on time and having to change it all anyway.
You can get through writing burnout.
It might not be easy, but it’s doable. Just take a step back, breathe, and clear your mind. You’ll be back to your old writing-self in no time.