Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Have You Faced Writer Burnout? How Do You Escape It?

Yesterday's post about how social media fatigue may be afflicting the Internet got me thinking about how hard it is for writers to escape periodic or even prolonged burnout. We're all trying to juggle writing with the modern life and the daily demands of day jobs, chores, blogs, commuting, cooking, sleeping, reality television programs, and oh yeah families and friends remember them?

Writing takes time that is not in ready supply, endurance that can be sapped, attention that can waver, confidence that can ebb, and dreams that can be dashed. It's the brain's version of a marathon.

And that's before you face the publication process, with its waiting and inevitable frustrations.

Have you ever gotten burned out by at all? How do you escape it so you can keep going?






154 comments:

stickynotestories said...

I wrote about this a couple weeks ago in my blog. I was working on my favorite chapter of the entire book and I got burnt out just from beating that horse too much! So I wrote "fluff" for about two weeks and re-energized myself and the chapter :) Now I'm getting back to work, feeling better about it then ever before!

lynx0526 said...

I'm burned out right now! NO idea how to overcome it but to try to use my day off productively and for writing....

Deniz Kuypers said...

It might sound cliched, but the best way for me is to keep writing, even if I'm fed up with it or hate what I'm putting down on paper. Two go-to solutions for me are: 1) reading poetry, which inspires me with a love for language and how it can be used, and 2) changing the font of my manuscript. That might sound like a silly solution, but when the book "looks" different it sometimes "feels" different too and makes it easier for me to keep going.

Finally, there's the persistent hope that one day Steven Spielberg will call wanting to buy the rights to my book, so hey, that's a pretty good motivator!

Christauna Asay said...

I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of book until I hit that inevitable bad book that makes me say, "I can do better than that." Then I go do better.

Bob Mayer said...

Over the past 22 years as a writer, burnout seems to occur when reacting rather than acting. While it's nice to have mutltibook contracts and a popular series, such as Atlantis, it also meant I was locked in creatively.

Also, having written around 50 manuscripts, I know how long a novel takes to complete. It can be overwhelming at times when you know the finish line is so far away.

Still, it's the best job in the world.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Taking a blog-cation and stepping back from other responsibilities to concentrate on my writing works for me. Even if it's just a 24 hour vacation where I lock myself in a hotel while Dad watches the kids. :)

howdidyougetthere said...

Matt Richtel's latest NYTimes articles about Your Brain on Devices says it all to me, regarding this decline in internet attendance.

For writers, though, the internet's an excellent energy stream / motivator. ESPECIALLY during BurnOut periods.

There's Drama: How the Hock Did She Get a Publisher When I Still Haven't...And What's Their E-mail Address

Laughter: Can You Believe the Crop that Guy Tweeted? I'm WAY more Pro-Found Than Him!

Tears: (See Drama)

Reconciliation: Tweet-Up at the Pub!!

All that energy and ideas do it for me.

Ruthanne Reid said...

I got burned out pretty badly after finishing my second book - and by "finishing," I mean "1001 rewrites, edit-throughs, submissions, and critiques."

Two books, ready to shop... and I just couldn't even think to write another word. It felt like I didn't have anything left in me.

What did it was getting away from it all. I packed up my laptop, some of my favorite MP3s, and headed to my favorite bookstore *alone*.

Plugged in. Got a really yummy naughty drink. And tuned out the world - in a place where I could do that, because there was no laundry to do, no pets to watch, nothing to take care of but the words in front of me.

It worked, glory be, it worked.

patlaff said...

I set aside time every week and...push it out. Burnnout comes and the result is bad writing, horrible crap that goes nowhere and does nothing. But eventually it goes away, I reach a new level of excitement and writing becomes a pleasure again and I can't wait to plunk down in front of the computer.

Elle Strauss said...

I took the whole month of July off. It may become a yearly event

Jillian said...

I read the classics, 'the greats' who never gave up.

T.N. Tobias said...

I abide by the "up at 5am, getting stuff done before the world wakes up" school of thought. It works until you find some reason not to go to bed by 10pm...

yr mama said...

Just keep writing. Like the song says, you can't go over it, you can't go under it, you have to go right through it. Even my cashier at the grocery store said basically the same thing this morning, "The day is lining up so I might as well start smiling."

Emilie said...

I've just started writing and I find I get really stuck, a lot. Plus, my "real job" of raising two boys under the age of 3 sucks all my energy from about 5 am to 8 pm. For me, I go do something else creative such as play piano, get out my SLR camera, draw, etc. and every time, it gets me motivated again.

tqr said...

Having kids (now 5 and 3) really stopped my writing there for a while. I spend a lot of time with them and then at night when I usually would write, I'd be so burned out that all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and veg on TV. When I actually found myself in the computer room to write, I found that I had no endurance whatsoever and would literally fall asleep at the keyboard after attempting a few sentences. So... years went by like this with maybe one or two stories being written. Recently, I realized I was going to lose it from lack of using it, as the saying goes, and that I needed to do something quick and drastic. Now, instead of vegging at night after getting the kids to bed, I just go to bed and, most times, to sleep. Then, at 4 am, I get up and put on the coffee and sit down at the computer. In the last two weeks I've written more than I had in the last 6 months. Straight from sleep, I find that I am able to really concentrate and not go into a coma like I used to trying to write at night. I'm still not able to get up every morning at for, but do manage to get up at least at 5 am and get in some writing. Anyhow. I plan to keep this schedule cuz it's resurrected my writing and given me a sense of process I haven't had for years.

Edward G Gordon said...

Hi Nathan,

I find that the best thing to do is simply get away for a day or two, longer if that's what it takes.

I write faster and my ideas are cleaner and more vivid when I am energized.

Burned out writers are only riding a dead horse if they think they can push through it.

My advice - give the brain a breath of fresh perspective by doing something totally unrelated; gardening, painting, rock climbing, it doesn't matter, just so long as it is totally unrelated to any kind of writing task.

My advice would be to avoid burn out in the first place by not overdoing it, getting plenty of exercise and a good nights sleep.

Just my own view. Hope it helps.

Great blog by the way.

Christine said...

I've been working really hard on an MS that just keeps putting me over the edge. I've got scenes to flesh in, but I'm so sick of it, that I decided to give myself the day off. I just can't face the task today. I printed off the scenes that need my attention and walked away from the computer. Obviously I walked back LOL. But the point is that by giving myself permission to do less today than I usually do, I know I will be ready to face the task tomorrow.

Daisy Harris said...

What a timely post! I am so burnt right now, my eyebrow is twitching!

Mine's a combination of writing burnout and summer burnout that's crept up on me now that kids are back at school.

I'm doing what I always do when I panic and think "I just can't write anymore!"- I'm writing 1000 words a day. Only in either the afternoon or evening, and-if necessary- while drinking a glass of wine. I know from experience that 1000 words only takes me an hour to write, and even though it might not feel like a lot of writing at the time, it adds up.

I'm a big fan of the "bare minimum" life plan. For a lot of people it won't be 1000 words, it'll be 250, or 100, or 5. But if you can come up with a bare minimum to do each day, then you can fall back on a lowest possiible level of productivity and still be getting something done.

And wine helps. Or coffee. Or chocolate. Pairing writing time with something enjoyable and relaxing takes the stress off. For me, at least.

Great topic, and cheers!

page99test said...

30 minutes on the treadmill helps... unless my mental burnout has started manifesting itself physically (usually as result of weeping in the corner until my shoulders hurt). Taking the time to do the dishes by hand - slowly, one-by-one - sometimes works, as does giving myself a pedicure. The key for me is to get into an activity that lets my mind shut down, guilt-free, for ~30 minutes.

paulgreci said...

Sometimes I switch projects. Other times I just take some time off. I find if I build some breaks into my regular routine that take me totally away from my writing, then I'm less likely to get burntout.

Stacey said...

I say order some kids online and they always are a source of entertainment, laughs and story topics. Best thing I did for my writing career was to birth some children!

Jenn Marie said...

I don't beat myself up about taking breaks. When a draft has been ripped apart by betas, or day job work has gotten too crazy, I let myself step back and cool off. For example, during the past three weeks, I've been besieged by quick turnaround freelance writing gigs. Lucky for my pocket - bad for my WIP schedule. But all that dry, technical writing just fired me up and made me more productive when I finally had time to write fiction again. Some people are "power through burnout" types. I'm not - and I'm more productive because I recognize that.

Katie Alender said...

I've considered the old-fashioned notion of "no working on Sundays." I also make sure I get enough exercise (treadmill desk, yay!), stay connected to my personal life, and try to nurture a sense of the happy and save the drama for someone else's mama.

Anonymous said...

I suffered burn out about a year ago, and, aside from a few weeks writing in the Spring I haven't got back into it. I just don't have any ideas for moving the plot forward, and there are only so many characters you can kill off before the Character Guild starts complaining about the waste of minions.

- NM

lora96 said...

When I burn out I take a Reading Vacation. I read four or five novels--old favorites or books on my To Be Read list to rehabilitate my fussiness.

Natalie Whipple said...

I pace myself. I write as consistently as possible—about 1-1.5k five times a week when I'm drafting.

Even when I don't want to.

Even when I WANT to write more!

I find stopping myself from a writing binge (like 5k in a day) or pushing myself to get to that 1k staves off the burn out fairly well.

And the big key, I think:

I take weekends off. I don't write at all. I don't plan or outline or edit. I do other things. That break every week has come to be very important to me. It's refreshing—just enough time away.

Jason said...

Yes, actually, I think everyone gets burned out at one time or another.

After all, writing a book is entirely self-motivated. Motivation comes and goes.

I have found the easiest way to regain motivation is to write, but about something else. Take a few minutes to do something else, then look out the window and describe what you see, or simply write stream of consciousness.

I've even gone so far as to write something like "I have nothing to say to you today, novel. I am uninspired and uninterested. You're frustratingly long and I will never finish you. But I'm not going to give up...." etc.

At some point, you'll notice that you're wanting to write (or indeed already writing) on your big project. I wouldn't bother to switch files or anything, I would just start writing the novel. You can always delete and rearrange later--but you've called the muse now, so it's time to pay attention to her, not formatting.

untitlement said...

I really needed this post today. I look forward to reading how others overcome burnout.

I'm trying to go back to the whole "writing with the door closed, revising with the door open" method. I have so much more enthusiasm and productivity when I'm just writing for myself.

After eighteen months of multiple critique groups and writing courses, when I sat down to write, all I could hear were voices shouting, "Too passive," "Too fast paced," "Too slow-paced," et cetera. Felt like I was being pursued. Just a WEE bit inhibiting.

I hope I can spend the next few months pouring my heart into my novel so I can enjoy writing again.

Then back into the fray with the critiques!

Shawn Kamesch said...

"Writing takes time that is not in ready supply, endurance that can be sapped, attention that can waver, confidence that can ebb, and dreams that can be dashed. It's the brain's version of a marathon."

Well written!

I'm fueled by the big ideas, and so when I'm stuck I isolate myself--in dark silence--and allow my mind to work free of distraction. Once an idea hits, I run to my computer, pour coffee, and write. Not in that order; my coffee pot isn't connected to my computer.

But how awesome would THAT be?

Stephanie Barr said...

I'm a multi-tasker. When I'm working on something and I seem to be stuck, I usually realize I'm not "ready" to work on it. I bounce over to something else (which is why I work on half a dozen or more novels at any given time). Or I read to get reinspired. Or I hang with my toddler. Or I divorce myself from everything to play video games until I clear my brain.

Which means, of course, I have more than one method. None of them are perfect, but I haven't stopped yet.

gbeaverson said...

I've been a writer/editor my entire adult life. I learned long ago that you have to float on the bipolar waves of the profession--it's always up and down and that will never, ever change. Going with that ebb & flow and keeping my mind focused on my ultimate goals keep my head above water (and keep blockage at bay). And routine? It can be a writer's best friend. Write on through.

Ermo said...

You're not a writer if you haven't faced writer fatigue. We've all faced it. I escape it through two ways. First, goals. Goals lead to daydreaming. For me, there is no more powerful kick in the ass than imagining the acceptance phone call or letter that I want so desperately. Second, reading. How can you not read a few chapters of your favorite author and not get insipired. Isn't that how we all became writers in the first place?

Lindsay said...

I take a break and read something so different it takes me away, or something so similar that I can find a flaw in the book and stoke my competitive spirit.

Sheila Cull said...

I escape it by knowing that I'll be successful. Reading/editing/writing takes up a big part of my day; it's automatic. For example, each Laker basketball player just knows how to practice offense and get in the right position to jump and shoot a basket. It's like that.

Kristin Laughtin said...

I was very burned out after my last manuscript, especially because the draft did not come out at all how I had envisioned it. I knew if I jumped right into another project, I'd carry those feelings of fatigue and frustration with me. So I allowed myself to take a break. I still did some writerly things, and outlined the next novel, but I took the pressure off myself for a set amount of time so I could recharge. And I did.

Jamilah Kolocotronis said...

From 2002 to 2009 I wrote steadily and nearly voraciously, completing six books in those seven years. But the last one took a lot of out me, especially during the editing process. Soon after it was done I got sick and ended up in the hospital. A year later I'm still not back up to speed but I'm working on it. I wouldn't recommend taking a full year off, but sometimes we do just need to give ourselves a vacation.

D.G. Hudson said...

Writer burnout can be a signal that the writer needs 'time out'. I try to step back when this occurs so I can determine what is causing that feeling.

Generally, leaving the writing to ripen for a few days seems to work for me. Also, I pick up a book from my reading stack and step into someone else's world for a while. Burnout usually occurs when we're pushing ourselves too hard.

I get stubborn when the going gets tough, so burnout doesn't stay long.

Heidi Ellis said...

Usually if I've hit the wall hard, I'll step away. Take a few days off, watch some movies, listen to some music, take a walk outside. Research something for another book. Usually by then the chaos has cleared and I can pick back up with a refreshed mind. Lately, I find trying to keep up with social media is burnout inducing as well, so I've built in time limits for myself.

Project Savior said...

I ran smack into Writer Burnout and posted about it here Writers Block luckily I have some good friends who left excellent advise in the comments. And I've found a few things out about it.
1) Writer's Block/ Burnout comes after you've been doing heavy revisions. You are over analyzing the last paragraph you wrote while starting on the next. You've got to get out of the revision mindset.
2) After doing revisions you are trying to instill one voice in the book you are revising, that is not the voice of the one you are writing, even if it's a sequel.
3) You are speaking to the reader, not yourself and that makes it sound flat to you. Remember to write for yourself first then worry about the broader audience.
4) Finally your mind needs a break sometimes, write something in a completely different genre before getting back to work, the results might surprise you.
Basically I've learned to get out of the revision mode before getting back to writing mode and to focus on something else for a while then return to writing my book.

unicobeach said...

I was headed into the last three chapters of my novel, when the kids(characters)started chatting non-stop about what should happen next. After five days of this, I finally sent them to Grandma's house for a week. Then I made myself crazy by making a quilt. But when I got back to the book, I killed it in a week.

Julie D said...

I'll write short stories out of my genre--say, a sexy romance--and post it/them on a site. It renews my energy and gives me new ideas when I get out of my own way for a while. And when that fails, I play Bejeweled.

R.L. LaFevers said...

There are two things I do to counter burnout. First, I give myself permission to NOT write, whether it's for the day, the week, forever. Taking that pressure off myself can be a huge relief.

The other thing I do is try to reconnect with what drew me to writing in the first place, to try and rediscover the creative sense of play that is such an awesome part of writing when it's working.

Doing that usually involves starting a new project, and usually one that I promise myself only I will see; it's meant to be my own personal playground. It's a great way to get all that pressure off my back and just have fun. The creative surge that accompanies it often unlocks logjams on the projects that were originally causing the burnout.

Probably not surprisingly, those very same projects always end up being my strongest ones.

Mark Terry said...

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N.

Granted, I'm a fulltime freelance writer, editor and novelist, so even on vacation I tend to take a laptop and check email, although my last vacation in August I held myself to checking it first thing in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. (Gee, as if that deserves an f***ing pat on the back). Sometimes the freelance life is helpful, because if things are going well, I have multiple projects and clients and can jump around when I get tired (annoyed) with one of the projects.

Still, about 2 years ago I went on a trip without my laptop and could only check email using my iPhone, and due to hassles involved in lengthy email responses, responded 99.9% of the time with "I'm at Disney World. I'll get back to you next week." And that was great.

So if V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N doesn't work, try U-N-P-L-U-G.

Nina said...

I will never let my dreams slip!

In July, when I was at my writing peak, I asked a relative to give som advice about writing. Naturally I asked him because he is a retired English teacher, and not just any teacher, but one of those teachers who every student adores. I asked him to be honest, and it took him a whole month to reply. First I paused my writing to hear the feedback (I'd only sent him three chapters/30 pages), and when he didn't reply after a week, I thought he was just busy. Then after two weeks I guessed it must be bad, so I paused a little longer. Then my brother was to marry and the following two weeks we were all busy getting the wedding ready. When my realtive finally met me for a chat, he told me the honest truth that I should just rewrite everything! His reason was that I wasn't able to write in first POV, and that I should write in 3 POV instead. This discouraged me, and after the wedding I didn't want to write English at all. Instead I went on to writing a childrens book in my native language (a laguage I have always exceeded in), and at the same time I began working a full time job. My husband - a sailor - went out to work, and now I'm sitting here. I'm completely drained, I've still not written a word in my book since July, and how do I cope?

Well first of all; This is my dream. I refuse to let anyone tell me "you can't do it." Of course I can do it! If can write fluently Norwegian, then I should be able to write fluently in English one day, shouldn't I? My solution is to enroll on a writers class (I have been given various advice on which one to choose) and to ACE First Person Point of View! Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, right?

So yeah, I'm a little burned out now, but I'll be back stronger and better! As soon as my English improves!

In the meantime I'll try and juggle cheerleading, my daughters' gymnastics, working full time, and both of my children here at home by myself. This may last (my husband will be out) untill November, so hopefully I should be able to find some routine soon. As soon as I have all the balls up in the air at once, and none of them are going to come crashing to the floor, I might finish off the current WIP.

No, I won't let my dream slip. I'd never forgive myself.

gsfields said...

I do what my grandfather told me to do when I feel like something is too hard, "Drink through it."

K.L. Brady said...

I'm working my way through a bout of burnout right now, working on a project that I really really want to finish but my ability to focus is just shot.

What seems to be helping a lot is that I carry around about 4 writing journals and I write in those instead of typing. It's kind of like going home for me because I started journaling before I realized I wanted to be a novelist. I keep one journal for general thoughts about life, and the other three for story ideas for three books I'm working on, and when I idea hits me or I need to get something off my chest I write it down. If it's story related, I transcribe later.

I find that because I'm not looking at the word count at the bottom of the screen, I actually write more in one sitting than I do if I'm typing. The scenes are actually cleaner because I'm editing as I'm transcribing.

That and watching the T.O. Show, Run's House, and Behind the Music episodes seem to work.

Nina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emma said...

I'm struggling right now, actually, and I've been allowing myself to write about things that appeal to me today rather than what I'm "supposed" to be writing about. That seems to help, but I appreciate reading everyone else's recommendations as well.

Ishta Mercurio said...

This makes two days in a row that I've blogged about the same thing as you on the same day, Nathan. Are you lurking on my blog? ;-)

I got burned out a while ago, and I just took a short break to re-organize my priorities, and refresh my memory on why I was writing in the first place. I took walks and listened to the birds, instead of to my thoughts about my book. I played with my kids without once trying to work in a conversation about picture books. I read to my kids and just appreciated the stories. And after a couple of days I got ideas, and I had "eureka" moments, and I remembered why I write, and I missed my manuscripts, so I got back to it.

Sharon Cullen said...

I am so glad I came across this post. I now have a label to what's been happening to me since June. Writer's Fatigue. Who knew? After writing voraciously for nearly 10 years I've hit this wall that I can neither climb over, tunnel under or walk around. Simply put, my writing will to survive has disappeared.

I'm glad to see this has happened to others and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I'll give myself more freedom to *not* write for now and see where it goes from here.

Thank you, everyone!!!

LLinTexas said...

****

I drive three hours to my deer lease and shoot my gun. On the trip back I've come up with some of the best ideas for my writing.

****

Ishta Mercurio said...

About Shawn's idea for a coffee-maker attached to a computer: OH, YEAH! That would be awesome. I believe that the day will come. If they can make reading lights that will plug into a USB port, then they can figure out how to do it with a coffee maker.

Other Lisa said...

Hah. Hah Hah. HAHAHAH.

Er, where was I?

Answer: Yes.

Reesha said...

I just went through my first ever burnout and I learned a lot.
It lasted about two weeks.
During that time I set all my writing aside, and started something new. I ended up starting nine new stories, all of which I'm really excited about, and it brought my zeal back.

If you get burned out on something, don't stop writing, just write something else. If you get writer's block, don't stop writing, just write something else.
If you're starving because you haven't eaten in three days, don't stop.... oh wait. Yes, stop and get something to eat and call your family.

Anonymous said...

Burnout for me happens in stages. I can feel it coming on, like sleep. I used to push through the I-don't-really-feel-like-it stage, until i realized what I was pushing was a bunch of crap waiting to be re-written and a first-class ticket into Total Burnout-ville.
So I decided that writing can't be my first priority, or the stress will kill it. I take a few days, tell my guilt to take a walk, and the urge comes back naturally.

And if that doesn't work, my bill-paying job reminds me that there are worse thing than writing.

Regan Leigh said...

I've had major burnout these past six months because I was going through some major life changes. I'm finally getting back in the swing, but it was incredibly hard to watch my progress falter and know there was nothing I could do about it.

I've found that doing other creative things, unrelated to writing, help me keep up the right mindset without feeling the burn. ;) For instance, I have a stack of ugly oil paintings in my house that will never be seen by another soul. :D But they helped me keep a creative outlet when away from my writing.

Catherine Blakeney said...

I posted about it recently in my own blog, but I have a system called The Magic D20. I have a spreadsheet setup with writing projects, chores around the house, and a few fun things mixed in. I roll my trusty twelve year old D20, and whatever number comes up, I have to do.

This could be a 500 words in a project, writing a query letter, doing the dishes, exercising, or the big jackpot (a precious 30 minutes of Sims 2.)

I've increased my productivity greatly since I started it, since it forces me to do work I'd otherwise put off indefinitely.

Caitlin said...

I find that Drawing/painting helps me when I'm all burnt out. Drawing the characters or a scene will usually re-energize and inspire me. In turn the writing sometimes inspires me to draw...sometimes it's an endless circle.

Katherine Hyde said...

I don't really burn out on writing per se, although I sometimes get stuck in a particular project. But if I get too stressed in other areas of my life, it saps my creativity. So the best solution for me is either a spiritual retreat, where I realign my priorities, or a writing retreat, where I don't have to think about anything but writing (not even marketing!) for a day, a weekend, or (once a year) a whole week.

Mira said...

When I finished school last June, I was in a state I've never felt before. My mind was so exhausted I could barely think - from the constant barrage of tests and papers and input and pressure, while juggling internship/school/full-time work. I was a basket case. It took me almost 3 months to recuperate.

I've been giving myself a hard time for not writing (other than a few little pieces) and only wanting to veg. but I think the reality is I just hit total burn-out.

So, now I'll know that sometimes when I don't want to write, I'm just exhausted. And I'll respect that. I'm getting my energy back naturally, so it wasn't lost forever. :)

Of course, I start school again in a week and 1/2, so.....there we go again...but at least this year is the last! And then I can really go on to my projects with that degree under my belt. So, it's worth it, but now I know that pacing for me is essential. I need time to refresh and renew, or I'm useless.

After all, as writers we are the tools that we use, so we have to take care of ourselves, just like a carpenter takes care of his...well, whatever tools a carpenter uses.

Amethyst said...

Facing burnout now and have been for the past month and a half. It's starting to fade, my fingers are starting to itch and my mind is racing with scenes for my current WIP and ideas for new stories.

For now, I am just going to ride it out because I know eventually I will get right back to it. Sometimes that's all you can do.

Sara said...

Yes, oh yes. I felt like I couldn't even work on my writing at all at the beginning of August...so I took a few weeks off. I came back feeling more refreshed, if not totally ;)
In addition to time off, I find exercise helps - time doing hard cardio clears the brain and time doing yoga brings you back within yourself. In terms of specific yoga poses, I'd recommend inversions especially--turn your world upside down (literally!) and irrigate your brain with blood. Hey, I'll try anything! :)

Magdalena Munro said...

My creative spark was zapped when my son was born 18 months ago. Since my brain which was normally overflowing with grand prose was floating in space, I panicked and started writing non fiction as I knew it didn't require the same juice. Sometimes I weep because I miss the old me and believe that this period of limbo will pass when my son learns to sleep like other children (he wakes up every 2 hours and I haven't slept more than 2 hours straight in 1.5 years).

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I suffered writing burnout for a few years back in 2000. I try to keep myself not burnt out by reading whenever I'm not in the mood for writing. At least that way I can keep myself disciplined best as I can.

M Clement Hall said...

I always admire the attitude of the professional journalist who has his daily quota to fill, and can't afford the luxury of "burn-out." I have also been impressed with the professional attitude to his writing that Trollope took, a daily quota of work -- no more, no less, and started in the early morning.

cheekychook said...

Costco-sized containers of chocolate.

Julia King said...

I have noticed with myself that taking a little time off is useful, however too much time off is bad. I struggle with taking too much time off writing or, right now, editing. In a way, I think that the editing aspect of writing is harder for me than the actual writing process. I just know how much I have to go through and perfect that I get frustrated and then I burst and need to take a break which sometimes turns into two - three weeks. I have found what helps with editing is that I know what my time limit is for editing. About two hours is my limit and then I have to take a break (half hour, hour). Then later I can happily go back to work!

Michael Pickett said...

You left something out of your list of things to do: grad school after spending a whole day at work.

At one point, I realized that all of my waking hours were consumed by the need to make it big as a writer as soon as possible. I was working full time, going to school at night, contributing actively to my church, trying to be social, go on dates, and keep up with friends, and trying to squeeze time in there to write and read. I finally had so realize that I don't have to make that "30 under 30" list to achieve my artistic goals. I can take it easy. Plus, I have other personal and financial goals that need attention, too. That's kind of how I got over feeling burned out.

Natalie and Rick Nuttall said...

I take a break. Go to the beach, spend some time with the kids, go for a walk, watch some TV. If you're burned out the last thing to do is write more, that's not going to get you any rest. Take a vacation from writing. The book stays with me in my mind and I think about it as I do other things and eventually I come up with a really good idea and have to start writing again.

-Natalie

Elie said...

What makes me crazy is having to stop for a few days at a crucial point in, say, re-plotting. When I get back to it, I have to start from scratch.

If I've been working too hard, it helps to write something different using pen and paper - there's something extremely draining about writing at a computer for hours.

terryd said...

Whenever I'm tempted to complain about my workload, I hark back to my joy-joy days in Marine Corps boot camp to add a bit of perspective.

Parisa said...

I remember reading in one of Julia Cameron's books that it's important to refill your reservoir of creativity every now and again, so you don't completely burn out. I try to do this by filling myself with interesting images and words, things that refuel my creativity. I'll spend a while looking at a book of photography, or visit a museum, or people-watch at a park. This always makes me feel recharged from burnout, and usually I'm dying to get home and get back to writing.

Kelly Wittmann said...

I just walk away from it all for a little while. I know some writers consider that "wimpy" or whatever, but it's what I have to do so that I can write again.

Lisa Lane said...

Variety keeps me going. I typically have two or three very different projects going on at any given time. When I get burned out on one, I switch to another. Not writing is NOT an option

Amanda said...

Goodness yes. Actually, my last blog post was about all the things that have taken me away from writing, but I think I was just kind of worn out with it all.

I just try to focus on something completely different for a little while (like my crafting, photography, whatever) and then I feel a lot more refreshed when I go back in. I've also been trying to lessen how much I read online daily because I think I was feeling like I ate, drank, slept writing because I couldn't get away from it, not because I wanted to…does that make sense?

Probably not. lol

Anna said...

I start writing something else. Right now, I'm burned out from writing the novel, so I switched to short stories. Sometimes I write poetry. I think others have said this already, but just keep writing (even if it's only in your journal at night).

The Red Angel said...

Unfortunately, I easily get burned out, but on the other hand I'm easily motivated once again. I usually take a break from writing for a few days, read something for fun (like a magazine, poetry, or part of a book), and then return to my work. It helps a lot!

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Hayley said...

I give myself a little time off...up to a week or so. And I read read read! Reading a great book (either a novel I've been dying to dive into or a book on writing) always inspires me again. As does a night out with friends...sometimes we forget that there's a world outside the one we're trying to create on paper.

Anonymous said...

I feel like writing is like being in love, and sometimes the revisions and revisions and more revisions make your relationship seem old and boring. It really helps me to watch a movie or TV episodes where there is sexual tension between a man I find attractive and a female character. It needs to be sexual tension, but no actual sex. It's a bit cheesy, but it helps me write much better. I thrive on the tension.

Amy Ashley said...

Escape writing? What? My husband has to beat me over the head with one of our screaming children to get me to STOP writing and cook them all dinner as it is.

Liz said...

To escape burnout, just get too busy to write. You'll miss it and run to the computer every chance you get.
(I have 3 kids, just got a job teaching microbiology to nursing students and now have almost no time to write. With a book proposal due in a week and a blog to keep going, I would give anything for more time to write!)

Ann M said...

Typically what burns me out is when my writing isn't going well. When something that seemed amazing in my mind turns out horrible on the page. I start to get discouraged and then tend to write less often. But, knowing that, I just tell myself that it will all get fixed during my edits (at least, that's the hope). And, when that doesn't work, I try and remind myself how great it will feel when the project is actually finished and something I'll be proud of. Then it's all worth it, right? That's usually enough to get me excited to sit in front of the screen for another few hours at least.

swampfox said...

Writing burnout? No Way.
Teacher burnout? Not even.
Well, after twenty years...
Naaahh...

SSB said...

Sometimes I write at 2am, but I prefer to go to Barnes and Nobel to write. I get less distracted. (At home there are so many diversions.) Plus, there, I am surrounded by many published authors urging me to continue forward.
"Better yet, I might get lucky through osmosis." I said crossing my fingers on both hands.

lodjohnson said...

When I feel like I can't write another word, I go to the bookstore. Seeing published works for sale gives me all the inspiration I need. I may be only chasing a dream - but it's mine.

lodjohnson said...

When I feel like I can't write another word, I go to the bookstore. Seeing published works for sale gives me all the inspiration I need. I may be only chasing a dream - but it's mine.

GhostFolk.com said...

kill the blog.

GhostFolk.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AJ Leahy said...

I put down what I'm working on and I start something new. Typically, letting new ideas percolate and explode freely on paper allows me to find a new direction in the original manuscript I was working on--a direction I might not have originally thought of.

It's like sending a mole out to dig holes in an otherwise unremarkable landscape. Eventually, you can connect the dots. ;)

Debra L. Schubert said...

I'm just getting over writer burnout and getting back into (hopefully!) final edits before submission. For me, it was from the exhaustion of personal issues rather than being tired of writing. My new mantra: Pain is inevitable, suffering optional.

Eliza Faith said...

I write fanfiction...it's my guilty pleasure.

StaceyW said...

It's funny that you compared the writing process to a marathon, because my husband was training for his first marathon while I was writing my first novel, and I often made that same comparison.

Yes, I've faced burnout, especially in revisions. But after a little breather, I'm always dying to get back into it. And right now I'm chomping at the bit to start my next book.

Rebecca said...

I always do a bunch of 'beach' reading: pretty easy books with gripping stories. That, and watch some tv and movies that are just guilty pleasures (i.e. Star Trek: TOS) Those stories get my brain moving and it starts churning out ideas. Pretty soon, I can't wait to get back to the keyboard.

Janiel Miller said...

Taking a break works wonders.
But I ran a marathon a few years ago (arriving before the guy who takes down the orange cones, thank you), and there was no stopping to do something else in the middle of that beast. Not if I wanted to finish. The last 3 miles were run purely on heart. The very last .2, purely on the people shouting encouragement from the sidelines.

Sometimes I only keep writing on heart, and because the people I love me tell me I can do it.

Backfence said...

I'm just coming out of such a phase. I had been working and reworking the beginning of my novel until I just couldn't face my computer another second. The burnout lasted a good two weeks. (Fortunately - no deadlines!) But what I learned from the experience is not to ignore those feelings. If I do, there's no joy in my writing ... and it shows.

So, I just walked away and indulged myself in other endeavors. Then one day, there I was back at my laptop, with words flying onto the screen. I hadn't even thought about it; didn't tell myself "You're gonna write today." I just couldn't NOT write! And now the joy is back and I'm itching to get that sucker done. E

Even got the beginnings of a fourth novel out of the deal! Where'd THAT come from???

CJ

Erica75 said...

I work at a Head Start center 40 (yeah, right, let's go 50-60) hours a week, have 2 wonderful, brilliant children, and own a farm with my husband, who also works full-time. Writing? Yes, when I can. But I think that's what makes it worth it. I get burned out on life. Writing's what saves me.

Adam Heine said...

When I face burnout, I jump back into Real Life (one of the benefits of not being under contract). It reminds me why I do what I do.

Melody said...

Oh, yes, I've faced it. I got busy, and coming back to a rigorous writing schedule just about killed me. In the end, I allowed myself to just write 'whatever.' FanFiction, misc. stories that I have no intention of publishing, poetry...anything. Just to keep my writing. It's working, but slowly.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: "I get burned out on life."

Erica75, I'm with you. I did not realize that "elder care," even ABSENT major health problems, can still stress you out to the max (i.e., sure, Dad, you're 84, why not walk 3 miles home from the gas station in the boiling hot sun, after you drop the car off to get fixed? Sure, sounds like a great plan!)

Those are the days you say, oh just 1 page, if I can just revise 1 page today...

Katherine Torrini said...

I am a huge fan of recharging with creative PLAY--making the writing FUN again. One of my favorite things to get unblocked (though usually due to fear/resistance rather than burnout)--is to do a SPOOF of whatever I'm writing--it never fails to make me laugh, take the seriousness out of it and before I know it, I'm back writing the real thing again, unstuck.

Anonymous said...

I've never had writing burnout or block because I always have mutltiple projects going.

Something in the pile is always fun.

Marketing burnout's another story.

That one's a soul killer.

Getting small helps. A small piece in a small market with a small reinforcement goes a long way towrd recharging hope and ego.

Thomas Shamma said...

I thought I was burnt out after I finished my first novel. I had spent about half a year writing it, then plowed through a more coherent second-draft inside a month. Then, I decided to take a break, which turned out to be catastrophic. I've since realized that I seem to have inexorably altered my psychology so that I have to write. When it gets exhausting, I just keep going until it gets better again.

Robena Grant said...

When burnout hits, go swimming.

Seriously, it's the best thing in the world. The beach is my first choice because the sound of the waves, the energy, the cycle, all speak to me.

Second best is a pool, if the water is cold. My body warms up the more I swim and I feel so energized at the end of the workout that somehow the words flow, or new ideas pop into my head. I don't even have to work at it, it just happens.

Julie said...

Very timely post! Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'm at the beginning of a new novel, and it feels like contemplating another pregnancy--the ordeal seems so agonizing and long at this end of it.

What helps me is to open my "free write" document, start a new entry, and just purge. I write down anything that's cluttering my mind. I throw out my fears, my complaints, my dreams, and it doesn't have to just be about writing. I found that this takes the pressure off me to create something good. Get rid of the garbage first, and something good is usually waiting underneath it.

Anonymous said...

Reading...and lots of it. It's the source of all writing inspiration. I don't believe you can have one without the other. It's the only cure for writer's burnout and block.

Melanie said...

The revision-induced burnout I was feeling a few weeks ago magically turned into motivation when I read a fantastic first novel by an author I love. It was such a remarkable book about almost the exact same themes as mine, which would normally further depress me, but this one spurred ideas and new ways of looking at my ms. It's not the kind of thing I could recreate for the next time I feel burned out, but it definitely worked this time.

T. Anne said...

I don't really wait for motivation. Some days it's like a job. You show up and do the work.

Clare WB said...

Going through bad burnout. Death of loved one this summer. Now much fatigue. Trying to work through it, but my new writing is dry as fluff, and revising of novel feels like trying to swim through molasses. But I'm still putting words on paper -- or at least into the computer. Tell me this will morph into something readable. Please!

James Reed's Reads said...

I run the Digital Spotlight Fiction Review. I'm part of a group who are reviewing ebooks to sift the wheat from the tares in the vast mountain of self-published material available on the net, particularly Smashwords and Amazon.

The first batch of reviews are now up. 3 ebooks reviewed - 1 Good, 1 BAD, 1 a Must-Read.

Please read the reviews in order as I posted the 3 at once for a reason:
http://digitalspotlightfictionreview.blogspot.com/2010/09/good-bad-must-read.html

S.B. said...

Going to a new location to work does wonders for me-- I'll pack up my laptop and go to the local library or a cafe.
The other thing I do is research. Since I write historical fiction, research is a major necessity, and if I am not in the mood to write, I read, which gets me inspired about my setting, etc.

Liz Carmichael said...

Sometimes too many varied critiques can bring burnout - that I can't please everyone feeling becomes too much.

When I reach that stage, I search out someone who can be objective, and doesn't want me to write like her - so many writers are guilty of doing that without being aware of it.

Feedback from a person who likes my work, and believes in what I'm writing. spurs me on again.

Anonymous said...

Knowing when not to bother with commenting on blog posts is surely part of this...

Jeff said...

I find I get burnt out the most working at home. There's so many distractions and there's so little change in the environment that I HAVE to go somewhere - Barnes and Noble, a library, even a dining restaurant just to have a change of atmosphere.

Once I do that, then I'm alright. If not then I switch it up with a new project, usually something where I have to draw or do something unrelated to my main focus. Change I find is a good thing to have when burnout happens.

Suzannah said...

I was feeling totally burnt out from writing, blogging, and social media this past summer, so I took a six-week vacation and did only the bare minimum necessary to keep my blog afloat.

I invited guests to write articles for me and ran them regularly so I really only had to write a few short posts. I ignored my novel the entire time, but, when I got back from overseas, I felt such a sense of renewal. Now I feel like I could keep going forever.

Susanne said...

I'm not sure burned out by writing is something that happens to me, but definitely burned out by life. I left my day job four months ago so I could concentrate on writing, fulfilling a two-book YA contract with Bloomsbury Children's, and suddenly discovered the amazing thing that actually having time outside of when you tap the words out on the page makes a huge difference to writing. I had time to think through what my characters might do, why they were acting in certain ways, instead of having to put that all on the page first then figure it out.

But I soon discovered I'll be in the poorhouse in no time if I rely on book-writing-related income (even freelance editing hasn't paid me very well, probably my own fault), and have started working with a startup company. I love what we're doing, but I feel myself slipping into that "Gotta write! No time!" frame of mind again.

I think it's not just sad, but tragic, that writers who have already been through the publication process and proven themselves by being given repeat contracts from publishers mostly can't earn a living—at least not one that will support someone in Brooklyn. I don't blame the publishers or the agents. It's a tough economy. I don't blame readers either! Who can afford to pay even more than we do now for a book in any form?

I just believe it's part of a general devaluing of literature and the arts in our culture. The "Writer" is so often more a pathetic figure, someone who is chasing a dream rather than trying to illuminate something about our culture. And published authors who haven't made the NYT bestseller list despite reasonable success? Failures.

It's hard to keep going sometimes, yes.

But then, when I get the time to immerse myself completely in my manuscript and find that place where words just seem to float to the surface, I count myself among the most fortunate creatures in the universe.

Susanne said...

I'm not sure burned out by writing is something that happens to me, but definitely burned out by life. I left my day job four months ago so I could concentrate on writing, fulfilling a two-book YA contract with Bloomsbury Children's, and suddenly discovered the amazing thing that actually having time outside of when you tap the words out on the page makes a huge difference to writing. I had time to think through what my characters might do, why they were acting in certain ways, instead of having to put that all on the page first then figure it out.

But I soon discovered I'll be in the poorhouse in no time if I rely on book-writing-related income (even freelance editing hasn't paid me very well, probably my own fault), and have started working with a startup company. I love what we're doing, but I feel myself slipping into that "Gotta write! No time!" frame of mind again.

I think it's not just sad, but tragic, that writers who have already been through the publication process and proven themselves by being given repeat contracts from publishers mostly can't earn a living—at least not one that will support someone in Brooklyn. I don't blame the publishers or the agents. It's a tough economy. I don't blame readers either! Who can afford to pay even more than we do now for a book in any form?

I just believe it's part of a general devaluing of literature and the arts in our culture. The "Writer" is so often more a pathetic figure, someone who is chasing a dream rather than trying to illuminate something about our culture. And published authors who haven't made the NYT bestseller list despite reasonable success? Failures.

It's hard to keep going sometimes, yes.

But then, when I get the time to immerse myself completely in my manuscript and find that place where words just seem to float to the surface, I count myself among the most fortunate creatures in the universe.

Susanne said...

I wrote a long comment that Google said was too long to process, so I've posted it on my blog: susannedunlap.wordpress.com.

S. Dionne Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S. Dionne Moore said...

Deadlines don't offer the luxury of pandering to burnout. After six books, I can honestly say that I understand why the endings to books are rushed-it's because the author is experiencing burnout as they near the finish line. It's one of the reasons why having a fresh set of eyes to read my ms before I turn it in is always a good idea.

S. Dionne Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erasmus said...

Dare to suck! I suck at chores, can't really keep up with my blogs, try to cook decent meals, sleep as much as I can, must avoid reality television programs, but family I always put first and real friends know I suck socially, but if I'm around I make up for the absent times.
Accepting my failures by trying to focus on what's really important helps me balance my sanity and avoid burnouts. Being honest about who I am and being accepted by my dear ones keeps the extra pressure away.

Tammy said...

When I'm facing burnout, I set aside that manuscript and pick up another. Changing what I'm working on is essentially the same as going somewhere else. I'm in a different world, a changed environment. The time away from the novel in which I'm experiencing burnout actually improves my writing. It gives me time to mull things over without the stress of having to put something on paper. When I go back to that original work, it's like greeting an old friend and we have lots of "catching up" to do.

Jovanna said...

When I get burnout (like now), I don't write or I write 'rubbish' or do a rewrite, but do a whole lot of reading or watching movies... Lots of relaxing stuff and getting on with other hobbies. Eventually, I'll get over it. I hope.

GhostFolk.com said...

P.S. I meant kill "my" blog. Bye bye, blog.

Anna Bowles said...

How do you escape it so you can keep going?

By moving house, on top of all the other stressors! No, wait, that does seem to be distracting me, but somehow not helping....

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

We all must be channeling each other! I posted today that I am sick up to my eyeballs with the demands of promotion. Who has time to write? Promo promo promo.
Until last night, I stared at my new WIP for three days - I finally got ten pages written after the Giants game...maybe because they pulled it out after sucking...who knows?
I hike five miles a day with my dog - now my new puppy, day in and day out, weather is no obstacle. It keeps me sane and I avoid burnout most of the time.
When I feel burnout coming on, I just roll with it. It will pass.

Me said...

I haven't figured out how to overcome the block yet. I think, for me, when my life is stressful it is VERY difficult to write anything worth a damn.

I always feel like I should be a writer, but it has yet to come to fruition.

Debbie said...

There have been many times, I thought about chucking it all in. I either email or go out with a few of my writing friends. Then I whine something along the lines of, "Writing's hard. Reading's fun. I'm a good reader. Maybe I should just be a good reader."

After one or more of them bitch-slap me, I'm good again.

clp3333 said...

This week I played Fallout 3 to recover. Now I'm on video game burnout. It's a swinging pendulum.

Debbie said...

I know what you mean, Nathan. Because I'm also a business writer, writing is pretty much what I do. All day long.

Oddly enough, just changing the type of writing I'm doing helps me to get back into the swing of things.

Write something that you love, not just what pays the mortgage. It doesn't matter if it's poetry or a letter to Granny. Get back to remembering why you do this in the first place.

Once you've rekindled the romance, the tough stuff doesn't seem so tough anymore.

Bryan Thompson said...

I read an article from Dave Barry once where he talked about finding material to write about. He said something to the effect of sitting at his computer, looking at a blank screen, and typing, "Today is a long day." He would stare at this for several minutes, then add, "Today is a long BORING day." After a few more minutes, he added to it. "Today is a long BORING day, but it got more interesting when someone flicked a booger at me."

Writer's block is all too common. When I was a comedian, I kept a notepad on my night stand (and still do) where I would write the first several things floating through my subconscious in the early morning before I ever got out of bed. This helps in finding material. I keep the notepad closed, and look at it a month later. If I still find it funny, I write about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm so used to writing that even if I'm in burnout mode I still write, I just know it won't be something I'll try to get published.

The fear of not having something to write makes me panic, big time, so I write a book that sure, it has characters and a plot and whatever, but really, I'm just keeping my mind occupied (and in a state of neutral) until I get that bigger, sparklier idea that I'll be EXCITED about.

There's nothing wrong with bidding your time with a lesser project now and then until you can wrap your head around a bigger one.

Maybe I'm the only one who does this, but I have a feeling I'm not.

Natasha Fondren said...

I quit my day job. :D For mild burnout, I go to the movies. For moderate, I read three or so books. For severe, I overturn something in my life, LOL.

Timothy said...

I brew a large pot of coffee, set aside a few hours, and key stream-of-consciousness for 20 minutes. Then I read over what I have written, select the most interesting thought or sentence, and key on that for 20 minutes. Out of this has come some of my best blog and book ideas (as well as solutions for current life issues). Tim

Bettelynn McIlvain said...

Okay, so three years ago I decided to write, so I took classes and read wonderful books,and wrote to get up to speed. Then, I got published and decided to take more classes,read some more wonderful books,and continue to write,then revise my novel while thinking up more ideas for more stories and get other's published. Whew(she pauses only for a second).I'm tired and yes, a little burned out. I want to stop. Then, I realize that I probably have about thirty good more years to live. That,my friends,is what keeps me writing.

Ganz-1 said...

How I face burnout in short:
rest with video games and movies - recharge with reading - burn everything into writing. repeat process.

Dana Rose Bailey said...

Oh yes I get burned out. I've been taking a break while my friend edits my manuscript. During that time, I've tried to keep a writing blog, which is falling by the wayside. I recently had the opportunity to take on blogging for The Roanoke Times, The Back Cover book blog. Blogging there everyday as an extra add on to my already full schedule is draining, but I'm loving it. The problem is that it's gotten me in the reading mood which is zapping all my writing time. I'm determined to stop my break after the book I'm currently reading. Sometimes you just have to push yourself. Like when I'm exercising. I hit a hard spot and I want to end my workout fifteen minutes short, but I keep pushing and a minute later I'm renewed with energy.

Anonymous said...

I curse out those more successful than I and read their books and shout, "I am so much more talented than these hacks!"

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I'm very rarely burned out on writing. I tend to get more burned out on the things that keep me from it.

Yesterday, though, after 8 hours of revising the SAME CHAPTER, I was fried.

Back at it today though.

NSBruin said...

Yes, I face burn out on occasion. It got to me the worst, several years back when my writing partner and best friend was killed in a car accident. I went off the deep end bad. I packed up everything, tore down the office, I moved and did not return to the electronic insanity for almost three years. Part of it was grieving for my writing partner. The other part was the insanity of the electronic world we find ourselves in. I feared it, I hated it, but yet I could not get away from it. I learned how to deal with that insanity and returned to writing, became published as a single author, and when I encounter burnout now, I deal with it better than I did before. As a writer, if I let burnout win, I silence myself. I have a phone that does not connect to the internet or take pictures. I dread the day I must buy a laptop, which I do not have now. Because of the choices I made buying the equipment I did, when burnout strikes, it is my mind telling me it needs a break. I turn off the desktop system and walk away for a day or two or until my mind tells me I can go back and continue to work on my books and my other items. That is how I deal with burnout.

Savannah Chase said...

I take a break from the internet and write the old way, by hand. I try to read and listen to music. Do things that will spark the creativity and get me going. If it gets BAD I take a few days off from working on my books and let my mind rest.

Reena Jacobs said...

I burnt out a few months ago after editing editing editing, followed by querying, querying, revising, querying, querying, editing. :) I'm sure other writers get my drift. The stress of it all just put my brain in a state of zombification.

After putting my work aside, I'm feeling a bit more relaxed but unproductive. A feeling of needing to do but just not having the oomph to do it. Not really burnt out just unmotivated. It makes me wonder how I managed to get 100k+ words on paper the first time.

To motivate myself, somedays I just sit down and say write 500 words. A big change from writing 2-5k words a day before burning out, but at least it's progress.

Not sure how to get out of the rut really. Sometimes I wish I never got into the query/critique game. I was much happier producing and thinking my work was all that and a bucket of chicken. :) Oh well, can't turn back time.

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Dear Nathan: yes. I was burned out, completely, in 2002. That's the year my son was born, by emergency c-section, along with his twin sister, two months early.

His twin sister, born with tetralogy of fallot (multiple heart defects), which may or may not have been due to some genetic malformation or the fact she wouldn't even have existed were it not for multiple fertility treatments and eventually two attempts at IVF for my wife, survived open heart surgery after she'd been around for two months, and never left the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit until she passed away in her mother's arms on Aug. 11, 2002.

My mother-in-law, at 65, who was thrilled at her grandson's survival (the emergency c-section was due to an attempt to save our daughter's life, a calculated risk of our son's life as well, but based on the fact I weighed what he did at birth, and don't and haven't for years) died that same December, suddenly, of complications from, of all things, the flu.

It was a hard year.

But there was our son, needing attention and care, and my job, and the house we'd moved to after witnessing the attacks on the World Trade Towers from our front stoop and breathing the plume from its aftermath. And my wife. And my father-in-law.

In 2003, riding home from my job on the commuter train, I needed an outlet.

I remembered why I had struggled to become a writer of fiction from the time of my first agent's urging me to write a novel in 1978 until then. I remembered writing had given me a career that took me to Spain and India more than once, as a journalist covering, to steal Theodore White's term, "history in the making."

Writing for me is a form of therapy. An outlet for all the stuff that tends to clutter up my head without the outlet, to frustrate and anger me without recourse or redress.

And originally, I intended to write to help people--in theory, with the benefit of some of my experiences, some of which I deliberately sought out and some of which just involved me by chance, the way writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Hugh Mottram and W. Somerset Maugham and even Graham Greene had helped me: by suggesting, in story form, a solution to problems or at least an example of someone dealing with them in some way, and continuing on.

That afternoon on the train, I pulled out a pen and began writing in a notebook I hadn't touched in probably at least two years. And I began revising what eventually became the novel I'm coming out with at the end of this month.

TMI, I'm sure. But I prefer to answer what I consider such a clear, serious question with clarity and honesty.

B.E.T. said...

Unfortunately, burnout for me comes in frequent intervals that result in a painful writer's block lasting a few days. I really have to say, I'd work a lot better without it. But the next time I get back to the page, I also feel a lot more refreshed after I've just...lived! Immersed myself in my outside life with my family and friends for a bit before returning to the fictional circumstances in my head.

Jan Markley said...

I think the key is to take a break and experience life which is where the inspiration to write comes from!

The Pollinatrix said...

I have four jobs and three of them involve writing and/or editing. The other one is teaching writing.

The newest of these jobs is writing a weekly column for a newspaper, which I absolutely love. And yet, it's eaten up my writing time and energy to the point that I've been too burned out to do my own writing.

What I realized just today, though, is that I MUST make the time for my own writing or life loses all its color. And that doing my own writing is actually the cure for the burnout.

Sarie Mackay said...

I think I could write forever if it weren't for the G-D marketing. I agree with Anonymous; it is a soul-killer. Especially for a profound introvert. I've gotten pretty good at marketing, but there are times when it feels like being forced to go to the grocery store nude. For me, it creates an approach-avoidance conflict with my writing.

Annette Elton said...

Because I write for a living and for a hobby burnout is a regular obstacle. I've found that I have to take an occasional week away from writing completely. I read for pleasure and get outside but don't allow myself to write. Sounds extreme but it works. When the week is over, I'm usually anxious to get back to my WIP and client projects.

melissa said...

i write about burnout often on my blog.
i'm dealing with it right now but only as far as content on my blog goes.
my problem in writing isn't so much burnout as it is more of a fear of failure. that is what sometimes causes me to sit in front of my computer, wasting my day on twitter instead of writing my book.

Darin Calhoun said...

I usually get burned out right after the first draft, and during the final edit. I find short breaks, of walks, naps, reading, favorite movie, often takes the crispy edges off so I can finish for the day.

I also find a good night's sleep very helpful. Often I have to bargain with my muse to do so, otherwise she will wake me up a 3AM to finish my work.

Setting realistic goals and sticking to them. Also setting a realistic time schedule for other things in your day, especially your family, and eating, is important. I apply a military principal to my work schedule, the K.I.S.S.(Keep it simple stupid) method. We all have a tenancy to over complicate our lives, and the dust bunnies in the corners of the room are not that bad yet.

Remember why your doing this. If you don't recall just look at your children, or spouse, and now you know. If you don't have a spouse or children, call your parents. If you do not have your parents, call that person who said that you'll never become an author- Ah, now you remember! Yeah, that one always gets me motivated too.

Anonymous said...

Once your hobby takes over your life you need a new hobby. So get thee one.

I now do mixed media collage, sew, knit. Something else that brings me the pleasure without expectation --that writing used to.

I find the internet sucks more of my creativity than the other stuff so I can't use it to relax, or be creative-I can use it o go to knitting blogs I admire-to artist blogs I admire and fill that well, but then I step away and go do that thing.


Eva

Anonymous said...

Once your hobby takes over your life you need a new hobby. So get thee one.

I now do mixed media collage, sew, knit. Something else that brings me the pleasure without expectation --that writing used to.

I find the internet sucks more of my creativity than the other stuff so I can't use it to relax, or be creative-I can use it o go to knitting blogs I admire-to artist blogs I admire and fill that well, but then I step away and go do that thing.


Eva

kangaroobee said...

I've had burnout recently due to over-editing same picture books over and over, so I've taken a break and picked up an MG novel I started years ago. I've decided to write it from another pov and I'm loving it. In a couple of weeks I'll pick up a pb again and have a go at both. Love the 'beating the horse too much' comment. That's been me exactly!

Anonymous said...

I'm burnt. Been a journalist for 25 years and couldn't be more sick of it. I've probably had 3,000 stories published, and can't remember a one of them.
Also burnt out by all the kiss ass posters begging for attention to get their crap book published. The narcissism is palpable.
Help me die, please.

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