Writer’s Burnout Sucks
Shit is hard, and when you do hard shit too intensely for too long, you can no longer do the shit. That’s burnout. Everyone experiences it, and most writers love to complain about it, myself included. But, just because you’re tired of doing something doesn’t mean the pressure to do it goes away. And so we must find ways to cope.
Burnout Advice That Doesn’t Work (for me)
There’s plenty of lovely, positive advice on constructive rest and refilling the creative well to spark creativity and productivity. Go on walks. Read a book. Buy an adult coloring book. Write in another genre. Watch a movie. Take up knitting. Let go of people’s expectations of you. Take a bubble bath.
But I’ve found positivity pressures me more because I’m a negative person. To explain why, I’d probably have to give you a copay and my insurance card, which I’ve currently misplaced, so let’s put a pin in that. Here’s the twist: I’ve also always wanted to be positive. Maybe I was conditioned to want to be positive, but again, I’ve misplaced my health insurance card. Now that you have my backstory, you’ll understand why I rely on negative thinking to work through writer’s burnout with a positive result.
When I’m on the edge of burnout, reading a book only reminds me that I should be writing one. Taking a walk makes me fixate on my mental blocks. Writing in another genre reminds me I’m burned out in all genres. I could try to stop caring about what other people think, but the entire business of writing is rooted in what other people think of you. I will say this—bubble baths are pretty clutch, but they’re only a temporary solution.
Burnout Advice That Does Work (for me)
Doing shit I hate.
More specifically, doing shit I hate that has nothing to do with writing.
Sit in traffic. Mow your lawn (and/or someone else’s lawn). Call Comcast and argue with them about double-billing you. Go grocery shopping (but be sure to socially distance and don’t buy all the toilet paper, you dick). Go to that party you don’t want to go to—or, in the age of COVID, go to that Zoom chat you don’t want to go to. Scrub your shower. Listen to music that makes you clench your jaw in rage. Fold. Laundry.
Why It Works (for me)
- It reminds me that relative to the other crap, I like writing more.
- Doing stuff I don’t like forces my brain into a semi-meditative state so I can think creatively. If you don’t like what you’re doing, your mind wanders over to stuff that intrigues you.
- I wanted to sue someone for fraud (long story). Researching the issue pushed all my adulting-induced buttons. But in the middle of doing this shit I hated, I came up with an idea for a story that involves creative, violent arbitration. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to move forward with the lawsuit, but I got a damn good story.
- I was stuck in the middle of Act II of my second novel with no clue about where Act III would go. So, I got a haircut. I don’t like haircuts because I have to spend money, make small talk, hurt my neck on a sink, and stare at my ridiculous face in the mirror. Yet while I was waiting for my hair to process and my scalp was kind of burning, I came up with an Act 3 twist that changed the entire course of my book in the best of ways.
So sure, traveling to unique places and making bad choices can turn into great stories. But, there’s also ingenuity to be harnessed in the mundane.