Everything You Need to Know to Avoid Writer Burnout

Everything You Need to Know to Avoid Writer BurnoutEvery writer has those days when "working" really means staring at the screen for more than 10 minutes, or scrolling through Facebook in hopes of stumbling across something positive and inspirational.

It's hard not to get burnt out because every writer knows that you have to grab the work while it's there; it could dry up tomorrow.

After a few years of alternating between feast, famine, and absolute burnout, this writer figured a few things out.

Tips to Prevent Burnout

  1. Force yourself to take time out. Whether the work dries up or not, when you get burnt out it takes at least twice as long to do your work. Take a day off so burn out doesn't happen.
  2. Set a goal and stick with it. That "Oh, I'll just do one more to get ahead" mentality works for the day, but it adds up to burn out.
  3. Set the timer for movement. Step away from the desk every so often. Movement gets the blood flowing and helps prevent burn out because you actually get away from the desk once in a while.

Dealing with Burn Out

  1. Take the day off. Yes, you have to make money, but if it takes you forever to get your work done, you may as well just take the day off and hit it hard tomorrow.
  2. Give yourself a topic for the day. Maybe your brain is just done with the same old stuff. Try inserting one theme into your work for the day. For example, challenge yourself to use a new word in every article or somehow incorporate zombies into every article for the day. Just by implementing one change in your writing you can make it more challenging and interesting.
  3. Make plans for the day. If you have plans for after work, you're more likely to try and get your work done by a certain time. That might help overcome the feeling of being burnt out in the first place too.

At the End of the Day

Burn out comes with every job. The difference is that writers don't generally get paid by the hour so it's almost impossible to make money when you are burnt out.

It's not like clocking in somewhere and going through the motions. You have the freedom to set your own schedule, so take advantage of it.

No matter how long you sit and stare at the screen, the words aren't going to magically appear.

And close Facebook! You aren't going to draw inspiration from it, but you are going to waste more time than you want to.

How do you prevent burnout? 

Kat Featherton

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With a BA in special education/elementary education, Kat is finishing up her coursework for an M.Ed. in instructional design. She places a high value on integrity in her writing and academic career, offering that integrity to clients on Crowd Content as well as other sites and private clients.

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Emma Chapman
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Emma Chapman

You’re so right, Kat. I often find that taking time out, whether during a busy day writing articles or taking a brief vacation for a few days, tends to spark the imagination. I can leave my computer in peace while I go for a walk, return back home, and write with more gusto!

Maria Buck
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Maria Buck

Great advice Kat. I never write when I know I cannot produce my best work. I have tried it before and it just does not work. If nothing else, I put my feet up and relax for 15-20 minutes just to briefly get my face away from the blank screen.

Abraham Short
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Abraham Short

Very good advice Kat. I would like to pass along one other trick, I have learned, along the same lines. It may sound odd but I put the front page of the newspaper on my board, over my desk, Looking up and reading at the slightly longer distance helps prevent eye strain and the topical content stirs me mentally.

Lane Dukes
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Lane Dukes

Nicely put. My trick is to go outside and water the lawn. But I do it on a time-base system. This way, I know that every day, no matter what I’m doing online, I have to get up, go outside, and water that lawn. For the most part, it works.

Skye MacLeod
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Skye MacLeod

I love the practicality plus the exercise part of your strategy here, Lane. I, too, am an avid gardener, and getting outside to tend the garden is an important part of my day. I’m not sure I could write decent poetry or prose without that! The garden for refreshing our psyches, always! LOL!

Natalya Ward
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Natalya Ward

Many writers fail simply because they don’t take breaks. The burn out gets so bad, they just give up. I used to try to push myself every minute, but I actually got less work done as a result. I completely agree with taking a day off when it gets bad. I personally use a timer method each day to ensure I take regular breaks. It gives my mind a moment to refocus, plus it gets me up and moving. I love the idea of choosing a daily topic. Great tips!

Neroli Wright
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Neroli Wright

Thanks for these tips, Kat. Taking regular breaks is so important for the body and the mind. I often find that when get up and do something else for a few minutes, even if it’s just to get a glass of water, my mind keeps working and inspiration strikes! Note to self: remember to use the timer.

brenda
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brenda

Try making a weekly schedule and give yourself two days completely off.

Skye MacLeod
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Skye MacLeod

Scheduling is so important, Brenda! Whether electronic, or good old pen and paper, having organized schedules certainly does reduce stress, including ‘burn out’ and ‘writer’s block.’

Kathryn Abbott
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Kathryn Abbott

Hey Kat,

I think my favorite thing about this post is that it makes me feel less alone – like I’m not the only one who experiences writer burn out. It’s good to know it’s something all writers go through at one time or another.

Skye MacLeod
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Skye MacLeod

Thank you, Kat, for reminding us of how important it is not only to take breaks, but to get up and move around. You are right about the importance of small exercise during our writing time. I look forward to writing a blog post soon about specific exercises that writers can do throughout their writing time.

Celeste Owen
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Celeste Owen

Burn out is a problem for me. I have to set aside’ me time’ to be able to survive. Breaks and time out are the key as is changing up the ‘ work’ environment. I write in different places for variety.

Christina Hart
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Christina Hart

Great advice! Definitely something every writer should remember.

Mickey David
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Mickey David

Good ideas here. I also like to create a reward structure for myself as well. If I have a meaningful reward ahead of me, it makes the work feel less daunting and helps me put words on the page. Common rewards are a matinee for an upcoming movie that I am interested in or dinner at a restaurant I’ve been craving.

Lynne Futura
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Lynne Futura

I’m a writer at CC as well as SEVERAL other publishers as well. I don’t get burned out much because I’ve been a writer all my life..writing for Radio-TV, commercials, screenplays, songs, but I do feel the need to take a few short breaks and even longer ones occasionally. I saw a webinar recently that said to spend 1 and 1/2 hrs. of totally focused time to be productive, then a few minutes off to do something else. It keeps your mind fresh but focused on your work.

Joanna Morgan
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Joanna Morgan

How can writers work when they’re facing burnout? The truth is – we can’t. This isn’t an office job and we don’t get paid hourly. Hopefully we all have jobs that pay us high enough to take an occasional day off!

Lewis Kipling
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Lewis Kipling

I hope this makes a few of you smile… If you live in the city, as I do, consider taking a “6-legged break”. In order to do that you’ll also need a dog, which pretty much insures you’ll take that break whether you want to or not. This just in, man’s best friend is also a writer’s best burnout prevention – who knew!

Eve Lotts
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Eve Lotts

Excellent suggestions, Kat! I’m a big fan of getting away from the computer periodically throughout the day. If I really push myself to stay put for too long, my mind begins to wander and before I know it, I’m scrolling aimlessly through Facebook and not working. I have a huge tendency to procrastinate via Facebook when I’m supposed to be writing, but I find that getting up and doing something else for a few minutes helps me stay focused on my work when I’m at the computer. I love being a freelance writer and being able to set my own… Read more »

Eve Lotts
Guest
Eve Lotts

Excellent suggestions, Kat! I’m a big fan of getting away from the computer periodically throughout the day. If I really push myself to stay put for too long, my mind begins to wander and before I know it, I’m scrolling aimlessly through Facebook and not working. I have a huge tendency to procrastinate via Facebook when I’m supposed to be writing, but I find that getting up and doing something else for a few minutes helps me stay focused on my work when I’m at the computer. I love being a freelance writer and being able to set my own… Read more »

Val Tanaka
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Val Tanaka

I feel like I get some major burnout issues. I still can’t quite figure out a decent way to manage my time and efforts where writing is concerned. I agree with you that sometimes it’s better to just cancel freelance work for the day, recharge the brain, and do something else for the day.

Georgia Potts
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Georgia Potts

Taking time out is absolutely crucial. There are days when deadlines prevent you from doing that, so take half a day off the next day. I have experienced burnout a few times and started to really dislike what I was doing. Since then I have learned to balance my time better to keep having a passion for writing and a life at the same time.

auntieemily
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auntieemily

I really like this post – even if it is old. I push myself a little too hard sometimes. I need to take time fully away from my computer and writing.

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