It's fitting that I'm writing about this topic since I'm dealing with writer burnout myself. Let's try some real talk. As a writer, no one is harder on you than yourself. You push yourself to write, edit, market, publicize, etc. When you publish a book, you wear all these hats, and you tell yourself you have to keep going every hour of the day. If you stop, what if you miss an opportunity? What if people think you aren't working hard enough? What if you don't meet a deadline? What if--
Suddenly the world crashes down and you don't know where to go, or who to turn to for help. Ideas vanish. You sense the start of a panic attack. Nothing you do feels right or enough. And sometimes, you just go numb because it's all too much to deal with.
This hit me last week, and I'm slowly crawling my way out of it the depths as I write this blog while sitting in a Panera. One moment I was up and productive, and the next I was curled up in my bed, unable to move from complete mental and physical exhaustion. Last week, the only strength I had was to go to work then come home and sleep. I knew I should put up posts, tweet, be interactive with the community, edit, write, etc but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I opened a blank page on my computer, and I almost burst into tears because plucking ideas out of my head was like tearing at an infected scabs.
Not exactly a delightful image, but it's the best way I can describe it. I was surviving on caffeine and doing everything I thought I could to edit and promote my book. The one important thing I forgot to do? Take care of myself.
When you get to the point that even opening a Word document makes you sick to your stomach, it's time to step back from the page. You're allowed to skip a day of editing, writing, and marketing. You're allowed to get more than a couple of hours of sleep at night. And you are allowed to take care of yourself.
So what do you do when writer burnout hits you? Here are a couple of tips.
Sleep: If you've been falling asleep editing/writing your manuscript at night, it's time to step back and go to bed. Your body and brain will thank you. Even better, it'll refresh you.
Shut Down Social Media: It's not the end of the world if you're not on twitter/facebook for a day. My favorite thing to do is to shut off my phone and put on a good movie that makes me happy.
Do Something Else: Try another hobby that's not writing related. Go on a short trip. Hang out with your friends. Allow yourself to enjoy the rest of your life while you recover.
Take Personal Time: On the flip side, if going anywhere is too exhausting, then rest at home. Read a good book. Listen to music. Cuddle your cat or dog or bird (in my case). Focus on self care. If you don't mind your body, how do you expect to keep going?
Take a Mental Health Day: Whether it's from work (if able) or from social events, just back out and do something for you. Get a massage. Cuddle up in warm blankets. Allow your brain to rest. Getting rid of the regular stresses might help you recharge.
Write Something Else: Believe it or not, sometimes if you have writer burnout, it may be due to a specific project. Try switching it up and write something that inspires you, whether it's a short prompt, or a fun story you've had stuck in your head.
Be Kind: I can't stress this enough. Be kind to yourself and realize this happens to everyone. Taking a break doesn't make you a bad writer; quite the contrary. It means you're being responsible for yourself. When you break your arm, you give it time to heal. You have to do the same thing when your muse breaks, so please, be kind to yourself.
Remember it Doesn't Last Forever: When you get into this state, sometimes it's hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's there. Sure, there might be some smoke or shadows blocking it, but you'll find your way to it, and your writing spirit will ignite again.
Make a Schedule: When you feel like you're ready to jump into the fray again, take it slow. Create a schedule of things you want to do to get yourself up and running. And check off the things you accomplish. It's a great feeling.
Please take care of yourself, my friends. It's just as important to keep your mind healthy as it is your body.