Recover from Writing Burn Out: 18 Tips for Writing with Gusto

We have to look at our own inertia, insecurities, self-hate, fear that, in truth, we have nothing valuable to say. When your writing blooms out of the back of this garbage compost, it is very stable. You are not running from anything. You can have a sense of artistic security. If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside of you.” ~Natalie Goldberg

A guest post by Tess Marshall of The Bold Life.

Burnout can be described as severe exhaustion, feeling depleted, running on empty and lack of inspiration and motivation. Frankly, you feel like you don’t give a damn.

You begin doubting your capabilities and the value of your work. Your enthusiasm and energy have vanished. Your ideas have dried up and you fear everything you write isn’t worth publishing.

Understanding burnout, can help you face your problem and refresh your writing and creativity.

What causes burnout?

Lack of down time
Feeling overworked and undervalued
Too much responsibility
Lack of monetary rewards for your work
Doing unchallenging or tedious work
Failure to socialize
Consistently working too many hours
Lack of support
Demanding perfection
A negative view of yourself
Unwillingness to delegate
The need to control everything
Feelings of overwhelm

Symptoms can be physical, emotional or behavioral

Physical
Headaches
Poor sleep patterns
Feeling tired
Feeling sick

Emotional
Depression
Lack of energy
Irritability
Disengagement
Lack of motivation and productivity
Loss of meaning and passion

Behavioral
Isolation
Coping with alcohol or drug abuse
Ignoring work and deadlines

“Life is actually really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~Confucius

Steps to Enjoyable Writing

Use the following suggestions to bring the joy back to your writing and other areas of your life.

1. Clear your desk. A cluttered workspace influences your state of mind. A neat and sparse desk will help you stay focused and clear. Keep only the necessities in the open. Find a place for everything else or get rid of it.

2. Mind your own business. Don’t allow other writers to drive you. Don’t make comparisons. There will always be better and worse writers than you. Focus on improving your writing and enjoy the process.

3. Learn to accept constructive criticism. Everyone experiences criticism and rejection. Don’t internalize or take things personally. Improve your work and let the rest go.

4. Read books on writing. Read books on writing for enjoyment. Skip the “how to” exercises therein. See if you can relate to the author. If the author was sitting across from you at dinner what would you talk about? What advice would you want? What questions would you have?

5. Free-writing. If you want to enjoy writing, learn to write for yourself. Find pleasure in your writing, challenge yourself. The purpose of free-writing is to express yourself for your eyes only. It’s very liberating.

6. Chill out. If your bored, stressed or tired, deal with those emotions before sitting down to write. Take a walk. Write in your journal. Clear you head. When you are in a relaxed state begin again. You can’t do your best work when you don’t feel your best.

7. Connect with yourself. When you are tempted to fill up bits of free time with texting, checking emails, Facebook or Twitter, take a few moments to pause and breathe. Breathe in “calm” and breathe out, “peace.”

8. Become unreachable. The world doesn’t end when you disconnect. Take 10 minute breaks throughout your work day and walk away from everything digital. Go outside for a breath of fresh air. Sit silently and gaze out a window and daydream. Anything can be put off for 10 minutes.

9. Decompress and reflect. Take a mental health day, a vacation day or a sabbatical for personal renewal. Spend a day at the beach. Watch the sunset. Check into a bed and breakfast or a hostel in another city. Spend a day in a museum or attend an art fair. Choose to do something unrelated to writing. It’s a great way to silence your inner writing critic.

10. Empty your brain. Do a mind dump by writing down everything that comes to mind on paper. Write down dreams, goals, memories, random thoughts, ideas, everything. Do this for fifteen minutes. Next, read over your list and look for future topics and ideas for your writing.

11. Mix it up. If you currently like to write essays experiment with list or how-to articles. Write about your personal experiences. Change the tone of your articles, be conversational, revealing, funny, silly or serious. Make experimenting fun.

12. Communicate. Seek help and support from a therapist, coach, a friend or family member. Explore your problem area and do what it takes to prevent burnout from happening again. A second party can help you turn things around and prevent future burnout.

13. Diet and lifestyle changes. Avoid sugar and caffeine. Drink enough water and get adequate sleep. Take nutritional supplements. Learn to  meditate or schedule a massage.

14. Make exercise fun. Do what you enjoy. Partner with a friend to dance, walk, or bike. Get outside and move. Hiking to the top of a mountain can feel like you’ve conquered the world!

15. Expand your mind. Learn new things. Study a second language, read about great philosophers, and everyday heroes. Avoid depressing news both online and off.

16. Find quality time for the important people in your life.Take your brother out for dinner or attend the symphony with a neighbor.  Play board games with close friends. Meet your mentor at a favorite coffee shop on Saturday morning. Never underestimate the power of creating good times with the people you love.

17. Slow down and be of service to others. Send a distant relative a hand written note, talk to a lonely neighbor, send flowers to someone special, make a meal for someone who is ill. When you get out of our own story and help others you keep life in perspective.

18. Change your scenery. J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book in a cafe near her flat in Edinburgh. Natalie Goldberg recommends writing in coffee shops and restaurants. It’s easy to get distracted by the household chores, the refrigerator, and television when you work and write from home.

Be gentle on yourself. Remember there is no end to self-care and creativity. When you write for love and with conviction, joy leaps from every page.

Tess Marshall is a speaker, author, fear shattering, calculated risk taker, obsessed with being happy, couragous and bold.  Her blog, The Bold Life is a juicy mix of inspiration, spirituality, and personal development.  Download for free her eBook, “Peace, Love, and Connection” and follow her on Twitter.

“The best blogging decision I’ve ever made was to invest in A-list Blogger Club. The knowledge I’ve gained in 6 months would have taken me 2 years to learn on my own. The friends and connections I’ve established in the forum have been life changing. Thank you Leo and Mary for all that you’ve done to help so many of us move forward and succeed!” Tess Marshall of “The Bold Life”

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48 Responses to “Recover from Writing Burn Out: 18 Tips for Writing with Gusto”

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  1. carmen says:

    If only you could get ups power protection for your writing it would be like writer’s insurance! I find I often struggle with ‘writers block’ – if so then i take a walk outside for half an hour then go back to my piece of writing. I find doing this gives my brain a rest so that when i return i can truly write something much stronger.

  2. AD Bane says:

    Thanks, this is really helpful!

    When I begin to feel the creative pool running dry, I take some time to read something by another author that I admire. Even if the topic is not the same, I find it gives me the inspiration to write again!

  3. Tess,
    I love this article. Your tips are priceless! I think each one of them is excellent and I’m finding it hard to pick a favorite. If I had to pick one right now it would be to: Free write. This really works for me.
    Thank you!

  4. I find I write so much for other people I leave too little time to write what I want to write. This must be an organisational problem I need to address.

  5. doug_eike says:

    These are excellent thoughts. When I’m struggling with my writing, the causes are usually multiple. Keeping this list somewhere in sight will help keep me on track.. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Shane Keenaghan says:

    Thank you,

    I really needed to read this, and especially today. It describes exactly how I’m feeling all day. I thought it was me, or maybe I’m not a writer or all sorts of other depressing thoughts. I realise now I had been pushing myself hard with no breaks. It’s amazing how often we need someone to tell us what’s bothering us

    Thank you

    • Shane,
      I’m happy I could help. We each struggle with the same things but in different ways. Let me know if I can help you in any other way. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Marvin says:

    I think I’m gonna print this and tape it to the wall. Great stuff!

  8. Thanks for the motivational tips on writing, i’m inspired.

  9. Rick Barlow says:

    I liked the “free writing” thing. Makes sense. Of course, all of it makes sense, but that one thing stood out for me. Thanks.

  10. GutsyWriter says:

    I like the “take a mental health day,” although I said to my husband, “If we moved back to Belize, do you think we’d stay glued to our computers all day or would we enjoy the beauty of the island as we did before?”

  11. Luciano says:

    This post is really important!
    Thank you very much.

    Luciano,
    From Italy

  12. Single Dad says:

    Decompressing every now and then is a MUST! I have to just step away every few days or I’d burn myself out, fast!

  13. I love the opening quote from garbage to joy leaping off the page. It’s comforting to know that other writers struggle through their own “garbage.”

    This past week is the first week I’ve had writer’s block since I started blogging, and it was like creativity just dried up. My practice is booming, so finding the time and desire to write has been hard. I even found it hard to free write just for me – this usually works the best. For me, I think this week is letting go of perfectionism once again, maybe taking a week off to just let the garbage out.

    Great to see you on WTD Tess!

  14. Marci,
    Congrats on your successful practice. Your clients are blessed to have you. This may sound a little strong but I think perfectionism is garbage! You go write for you Marci. See you in the club!

  15. Hey Tess!

    This is really great! I have definitely been there before. It’s all part of the process I guess… funny how sometimes the things you love can even burn you out! But you’ve listed some great ways to get to the bottom of it and get back to the FUN part of it! :)

    For me, changing my scenery does wonders! I love to switch up coffee shops or even just locations in my hosue we’re im writing from. Once I get a new laptop that lasts more than 2 minutes long I plan to go to some of my favorite outside spots and just write!

    I’m going to save this list so that if I ever find myself hitting burnout again, I can pull this up, figure out why, and then do something about it!!

    Thanks Tess! You are Great!
    - Laur :)

  16. Dr Watson says:

    Hi there. Absolutely loved this post. It isolated my problem spot on. I seem to have trouble motivating myself to write for work purposes; it is dead and dull work with no challenge, which promotes burnout pretty fast. It seems to be pretty hard finding a job that pays for creative, interesting writing. Right now, the only jobs easily available are SEO writing jobs, which, as you may well know, are the absolute bottom of the barrel as far as quality goes (even below Twilight and G.W. Bush’s Memoirs).

    But this usually does the trick for me, either posting on my blog (all posts are anonymous; gives me more freedom) or imposing my wretchedly negative thoughts onto someone else’s blog. Ah, the wonders of the internet. Although, walking is not only therapeutic, it can be highly inspirational too. I really like the coffee house idea, you feel so creative looking at other people :)

    Sometimes I get great ideas while reading a book, watching a movie or listening to a song. Anyways, thanks for this post, I am bookmarking it for the future.

    God bless

    • Dr. Watson,
      Walking sure is inspiring. I’m currently in New York and walked to Washington Square near NYU. It’s so beautiful with trees and flowers blooming. Don’t get to see that in the dessert where I live. Love it and inspired by it.

  17. Hi Tess,
    Hmmm, not sure I’ve written enough to get burned out on it yet, but I’m sure going to tuck this one away in my back pocket. It’s such a great mix, and from someone who knows. Thank you!

  18. Patti,
    You’re the best! xoxo

  19. Tess, you are so wonderful to share this post! Something every writer needs to be aware of and things we can all do to move through – into gusto.
    Simply brilliant!

  20. Brilliant, Tess! “Enjoy the process” (#2 and elsewhere) jumped out for me. That’s my challenge for the week. Then there’s #11, mix it up. Now, that would be a challenge for me! I’ll toy with trying that one out. Thank you so much. I appreciate you.

  21. Laura Watts says:

    This is an excellent article addressing a very important issue. Writers often do too much simply because we can’t switch our brains off, we’re always thinking about the next step. I didn’t suffer from burnout when I was writing my first book, the problems came after when I realised I had only completed half the work and found marketing a lot tougher than expected.
    http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54060

  22. Love your message. You hit it right on the mark with your symptoms and solutions.
    Thanks!

  23. hi! im 17 years old, and i like your tips, i really like the Free writing and the mix it up! thanks for share this!