Does the thought of looking at your pages make you want to cry? Have you rewritten, rejiggered, and re-conceptualized them so many times that they don’t even look like words on the page anymore, but instead, just strange hieroglyphics from outer space?
Have you come to doubt the characters, the story, the whole concept of your book or screenplay?
When you think of your project, do you immediately want to crawl into bed?
Writer’s burnout can be brutal. You feel exhausted, depressed and want to give up. You’ve done everything you were supposed to– outlined, wrote every day, and revised– and now believe all was for naught.
The most frightening part is that when you sit down in front of your computer, you’ve got nothing left. Your brain is totally squeezed dry.
The worst thing you can do in the face of writer’s burnout is to keep forcing yourself to write. The writing brought you to this place and the only way to escape is to take a break.
Step away from the manuscript. Take a week off. Do not look at the pages, do not think about the pages. If it’s on your computer desktop, hide it somewhere where you can’t see it.
Sleep. Take care of yourself. If you don’t feel like getting out of bed, DON’T. Stay there, rest. Give your brain a break.
Do things that give you pleasure. If it’s exercise, go for it. If it’s watching British Dramas starring women, turn on Netflix and binge on THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE. If it’s taking a walk in nature, put on your walking shoes. Drinking wine? Awesome. Do the things that make you feel happy, calm and relaxed.
Think about how you got here. What about your schedule has brought you to this place of total exhaustion?
Change your schedule. Once you’ve taken a look at why you’re burnt out, think about how you can create a new life schedule that includes, DAILY, some of the things above that bring you pleasure. Could you take a daily afternoon nap for 30 minutes? Could you take a BLETCHLEY break during lunch? Wine for dinner? Could you start every morning with a hike near your home? Create a habit, build pleasure into your day.
Our culture right now is so aggressive in terms of how it makes demands on our time, that it’s basically unsustainable. Most of us are squeezing our writing in between work, school, families, and having a social life. Computers, Facebook, email, our cell phones–we are pretty much bombarded with shrill shiny things demanding our attention all day long.
Take Action! If you are burned out, take a break. Let your book or screenplay go for a week. Take naps, eat good food, read books you love. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. See how refreshed and ready to write you are when you come back.
My pattern is to overload so badly on commitments that I end up frozen in front of the TV. But I’ve learned to feel this coming on and preemptively unplug. Even just a weekend off can return me to a place of openness and creativity.
I never thought I’d type this, but…
HAVE FUN NOT WRITING!
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