A to Z Challenge: Just Can’t Go On

Kids, today I’m going to tell you about a scary ailment that hits us novelists (and writers in general) from time to time. It’s something I feel I have to tell you about, because vets tend to not talk about it. And I didn’t know it could happen. As a result, it felt so much worse than it should have.

Burn-out.

You know… that feeling where you’ll rather clean your eldest son’s smelly sock drawer. Or where you sit down in front of your writing medium of choice, but just can’t form the words into cohesive sentences.

It isn’t writer’s block. Writer’s block is what happens if you’ve painted yourself into a corner without realizing it. A short wait and a bit of writing generally solves the worst (although it can sometimes take a while for the paint to dry).

I’m talking about feeling like a wrung out sponge. An old prune with the interesting juices sucked out of you. I’m talking about feeling as if you’d been bled dry.

Worst of all, it feels like you have nothing to say.

At all.

Not a poem. Not a flash fic.

Not even a blog post.

It happens.

And it sucks.

What’s the solution? Well… you make a blood sacrifice to your muse You take a break. From most writing. Or, if that doesn’t help, from all of it.

You see, burn-out usually happens because you pushed yourself too hard. My worst burn-outs happen after bursts of intense productivity.

So pushing yourself even harder to get writing done will just burn you out more.

Instead, go take walks in beautiful places. Read an amazing book. Go to art galleries. Go explore somewhere new. Anything. After a while, that urge to write will strike you with a vengeance. Often as a result of something you were doing at the time.

Once that urge starts, get writing as much as you can.

What was the worst case of burn-out you ever suffered? What did you do to recover?

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26 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: Just Can’t Go On

  1. Good advice. I was at that point “between stories” when it came time to sign up for this. And I'm taking a writing class. So I am writing but come May we'll see if the burn out has left

  2. I definitely know what you're talking about. It's the moment when everything seems to hit at once, a mixture of doubts, trying to do too much, and Life with a touch of writer's block to ice the malaise.

    Your remedy is right on the mark. Give it a rest. Do something else for a while.
    But Come Back. Always come back.

    CD Coffelt ponders at Spirit Called
    And critiques at UnicornBell

  3. FANTASTIC advice Misha…

    I am ALL FOR GETTING away from the computer for at least four to six hours a day. Write a bit and take a walk…. Clear out the cobwebs and your writing time will always be fun and productive.

  4. I haven't suffered writing burn out. Probably, I have too many ideas for that, but we'll see. Editing burn out? Yes.
    Life burn out? Sometimes. Mostly when I'm not getting enough sleep (which is always), and I just want a day for that without any guilt involved.

  5. I've been feeling burnout lately. So I've been avoiding working on my rough draft. I can still write short stuff and do some editing. I feel like I'm never going to be a novel published these days, so that's where my block comes from.

  6. I recognise that and agree it's generally after periods of being particularly busy. Luckily it comes in small fits and starts for me, so I just ride it out with a couple of days off, or at it's worst so far, maybe a week. It would be great to just be able to replace those batteries when they run out!

  7. I got burned out a few months after my first book was released.Traveling to promote the book,still working full time and with a husband, children and grandchildren my writing suffered.
    A change of scenery works wonders.

  8. That's when I start baking, to my husband's delight – so feeling 'burned out' or 'stuck' or having 'writer's block' is a positive for at least one of us. 🙂

  9. I think these diversionary tactics help your subconscious to work, when conscious thought feels like it's worn itself out. So you could come up with some excellent stuff when you weren't even thinking about it!

  10. I'm like Alex. I've never felt burnt out from writing my books, but blogger and social media – definitely. I recently took a month break from Blogger and it was just what I needed.

  11. I burned out two years ago…although it was brought about more from frustration than anything else. I was gaining any ground with my writing and I threw in the towel until I did! 🙂

  12. I had major burn out once and ended up taking a two year break. A little dramatic, longer than I meant it to be. I read a lot in that time though and when I came back to writing, things clicked in a way they never had before. Sometimes you just need a break.

  13. I believe I saw a bit of creativity creep in there, in the form of a crossed-out sentence. 🙂 I had two burn-out moments of different types. One, was being stuck in a horrible job, and finally realizing I was in a place where I could quit.

    The other was when my hair got too long and frizzy, and I couldn't stand it anymore and had it all chopped off. 🙂

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com

  14. I suffer from this after every single big project I undertake. It has taken up to 6 months to start to find the next germ of an idea. In the meantime I submit old short stories. It's scary though, because for a short time you really do believe you'll never write again.

  15. Hmmm…my worst case of burnout? A couple of years ago when I finished my series. I'd been consumed with them for a year and loved them to pieces and while I was still writing unpublishable drek on the side to keep my muscles loose…I had no idea what to write…and eventually I got tired of the drek and just stopped.

    For about 8 months I didn't write a word.

    Now I re-tackled that series, edited it, sold it and currently have probably 6 projects going at the same time.

    I felt like crap those whole 8 months, though. It sucks to hit the wall like that.

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