Hi everyone! Today we’re happy to welcome author Chrys Fey to the blog who is sharing an excerpt from her book, Keep Writing with Fey: Sparks to Defeat Writer’s Block, Burnout, and Depression (affiliate link) where she focuses on writer’s burnout. This is something that’s a real risk, especially this year. We’ve all had a lot more to handle and it takes a toll. So please, read on.
When I mention writer’s burnout, many people get the wrong idea about it, so I thought I’d mention a few of the most common myths about writer’s burnout first and then get into the facts about what it is and what causes it.
– Writer’s burnout is the same as writer’s block.
– You only get burned out by writing too much.
– If you can write an essay or a poem, you’re not burned out.
– If, deep down, you want to write, you’re not burned out.
Writer’s burnout is often confused with writer’s block when, in actuality, it is more extreme than that. Writer’s block is the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.
When you are burned out, it is very different. We’re not just talking about things that can stop you from writing. You don’t even need to be blocked in order to get burned out. You could be able to easily think of what to write next and may even have the next scene or chapter plotted out and still suffer from this extreme condition. Anyone who works too hard, pushes their limits in order to get one task after another done without a break, and is eyeball deep in stress, can experience this. It doesn’t matter what your profession is, either. Usually, it’s called job burnout, but when it comes to being a writer, and when this burnout affects you as a writer, I call it writer’s burnout.
When I suffered from writer’s burnout, I had many ideas of what to write and a workable outline for the next book in my series. I was not blocked. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t. I’d try and fail. Again, not because I was blocked. I’d have a good day or two of writing a fictional story with fresh energy that would make me think I was back to normal, and then I wouldn’t be able to muster up the energy, the motivation, to write a single word more on the third day. I’d want to. Oh, boy, did I want to. I wanted that energy I had the previous two days. But it wasn’t there. I was depleted. Utterly exhausted, from my mind to the tips of my fingers and toes. Even my soul felt drained. I had worked myself beyond the breaking point, through depression and stress, and faced the severe consequences.
During that time, however, I managed to write essays about my life as a child and teen. These essays were non-fiction and ranged from a page or less to three pages long. See? I could write something. I found writing about my life (for myself and no one else) relatively easy, but writing fiction, the thing I’d been writing for well over a decade, was hard. I didn’t have the motivation or energy for it anymore.
I did a small amount of non-fiction writing when, suddenly, even that became too much and I couldn’t manage to write another short essay. Eventually, because I kept trying to force myself to write, I did lose all motivation for anything writing related. I didn’t even want to write emails. That’s how exhausted I was. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is burnout.
What is Writer’s Burnout?
Burnout is defined as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by stress or by doing too much. Believe me, you can be physically exhausted as a writer.
You can lose motivation and feel as though you have nothing else to give in the area that caused your burnout, which usually means your job. For athletes, it’s their sport, the one they’ve devoted and dedicated their lives to. For writers, it can be anything related to being a writer, not just the act of writing. And that is something many don’t understand. You don’t need to be writing five thousand words a day to burn yourself out as a writer. You can burn yourself out by revising or rewriting a project over and over again. You can burn yourself out by editing one thing after another for others. You can burn yourself out by focusing on marketing day in and day out and getting upset that nothing is helping your sales.
Once you have burnout in one area of your life, it can leak into all areas of your life, like an oil spill, covering everything with a thick greasiness and zapping your energy for things even unrelated to writing. That is how dangerous burnout is for creatives and career-oriented individuals.
What Causes Writer’s Burnout?
Anything. It can be different for everyone, and you may have several causes working together to burn you out completely.
For me, doing too much in other areas (blogging and editing for clients), stressing myself out over marketing, and depression, which partially stemmed from my writing life, brought about my long battle with burnout.
– Excessive stress
– Overworking yourself
– Taking on too many responsibilities
– Chaotic work environment
– Feeling undervalued
– Too many expectations
– Setting unachievable goals
– Lack of support
Symptoms of Writer’s Burnout:
– Feeling drained and tired (fatigue)
– Lowered immunity (illnesses)
– Frequent headaches
– Sadness, anger, or irritability
– Sense of failure
– Negative outlook
– Feeling detached
– No or low motivation
– Lack of interest
– Alcohol or substance abuse
– High blood pressure
– Heart disease
That’s a lot, isn’t it? That’s why burnout is not something to shrug your shoulders at. That’s why burnout should be taken seriously and understood.
How are you feeling right now? Are you experiencing writer’s burnout? Let’s talk about it.
Chrys Fey is the author of Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication (affiliate link). She is also the author of the Disaster Crimes series.
Visit her blog, Write with Fey, for more tips on how to reverse writer’s burnout.