Writing Burnout

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It’s better to burn out than fade away.  ~ Neil Young

Burnout. I haz it.

I can always tell when I’ve started to hit that critical threshold during my writing routine. Hyde comes out to play, I debate if naps should be tax deductible, and I start contemplating a new career as a clerk in a video store.

It usually happens when the deadlines begin to pile up and I am spending more time inside my head than out in the world talking to real people. It happens more than I’d like to admit.

This is a major pitfall for writers. You may be able to shut down the computer and  walk away from the office at the end of the day, but you can’t turn off your head.The neurons still fire and spark, the muse still taunts from the wings, and the brain just can’t let go. You work and work and work some more, because… well, just because.  Soon you’re making a mashed potato sculpture like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the kitchen is a mess, half the lawn is inside the house and you are wandering around muttering like a zombie on a three-day brain binge.

And then, THEN, you’ll be struck by oddities like the fact that “three-day brain binge?” It’s one heck of a tongue twister. Say that ten times fast.


Or maybe that’s just me.

Okay, so how do you avoid becoming a muttering fool writing a blog post like this one? Develop a strategy.

The best strategy, of course, would be to never get burnout. Circle, circle, dot,dot, operation burnout shot. Wouldn’t that be cool if it worked? This is reality, though. You can’t get a vaccination, but you can take steps to get back on track when burnout strikes. Here are some ideas I like to use.

1. Walk away for a little while. Go for a stroll around the block, take a trip to the gym, get physical. Getting away from the desk and the computer and doing something more taxing than chasing thoughts around your head gives your whole body a boost — brain included.

2. Give yourself an hour to shift gears and write something outside the boundaries of the current project(s).

3. Take a trip to the library and read something frivolous for fun.

4.Change up your writing routine. If you normally write in the morning, write at night. Write longhand instead of typing things into a computer, take your writing on the road and write in a different location for an entire day.

5. Give yourself permission to close your eyes, take a deep breath and just zone out for fifteen minutes (or more).

How do you keep from burning out?


2 comments on “Writing Burnout

  1. It can be tough. I usually just read and let myself relax and not think about writing. It works the best. Exercise helps too. I have to take my mind away or I never come back to writing.

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