For this issue, I’d like to talk about something that I face from time to time, and it often takes a few days for me to power through it, but it can be done with a little bit of patience to balance out the frustration of not being able to sit down and write when you really want to.
I’m talking about writer burn out.
Don’t panic, hehehe! It’s not a permanent condition. But it does happen from time to time, and it’s never a good feeling. But there are ways to get those rusty wheels turning again, fire up the engines, and get your muse back in working order. You just have to ride it out every now and then.
Now, when I talk about writer burn out…I’m not talking about ‘writer’s block’. That’s an entirely different animal altogether. With a block, there are no ideas coming to you, no direction, no real inspiration to get you motivated to keep writing. That happens from time to time as well. But burn out is when you already have your thoughts together, you know where the story is going, you know exactly what you want to say…but there’s this strange ‘fatigue’ that settles into your very bones, and you suddenly don’t know whether or not you really feel like typing it out. It’s like you just feel worn out and you’re almost intimidated to write in your current mood, because you won’t ‘feel’ it the same way that you would when you’re all hyped up and ready to cover your screen with a 1500 word outburst in one sitting before even taking a break. Have you guys ever experienced that? Or is it just me?
There are times when my brain is racing and I have all of my notes sitting right here beside me, and I feel like I should be ready to go…but my emotional gas tank is empty. It’s hard to explain, but I just don’t have that magic spark that I need to write anything good at that particular moment. I don’t know where it goes. I don’t know where it hides. I only know that it’s missing when I need the added juice to get started, and I hate having to feel like a slacker until it shows back up again. But what else can I do?
It happens. Sometimes you’ve been sitting at a keyboard, and your fingers are sore, and your wrists hurt, and your butt is getting flat, and your shoulders are slumped over, and your eyes are red and worn out from strain, and…you just don’t feel like writing anything at all. You WANT to write, but you don’t feel like writing. Weird. Sometimes writing can be a physically taxing as well as emotionally draining experience. But, if (or more like when) this happens…don’t stress yourself out about it. It’ll come back to you. And often, the result will be better than ever before.
My first piece of advice to you guys is to simply let it happen. Don’t push yourself or force the words to leap out on the screen if you’re not feeling it at that moment. Writing should always be a passion, not a chore. If you don’t feel like your mojo is working…take a break. It’s as simple as that. Sit back for a moment, catch your breath, get some sleep…pour a glass of something ‘wicked’ to drink. Hehehe! Give your creativity a breather every now and then. I treat my brain and my emotions the same way that I would treat any other muscle in my body. This blank screen that I sit in front of is my intangible version of going to the gym for a healthy workout. Don’t make yourself sore and miserable by pushing yourself too hard. Give your ‘dream factory’ time to gather new material for you to write about. Give your battery some time to recharge. You’d be surprised how often it helps more than it hurts. And I know that it’s sometimes difficult to stand back and break whatever writer ‘momentum’ you had going initially, but I’ve found that when I push myself to the brink of exhaustion on any one project, I end up finishing it and not wanting to write much of anything for weeks afterward. I’d rather give myself a 48 hour break and get right back to work than frustrate myself into burning out for weeks at a time.
It sounds weird, but I start to resent a story that keeps nagging me to write it. Hehehe! Sad, but true. Sometimes, I’ll just be mentally fatigued and I want to come back a bit later when I can give my writing all of the heart and energy it deserves. I’ve learned that I have to listen to my muse 90% of the time so I can get these stories to look and feel the way that I want them to. But that other 10% of the time? My muse needs to listen to me for a change. Slow down. I’ve done all I can do. Back off for a little while so we can get back in sync again. Hehehe!
My personal muse is a huge brat, and hates to hear the word no…but he’ll get over it. 😛
Allow yourself some time to breathe. I can’t tell you how many times I just figured, “I’ll sit down at that keyboard on my day off, and just handcuff myself to this machine for 12 hours straight and get it all done in a day!” Hehehe, yeah…life almost never works like that. Anything can tip my current mood in a counterproductive way. I could get a nasty email, I could wake up with a sore throat and a cough, it could be a rainy and gloomy day outside, I could get a rather hefty bill in the mail, I could have slept wrong and have a sore shoulder…hehehe, it could be anything. And, suddenly, I can’t generate the right amount of sparkles that I need to do what I do online. But getting angry about it only makes things worse. Frustration is the undertow that’s certain to pull me further and further away from the shore. In order to beat it, I need to relax.
And sometimes, I need to unplug completely.
There are certain activities that I can jump into in order to deal with writer burnout when it happens. It often helps me get my thoughts together, and I can get back on track rather quickly. My top three are as follows…
1 – Youtube! Hehehe, yes…I believe that Youtube is probably one of the greatest distractions, and yet greatest stress relievers, in human history. Sometimes, when I need to step away from my ‘Comsie work’ and give my brain a chance to cool down…I head over to Youtube with the click of a button and I get a chance to zone out for a bit and SMILE for a little bit. I want to laugh a little bit. Maybe check out something creepy, or watch a few movie trailers, whatever. Sometimes I get into a ‘Youtube Loop’ where clicking on one video causes the system to suggest something else. Then I click on that, and it suggests something ELSE. It can be endless. But it gives me something to concentrate on other than the aggravation of not being able to write. Who knows? You might even find yourself getting the inspiration you need to get back in the mood you were looking for. You never know. Either way, if that gets my brain to release a little dose of Dopamine into my system from the entertainment, I’ll be that much closer to slaving away on the next story or chapter. The sooner, the better.
2 – Chats and email! Despite my need for a touch of isolation for a few hours a day, I really do pride myself on being a rather social person. I really do enjoy talking to people when I get the chance, and I don’t get to do it as often as I used to. So there are times when I break away from the intense focus of writing to just…say hello to people on the Shack and engage in some casual chit chat from time to time. I might start answering emails from people who wrote to me, or I make a surprise visit to the chatroom on my site to share a few giggles with my online friends. This always puts me in a good mood, and it re-energizes me to be in touch with the people who have given the site so much support so I can see what’s going on in their lives and how they’re doing. Again, having a spontaneous interaction with other people will keep you from pulling your hair out over something that you really can’t control. Let the writing obligation go for a few hours and just unwind for a bit. It’s fun. I promise.
3 – Reading! I’ve said it a bunch of times before, but I can’t say it enough. Even though I LOVE to write stories and entertain others…sometimes I like to be entertained too! There is sooooo much talent out there. So many writers with unique perspectives and a variety of writing styles that I love getting into when I need to break away from the grind of it all. Get on GayAuthors, get on Nifty, get on The Shack Library…find stories and give some other authors a try. See what they’re doing with their characters, what techniques they’re using, how they make you feel. Not only do you get a chance to lay back and enjoy someone else’s hard work for a change, but you could almost think of it as doing your homework as an author. Reading always makes for better writing. Always. So see what’s out there. And if you like what you read, send the author a quick note to tell them so. Who knows? You might get a colleague and a new friend out of it all.
All in all…the key is to detach yourself from the desperation that you may be feeling to create some sort of masterpiece against your will. Break away from it. Take a day for yourself, and come back when you truly feel inspired to move forward with the story that you wanted to write. Maybe it’ll be today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week…who knows? But I can honestly tell you guys that I have been deeply dissatisfied with every chapter or story that I felt ‘forced’ to write by a deadline. And these days…I won’t even release something unless I know, for certain, that it represents my very best effort. I can tell when I was pushing myself too hard. I worry that my readers can too. I didn’t come this far to screw it all up now. Hehehe! I want my beginner’s luck to keep carrying me for as long as humanly possible before it gives out on me.