Recently, I had to get honest with myself and accept that I’d hit burnout on my WIP 1/3 of the way through the second draft of my novel.
For a year and a half, I worked on it without taking a break for more than a week or two, except when I moved, which was a stressful experience so it didn’t feel like a “true” break (in terms of filling up my creative well).
I‘d been reluctant to take a real break because of how anxious I am to finish this book, but I had to remind myself of the importance of recognizing when it’s time to push and when it’s time to pull back — and not let my impatience get the better of me.
Creativity ebbs and flows. Sometimes, it needs a little pressure and discipline. Other times, it needs a little space to breathe. Part of the process of living a creative life is becoming in tune with what your creativity needs each moment in order to thrive.
If you’re starting to feel burned out while writing a novel or working on any creative project, it’s only temporary. Try these tips on how to find alignment again during a burnout phase.
Other posts you may like:
- How to Set Goals with Flow and Flexibility
- 11 Self-Care Ideas for Writers and Creatives
- Good Pressure vs Bad Pressure: The Importance of Recognizing the Difference
How to Recover from a Burnout Phase
Give yourself permission to listen to what you need
While there are difficult parts to anything (writing included), once it stops being fun at all, it’s a sign it’s time for a break.
- Does the mere idea of sitting down to write stress you out?
- Are you unable to get into a flow state no matter where you are, how much you prepare, or how much time you have?
- Are you struggling to feel inspired or think of new ideas, even through the act of writing?
All of these are signs that you’re experiencing burnout. They’re your body’s way of telling you to take a break.
Our bodies are always telling us what we need, we just have to be willing to listen and not let what we think we “should” do get in the way of what’s best for us. Obviously, there are some exceptions in life, but more often than not, we actually make things harder for us in the long run when we try to force ourselves to perform when our bodies are telling us we need a break.
Ask yourself what you need right now and what would feel good in order to release the pressure — and then, give yourself permission to do it.
Get to know the difference between constructive pressure and destructive pressure
In order to accomplish our goals, a certain amount of discipline and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones is needed. We won’t always “feel like” doing something, but consistency is important, especially through the parts of writing that aren’t as fun as others.
However, there’s a difference between constructive pressure (discipline) and destructive pressure. The former will help you focus, the latter depletes you.
How does it feel in your body? Check-in with yourself regularly and when that pressure starts to turn destructive, ease back on it or get rid of it completely for a while.
Get rid of the noise
Learning from other writers and being in a supportive community have loads of benefits, but when you start comparing yourself to others in a way that makes you question your own instincts and feel bad about your work, it’s time to put your blinders back on for a bit.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to write a book. If you start comparing yourself to others too much, distance yourself from other voices for a while so you can reconnect with and get grounded in your own voice again.
As an artist, your most valuable asset is you — your unique perspective, voice, and approach. When we have too many other voices chiming in, it can make it hard to tap into our own. Stay in tune with yourself so you can find a balance of external perspectives/inspiration and your own vision.
Refill your creative well (whatever that means for you at the moment)
It’s completely normal for your creativity to ebb and flow. Sometimes, our reservoir gets tapped out and it needs to be refilled. How to refill it entirely depends on you and your individual needs at the moment.
Maybe it’s reading/watching other fiction in your genre, maybe it’s focusing on other things that have nothing to do with writing at all to give that part of your brain a break. What are you feeling drawn to? It may not always be the same thing, so get in touch with your intuition and follow where it guides you.
Trust the process
Creating something is never going to be a clean, linear journey, no matter who you are. Don’t let that deter you. Listen to your instincts, take breaks when needed, and keep going. You’ve got this.