I’m sure most writers and bloggers know this fear. A fear, that, were you to meet a dementor in the street, it would immediately take the form of you, at your desk, staring at a blank document (or worse, a document with something half-finished and incredibly ugly) trying to force out words you know you don’t have, all while a bone-tiredness grows and grows until you are sobbing into your keyboard.
Or the utter blankness that fills the space where you thought your imagination was, where The Well of Ideas used to chuck out a shiny gem that you would polish up and vomit into the world. The fear of that. Of burning out.
Recently, I’ve had to write more in a short time span than I ever thought I would, not counting the one time I did NaNoWriMo. No, this is writing with obligations and deadline stress and a writing partner who is just as stressed as I am because oh my goodness there’s no way we can possibly do this, why did we think we could do this?
Trying to write when stress is the only thing you can feel is a unique kind of pain that feeds into itself. My writing partner and I are writing a feature for our school’s news magazine, and a few days before everyone else’s final deadline, we were told we had to make massive changes. Suddenly, half our nearly-finished draft was scrapped and I had to write multiple poems for an event we would attend halfway through the month. For the first two days, I was a writing machine.
Then, the imagination well dried up and the stress began to build. I would stare, sick to my stomach, at my computer, at the other writers on the magazine staff puttering away at their laptops, at my writing partner with her laser focus on our other story. And I’d feel it: the fear of burn out.
As bloggers, we’re familiar with blogging slumps. We go on hiatus, try to figure out what we can do to shake off the slump and get back in the blogging saddle. When on deadline, however, a hiatus costs more than it’s worth. So how can you fight off the burnout?
- Take A Break
*Hamilton plays in the distance. We feel more like Alexander than we are comfortable with* I know I just said a hiatus wouldn’t help. But sometimes, it helps to put down whatever you’ve been struggling to write, and just sit. Is there anything else you’ve been itching to write, the entire time you’ve been trying to write something else? Are there too many words to other things piled in your head, waiting for paper? It seems anathema to write more when you’re scared that writing more will lead to writing less in the future, but this is the time to let off writing steam. And once you’ve let out those 300-odd words that have built up, or jotted down those few ideas that wouldn’t leave you alone, you’re ready to work again. It’s just like after you clean your room: the days leading up to it are full of dread and “ugh, I should do that but maybe later” but afterwards, it’s nice to have a clean, clear room again.
2. Go Back to the Drawing Board
Once again, this at first goes against all instincts in the face of burnout. When you’ve looked at a document for so long you’ve got the font seared into your nightmares, it’s probably time to take a step back and evaluate. Both your font choice, and the idea itself.
Ask yourself, what was your intended goal for this? Who’s your audience? And, can you spot what’s not working? When writing, it’s easy to get caught up in the small details of the next sentence without remembering the bigger picture. Taking a step back and figuring out if you need to change something at the core of your piece will help. At this point, your idea probably feels worn out and tired, to you. The key is finding a way to flip it on its head again and make it feel refreshed.
3. Admit Defeat
As much as I hate to say it, sometimes there’s just nothing a writer can do. Some things are not going to be finished, and that’s okay. If it’s an assignment for school, conferencing with your teacher about what you can do to get un-stuck will probably help, and it doesn’t hurt to ask for a deadline extension. Most teachers will try to work with you if you ask for help.
What do you do when you’re feeling burnt out? How do you deal with writer’s block? Let me know in the comments!