Burnout sucks, but unfortunately it is something many of us will experience in our lifetimes.
Personally, I’ve experienced burnout a few times because of writing and art. It feels awful when you feel as if your work is all amounting to nothing.
During this past Camp NaNoWriMo, I had a lot of difficulty because I was burnt out for most of it. At around the middle of March I got a bit of writer’s block, but I kept writing. As I wrote more and more, I began to feel as if my work mattered less and less.
By mid to late April, it got to the point where writing 1000 words in less than 2 hours felt like an impossible task, whereas just 6 months ago, I could easily and consistently write 1000 words in just 30 minutes.
It wasn’t my first time experiencing burnout, and I was able to more quickly recognize that I was experiencing burn out, and I was able to manage it more efficiently than before.
Because of that, I’ve decided to share the 6 ways I deal with my burnout.
1. Take a Break
Taking a break will not cure your burnout, but it will help you find the time to use the next 5 ways to help treat your burnout, so the first thing I do is take a break from the writing project that is causing me so much stress.
When taking a break, I try to figure out a few things about my burnout, to make the recovery process easier. So if you’re burnt out, ask yourself these questions:
- What has triggered this burnout?
- What can I do to minimize my stress?
- How could I better manage my resources to deal with this project?
When I experienced burnout during Camp NaNoWriMo in April, there were quite a few things that added up to burnout:
1. I had developed writer’s block during March (which lasted during April), but I kept forcing myself to write. While I do believe that writing through writer’s block is a good practice, I forced myself too much, and ended up writing about 40,000 words before I realized that I was burnt out.
2. My energy levels were lower because of the weather. I find that the weather really effects my overall mood and energy levels, and when it’s dark, cloudy, and cold, I find that I become very tired, irritable, and negative.
Even though the days are longer in April than the nights are, I live in a place where the weather gets very dark and cloudy during the late winter and early spring months. This lowered my overall energy levels, and made it more difficult for me to handle stress.
3. I couldn’t do as much to increase my energy levels. During NaNoWriMo in 2017, I was able to drink coffee if I was getting too tired to write. However coffee makes me nauseous now, so unless I want to feel like I’m going to puke all over my keyboard, I can’t drink coffee to boost my energy levels.
4. I became very critical of my writing. During NaNoWriMo I wrote a 50,000 word first draft in just 2 weeks. Part of the reason I was able to do it so quickly is because it was a first draft, so the quality didn’t matter much to me. During Camp NaNoWriMo my main project was the second draft, so I wanted to make sure that my writing improved.
After I realized that I was burnt out, and after I analyzed what had caused my burnout, I decided to figure out what I could do to minimize my stress.
Apart from the ways written on the rest of this list, I decided that it would be a good idea to lower my word goal for Camp NaNoWriMo.
My original word goal was 80,000 words, which was a whole 20,000 words higher than my record for just 1 month. I decided to lower my goal down to 60,000 words, as that was a lot more realistic.
In the end, I was able to achieve my new goal of 60,000 words, with a couple of day to spare.
Lowering my goal also allowed me to take a few days off without falling behind, which was what I needed in order to go through with some of the things written on this list.
2. Go Outside
An important thing to do when you’re burnt out is to go outside.
Getting fresh air and sunlight is important if you want your body and mind to stay healthy, especially since burnout can make your more susceptible to other kinds of physical and mental illnesses.
When I’m burnt out I often find myself developing a cold, a fever, or a headache, and so getting some fresh air and sunlight helps me feel more energized and healthy.
Going outside is also a great opportunity to get some exercise! I find that going for walks and bike rides is a great way to let my mind focus on something other than writing.
I also see lots of interesting birds when I’m outside, like ducks and woodpeckers, which really calms me down.
3. Work on Other Creative Projects
I find that working on other kinds of creative projects is really helpful to my overall mood and energy levels when I become burnt out.
It really helps me recognize that what I do has value, and it helps me evaluate how far I’ve come.
Working on other kinds of creative projects also allows my brain to see the problems I’m facing in a new way, and gives me the opportunity to find new and different solutions.
When my writing becomes difficult, I really enjoy practicing art and illustration, and gaining inspiration from visual mediums.
If I can’t actively work on large creative projects because of time constraints, then I will usually focus on planning out those projects so that I can begin working on them as soon as I have the time to do so. This keeps me excited about what I’ll be working on in the future, and also takes my mind off of the stress that I’m currently facing.
4. Take In Inspiration
While I enjoy taking in inspiration, and find it very beneficial to the creative process, often when I’m beginning to get burnout is when I stop taking in inspiration.
So during my break to deal with burnout, I like to:
- Look at the art of my favorite artists
- Play some video games
- Watch TV shows or movies
- Watch YouTube videos
I tend to avoid reading when I’m burnt out from writing, since I find it difficult not to compare my writing to that of others when I’m feeling stressed out and negative. I’m not objective when I’m overwhelmed, and so this prevents me from feeling even more stressed out.
Like working on other creative projects, taking in inspiration also helps me see solutions to the problems I’m having in different ways, and helps me recognize that what I do has value, even if it’s only in the long term.
A lot of the people who inspire me have experienced burnout too, but they didn’t give up. If I don’t give up, then maybe I’ll be an inspiration to someone else.
5. Try Something New
I also find it fun and uplifting to try something new. It doesn’t have to be a completely new thing to me, but when I do something that I haven’t done before, I start to realize just how much the work I do matters.
We all have to start somewhere, and we all build up our skills over time, and so trying something new helps me recognize the value of the writing I’m doing. Practice makes progress, and even if I think my writing sucks, I’m still consistently practicing and progressing.
So if you’re feeling burnt out, and you have the time, try something new!
6. Look at the Bigger Picture
Lastly, I try to look at the bigger picture.
Burnout comes primarily from the sense that the work you’re doing doesn’t mean anything or doesn’t affect anyone, so looking at the bigger picture helps me recognize that what I do will affect someone, even if it’s just my future self.
Working hard and consistently practicing means that I will have a solid foundation of skills that I’ll be able to utilize in the future, and the hard work I’ve done in the past benefits me now, even if I didn’t think it would back then.
How do you deal with burnout?
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