As writers, we like to write as fast as we can and as much as we can. We often don’t know when it’s time for us to stop. We keep pushing ourselves and pushing ourselves until we can’t go anymore.
We give ourselves burnout.
Burnout is caused by continuously trying to write when you are out of mental energy or motivation. It’s the equivalent of driving on fumes. You can’t expect to finish a road trip if you floor it the whole time. You’ll need to stop and refuel a few times.
Let me tell you something from my own experience—it’s very hard to come to that realization and understand when you need to stop writing. We often get stuck on the mentality that if we just push through it will get better. But instead it just gets harder and harder until we just give up.
While there certainly are times when we just need to force ourselves to write, prolonged difficulty in our writing could be a sign of a bigger issue than just writer’s block.
“But taking breaks is silly,” you might say, “it’s easier to just ignore the struggles and just keep going. I’ll stop when I finish my project.”
Resting is essential for writers. Even if you think you can make it, if you are really struggling, it’s good to set aside your work for a bit. However, resting might seem counter-productive to the more driven of us writers.
But there are things you can do while on break that can refresh your mental energy and refill your writing “gas tank.”
It’s very important for writers to read because it allows them to see what other people have written. Sometimes reading a book will spark an idea for fixing an issue in your writing. It is also relaxing and can take your mind off your writing problems for a while. (I do not recommend reading as a form of escapism.)
Many writers have found that doing something creative outside of writing helps rejuvenate them from everything from writer’s block to burnout. I like to crochet and play my instruments. Doing these activities helps take my mind off writing for a little bit and helps me to restore some of my mental energy. You could try finding a new hobby, baking a batch of cookies, or even taking your dog for a walk.
When I’m struggling with writing, I’ve found that watching movies refills my “well of inspiration,” so to speak. Movies and TV shows allow you to see stories in a different way than you do when you’re reading a book. When you’re watching TV, you hear the soundtrack and see the special effects, which, unfortunately, are not in books. But those details add to the story. You might notice how in a fight scene the camera focuses in on a particular detail and then get an idea on how that might help you next time you are writing.
I know some people (including myself), who can bounce back after a couple days. But fully recovering from burnout might take weeks or even months.
The key is patience. Give yourself grace and don’t pressure yourself when you aren’t ready.
Taking breaks will help you to write better and more efficiently. Stop to re-fill your tank. Otherwise, you’ll stall out on the highway.