Wednesday, September 15, 2010

7 Ways to Avoid Burn Out

Many of us experience burnout when we pour everything we have into our writing. We spend hours a day, everyday, on our works in progress, on our blog posts, on our comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, all in the name of our writing career.

It can often be an uphill battle. We may not be getting the feedback we want. We may be losing too many hours of the day and our houses are turning into breeding grounds for dust bunnies. We may be beginning to listen again to that voice of doubt that niggles in the background of our minds.

These are sure signs of burn out, so how do we avoid this?

1. Take a break. You don’t have to spend thousands on a trip to a tropical island, but a break – any break – will do you wonders. I try to take a blogging break every weekend. I’m currently taking a break from my WIP before I start to edit. Sometimes I need to take a week off from everything. We are allowed.

2. Be kind to yourself. Remember you aren’t a superhero. You aren’t impervious to criticism, you aren’t immune to the pressures of deadlines, but you can learn to deal with these things by being kind to yourself. Pamper yourself with not only the occasional indulgences (chocolate is my favourite indulgence), but pamper yourself with kind thoughts as well. Tell yourself you will reach your goals.

3. Exercise. Blow away the cobwebs of the mind, step away from the keyboard or pen and breathe in some fresh air. Get the heart pumping.

4. Visit friends. I don’t know about you, but I tend to immerse myself in my work and forget the importance of friendship, relaxation and a great girly chat over lunch. (For the guys who read this blog change ‘girly chat’ with manly beer and grunts over lunch).

5. Reschedule. If you are burning out then it may be time to reassess how much time you have devoted to your career. Because our jobs aren’t the typical eight hour day it’s harder to regulate so we need to stay on top of it. You may need to cut back for a while.

6. Prioritise. This is one of my favourites. When drawing close to a deadline our writing becomes more important so we will have to cut back on other things such as social media until that deadline is met. But know there is an end in sight and make it as easy as possible for yourself.

7. Remember the highs. It’s good to remember why you love to write and why you put yourself under so much pressure. Remembering will help to sustain you.

Have you experienced burn out? What are some things you do to avoid burn out?

45 comments:

  1. Great tips Lynds as usually. My favourite cure from burning out is going shopping, it always fills my batteries :))

    I also have to take breaks between two books I'm translating, and those breaks usually last for a week during which time I don't even touch a book. And while I'm translating a book, I have breaks on Sundays otherwise I'd go crazy since I work Saturdays as well.

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  2. Those are good tips that I often ignore. Somebody should unplug my computer for me (the equivalent of taking away the car keys) once in awhile. :)

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  3. A half a day of slacking usually does the trick.
    And I'm not a superhero? Don't tell my wife - she'll be so disappointed.

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  4. Great tips, Lynda! I was sick last week...Does that count?

    Researching who to query and how to query seems to take the joy out of writing for me...I'm really looking forward to going to a conference this weekend and hanging out with a bunch of excited like minded people. :)

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  5. Dez, shopping is great fun! Shame I have no money to shop lol.

    A whole week between book translations? How long does it generally take to translate a book?

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  6. Manly beer and grunts- thats great! It made me smile.
    I usually deal with burnouts by taking abreak for a day or scheduling posts a week in advance so I have all week to do something else. :)

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  7. Laura, yes, unplugging the computer is a good idea. I didn't have access to my puter on the weekend and I got heaps of other things done! It was great :)

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  8. Thank you. I needed this today. Especially the second one.

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  9. Alex, do you have a cape? I might let you keep your superhero status if you have a cape.

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  10. Sharon, getting sick does force a break but it's not a break that can be enjoyed :( I hope you are feeling better.

    And yes, I'm not looking forward to the querying stage. It's the worst part of writing. lol

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  11. Summer, yes!! scheduling posts ahead of time is something I really need to get back to doing. I'm letting it all fall on top of me so I'm starting to feel the pressure.

    Elizabeth, I think for a writer being kind to ourselves is probably the hardest one on the list.

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  12. Thanks for the tips! It's funny, I know I should take breaks, be easy on myself, etc., but sometimes it just takes a little reminding. :)

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  13. Shallee, this post was a way of reminding myself ;)

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  14. It seems like the things we are passionate about to the extent we never want to stop are what give burnout more than the tasks we dislike and stop often. Like does anyone ever get burned out from cleaning bathrooms or mopping the kitchen floor? I like your list, it's important to take breaks!

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  15. Karen, I'd not thought of it that way before, but it's true!

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  16. I love my agenda/PDA and I love re-doing schedules and plans. Because my life changes so much, I love to schedule over and over. It's a way to relax for me.

    CD

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  17. Oh, I've been there...burned out. It was with my first novel and to this day, I still can't look at it. I only remember the bad things. The way I got out of it though was to move on. I started another project. And now, with my fourth project in the works, I haven't been back to that burn out stage in a while.

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  18. Great tips. I think the one I'm going to try is to step away from my routine and do something fun - not grocery shopping or cleaning. Something like browse a bookstore, just for the fun of it. Or go to a coffee shop. Something I don't usually do.

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  19. I like your tips for managing the burnout. Great point that writing is so much a part of our day... I saw a professor on television talk explain her theory that social networking has made us more literate specifically younger people. It's interesting, but I think it can definitely lead to expectations of readership and that sort of thing and subsequent disappointment when there isn't a blog comment or Facebook comment on something we've done. It can definitely help toughen us writers because this is rejection in a way.

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  20. Oh yes, the burn out. You're right. Breaks are very important. What'd you say after chocolate? lol Just teasing.

    I've been on a break from novels the past few weeks. I wrote short stories instead. Now I'm ready to switch gears again.

    As you know, I work at an observatory in the summers to refuel and I belong to a writers association I'm active in for social interaction, etc ...

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  21. Great tips, Lynda. I like to take a break, exercise and catch up with friends.
    I will follow # 2. I am pretty harsh on myself. Thanks for the tips.

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  23. Clarissa, it's great you've found something that helps you relax...and it helps you to STAY relaxed as well :)

    Natascha, yep, some projects can't be saved. It's best to move on from them otherwise we won't go anywhere.

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  24. Helen, I can vouch for breaking routine for something fun. Browsing a bookstore is up there with indulging in chocolate :)

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  25. loveable, there are benefits and drawbacks of social media. The trick is finding that balance so we don't burn out. I like your take on the attitude when those expectations aren't met: Treat it more as an opportunity to learn to deal with rejection because every writer who wants to get published has to deal with rejection at some point.

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  26. Mary, I've been doing what you have been doing during the break -- although I haven't written as many short stories as you managed to write (I blame the chocolate).

    Rachna, I wish I liked exercise more than I do because I know it works wonders :)

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  27. Excellent suggestions. I have been starting to feel the effects of burn-out. I want to schedule my day better. The result will mean I won't be blog hopping and commenting as much. Sometimes I like to just watch a movie or an hour of TV to break away. And there is always reading.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  28. Arlee, you'll definitely feel a whole lot better once you give yourself some time to do some of the other things life has to offer (and yep, that includes watching tv) :)

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  29. Great suggestions, all. I tend to let physical activity slip because I'd rather be writing. But lately, I've forced myself to be more active, and it really helps clear my head.

    I think burnout is one of the reasons why it's good for writers to have a "real" job, too. It forces us to do something else, to take a break, so we can come back to the page refreshed and ready to write.

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  30. "How long does it generally take to translate a book?"

    between a month and a half and two months depending on the size of the book :)

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  31. Great tips. I can close awhile back, but I took a few days off to clear my mind and I was back to normal! I find exercise also helps a lot.

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  32. This is a helpful list. We have to remember to take care of our non-writing needs too.

    I haven't gotten burned out, but I take breaks from writing when I need to, sometimes for too long!

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  33. Very good advice. When I start to feel burnout, I make myself leave my desk (I realise that sometimes I spend 8+ hours in my chair staring at the screen) and go watch something stupid on TV. The stupider the better. Then I can feel all smug and superior about what I'm working on.

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  34. Very good advice. When I start to feel burnout, I make myself leave my desk (I realise that sometimes I spend 8+ hours in my chair staring at the screen) and go watch something stupid on TV. The stupider the better. Then I can feel all smug and superior about what I'm working on.

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  35. Such a great post, and timely. I've burned out many times over the past couple of years, what with writing and blogging and trying to keep with everyone else's blogs and beta reading, etc. I follow #6 rigidly, and if something gets missed, it gets missed. I also don't write a word on weekends. I need that time to recharge.

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  36. All excellent points, Lynda. Especially the friends part. I forget about that so often. Bad Rosie! And I've only recently started getting back into an exercise routine. It's good for me, even if I peddle on the elliptical and think about that scene that's waiting for me on my desktop...

    If you get a chance, stop by my blog. There's something waiting there for you :)

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  37. Alison, physical exercise makes such a difference for the mind. I need to force myself to do it more often too :)

    Dez, aaah, so a week break makes sense. You must have words floating around your head like stars near the end of each translation ;)

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  38. Talli, breaks and exercise, yep, great combo.

    Theresa, lol yep, I can relate to taking too long a break. I used to do that too much ;)

    Jenna, the joys of stupid tv!! It's great to be able to switch the mind off for a while.

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  39. Jennifer, prioritising works for me too. And I don't blog on the weekends anymore, although I do manage to spend a little time writing (but not as much as the weekdays). It definitely helps.

    Rosie, friends are so important. They keep us sane, I think ;)

    Thank you so much for the award. What a great honour!! :)

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  40. Switching to another project. When I return, I'm refreshed.

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  41. Robert, yep, that works for me too :)

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  42. Thank you for commenting on Middle Passages. My sister lives in "Oz" and it is always strange that when I am pleased with the weather, she is not and vice versa. She lives in South of you in Victoria.

    This is a terrific post...and I think I practice almost all of your suggestions, which may be why, even though I worry all the time, I'm still sane!

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  43. I took four days off for when the in-laws were in town and you would have thought I had taken several weeks off. I was overwhelmed with emails after emails and tons of blog love. Talk about taking a minute to soak it all in.

    Breaks are needed to avoid those awful burn-outs. I realized that I had put a ton in the blog but I had forgotten about my daily world as well, now I realize I can have both :)

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  44. Great tips!

    I'm finding I need to manage my blogosphere time better. So that's what I'm doing. Jobs, family and friends in "real" life also need tending and so do I.

    I write short stories now and again to mix things up and refresh me.

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  45. Liza, Victoria is a beautiful place to live in Oz. I often go there for holidays.

    Jen, it's nice when people notice when you go missing ;) Blogging and writing is so much it's easy to forget the daily world. I'm still working on finding that balance.

    Terry, writing short stories is a great way to mix it up. I've recently gone back to writing a few and I feel like I'm exercising my creativity. It's great :)

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