Writer’s Burnout: Will You Let Yourself Smolder Until You Become a Cinder?

Writer’s Burnout: Will You Let Yourself Smolder Until You Become a Cinder?

I don’t give a f*ck. I’m sick and tired of everything. Period.

That’s how I wanted to start ghostwriting an article opening with How to…

FYI, usually, I don’t swear.

And in my defense, I put an effort to try and write at least something. I dragged my ass into the chair, crouched over my keyboard, and tried to type to pull a word out of my brain with tweezers. But it wouldn’t come out! It was just like a stubborn thorn stuck in the finger (I had tons of those as a kid.)

What was wrong with me?

You must have already guessed it – writer’s burnout.

If you experience something close to it, don’t worry. You’re not a failed author. It’s absolutely normal, and you’re not alone. In fact, 37% of authors have suffered burnout in recent years.

Who Had a Writer’s Burnout? Examples, Please 

I decided to google.

And you know what?

So many writers felt it under their skin. Just to mention a couple of names:

It turned out that not only authors go through such challenging periods.

“Writing burnout is not uncommon among translators, either,” remarks Michael Bastin, Digital Marketer, Project Manager and CEO at BeTranslated. “Converting a text from one language into another overloads the brain due to the ongoing problem-solving process in the translator’s mind. It’s an inevitable truth we should all face: nobody is immune to occupational burnout syndrome, particularly writers and translators.”

It feels so much better after discovering you are not the only one with this problem. And we all have the same symptomatic patterns.

What are the clear markers when the writer in you is burning out?

Check them all below.

How to Know You Have Burned Out – Obvious Signs

Writer’s burnout (often called creative burnout) is a condition of total weariness and dissatisfaction due to overwriting as if someone has drained your energy from you and blocked out motivation and inspiration.

But seriously, it can’t go that bad, can it? It’s not that you could die from it, right?

Well, actually…

If you don’t “treat” this “illness,” it can result in writer’s block or even worse.

What could be worse?!

Depression → apathy → give-up-itis → death.

Let’s see how creative burnout manifests emotionally, physically, and behaviorally.

On an emotional level

Your negative emotions and thoughts have pulled the rug out from under you and are now plotting the overthrow of your mind by turning it into a jelly. You don’t even try to shush them all:

  • Boredom
  • Doubt
  • Fear
  • Despair
  • Frustration
  • Nervousness

Here is how it goes:

Nothing kindles your interest. Even your black cat, meowing non-stop and annoying you, asking for attention (poor thing). Jeez, Edgar Allan Poe wrote his world-famous story about the black cat, and you can’t do anything!

You’re not Edgar Allan Poe. You’re not that talented. You start doubting your writing skills and become a grumpy cynic. You can’t write anymore; your creativity has gone with the wind, plus the AI revolution in writing = you can lose your career. Is this the end?

You become nervous and try to squeeze at least half a word out of you into the Google doc. But no – nothing creative comes to mind! Too late, you’ve lost hope and don’t care a hoot.

This chain of thoughts influences your physical condition and behavior directly.

On a physical level

These may look like the flu symptoms, but writing burnout is also kind of a “disease,” so:

  • Zero strength
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor sleep
  • Wadded legs
  • Headache

On a behavioral level

Your behavior changes dramatically:

  • Detachment from society (lack of social contact and communication)
  • Escapism
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Procrastination and missed deadlines
  • Self-punishment

And it’s not the end of the list.

I could give you more, but I can see that’s enough for the appetizer, and you’re all ready for the main course: how to avoid writer’s burnout and what to do when it jumps on you out of the blue, shouting “Boo!”

Before It Gets Hot: How to Prevent Burning Out as a Writer

Steer away from the complete emotional and physical drainage as far as possible by doing these simple things (I’ve tasted them all, and they are great).

Take power naps

A power nap, aka cat nap, is a short napping period lasting for about 10–30 mins.

According to the research, a short daytime nap improves cognitive performance and work efficiency.

I press this restart button at least twice a week to feel more relaxed, fight tiredness, and eventually be more productive as a writer.

What’s the best time to nap?

For me, it’s between 12 pm and 2 pm.

Note: If you have a sleep disorder, you might need several power naps a day to show your best in writing.

Try productivity detox


All writers hunt for it.

Who hasn’t thought about boosting brain performance with smart pills or stopping time and writing faster (say hello to Time Doctor, 750words, WriteorDie, or other time management tools for writers).

How about trying quite the opposite thing – a productivity detox?

Don’t write anything at least one day per month.

Instead, spend time outdoors, practice yoga, and refocus your attention with mindfulness.

The first time would be hard, I should warn you. Aunt Anxiety will whisper in your ear, “Hey, you should be productive.” And at the end, “Where has your day gone?” Alina Vrabie, a writer from Sweden, experienced similar spikes of worry and fear during her productivity detox.

Read books to learn more about burnout

Books are the ocean of information and knowledge.

Drink a mouthful from the following reads to help you ward off writer’s burnout or spot its first signs and beat them at once:

  • Dear Writer, Are You In Burnout? by Becca Syme
  • The Burnout Epidemic by Jennifer Moss
  • Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
  • MOVE THINK SMILE: BurnOut to BadAss by Eléa Faucheron
  • Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen

What to do if you’re already in the epicenter of your writing burnout?

I’ve been there and tested some tactics.

WHAT TO DO During Writer’s Burnout

You may not like all of these tips (especially #3), but they saved me not once. Perhaps you’d dare to give them a try, too.

  1. Be grateful to yourself

For what?! For being an unproductive, lazy piece of shit?

It was my first thought about gratefulness during writer burnout.

With time, I understood the art of gratitude.

Now, I often leave a thank-you note to myself: for my work, for acknowledging my emotions honestly, and for calling things by their correct names.

You are not an awful author. You’re just having creative burnout.

Commit to positivity in thinking about yourself.

  1. Take a sip, sit back, and smile

And savor the heavenly flavors of exceptional coffee…

Sorry, tea lovers, but we’ll talk about coffee today.

Yeah, I’m a coffee maniac.

Ask your doc: Is caffeine bad for you and get an answer – absolutely not, if only you stick to safe intake levels. It’s 400 mg/day for adults and 300 mg/day for pregnant women.

Psst… The Nespresso coffee maker is one of the best Christmas gifts for writers. If you’re a coffee addict, like me, make yourself a present – you’ve earned it!

  1. Unite with nature and exercise

“When writer’s burnout knocks on your door, open it, go outside, and indulge in physical activity. A synergistic blend of nature and exercising has huge potential to improve both psychological and physiological well-being,” says Kevin Le Gall, Owner and Lead Editor at Climbing House. “And the greatest thing about it – you can choose your preferred physical exercises.”

He gives a list for you to pick from:

  • Jogging
  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Kayaking
  • Climbing
  • Bike riding
  • Outdoor yoga
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding, etc.

It’s time to leave your writing cave and breathe freely in the fresh air. Breathe in and out, concentrate on the moment, and feel it to the fullest.

When I was burning out, I went mountaineering and climbed my first mountain. It wasn’t high, but the landscapes left me speechless…

  1. Play the “What if” game or do what other authors do

I eavesdropped Jesse Hanson, Content Manager at Online Solitaire & World of Card Games, explaining this excellent tactic:

“This game is similar to the figure-storming technique used to brainstorm ideas. It would help if you tried to imagine what a well-known writer would do in this situation and experiment with the same:

What if [author’s name] had a writing burnout? What would he/she/they do?

For example:

What if Agatha Christie had a creative burnout? What would she do?

You can either imagine or repeat it if you know what the author did.

Agatha Christie used to soak in the tub eating apples to wind up her imagination engine and come up with an idea.

I tried that (except for the apple-eating part, as I hate apples). It felt good and relieved me from weariness to some extent.

What if Dan Brown had a writing burnout? What would he do?

Actually, Dan Brown, too, did some specific stuff for relaxing and getting his inspirational juices flowing again. He hung upside down, just like a bat.

Harry Wallop, a columnist and feature writer, tried to do that. However, he doesn’t recommend repeating it without special equipment or professional assistance.

I also wouldn’t recommend doing some other things mentioned below.

WHAT NOT TO DO Amid Creative Burnout

Over to the main don’ts.

Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol

They won’t help you out, don’t even ask.

I’ve already turned to one of them.

As a result, drunken evenings and then mornings with super shitty texts.

I know what you’re thinking. Poe was an alcoholic and wrote his gothic masterpiece, The Black Cat. Again, you’re not Edgar Allan Poe. But – you have a unique and creative personality. You can let your imagination run wild without alcohol or drugs, trust me.

Don’t force writing

Make a full stop.

Drop it.

Throw away your tweezers and let your mind loosen up, even if you know it’s crammed with words sitting there tightly like plants with endless roots in the soil.

Burnout signals you need a break as an author. And you deserve it.

What if you can’t just quit?

What if you must stay on board this writing ship swaying back and forth and making you vomit every other second?

Your Solution: Don’t Let Yourself Turn Into Ashes

Don’t be afraid to ask for help whenever necessary. Asking for assistance isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of inner strength.

Outsource your tasks to someone devoted to helping you succeed. Two heads are always better than one. So, why not use both?

And for a dessert, after renewing your pool of energy, repeat this:

I can & I will. Watch me.


Co-Founder at Booklyst Erika Rykun is a book nerd and editor at Booklyst.net. When she’s not busy reading books, she writes about them.

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