I never thought I’d say this. But I have. You know the symptoms:
- Unable to concentrate
- Unable to finish writing/editing
- Neck aches
- Chasing a deadline and missing said deadline
- Worn out before typing a sentence
- Can’t think of the said sentence, when you’ve typed profusely the night before
- Hating another round of edits
- Hating your beloved manuscript
I never thought it would happen to me. I love writing and my imaginary worlds. I love my characters and their lives. So how come, it happened to me?
Honestly, it creeps up on you. It’s coming, you know it. Insidiously, like the flooding waters, until you’re swamped. Last week after a round of family gatherings, out of town trips, and working constantly in the car and at home, and wherever I could type, I developed a crick in the neck.
Needless to say, my entire schedule of writing and editing went berserk. I could scarcely move without crying in pain. After endless massages with Voltaren, I was finally better. But I was also burned out. I needed the rest. Juggling a day time job, with two new novellas and two short stories currently in various stages of editing, my own Ten Reminder book draft and all the other work, I was overwhelmed.
I should have seen it coming. However, prevention is better than cure. I could have prevented it. Here are my tips to prevent Writer’s burnout.
Sleep: Get enough sleep. I was sleeping two to six hours on any given day. Two being the norm. You need to sleep, to let your body recharge. Your brain needs to rest as well. So get your 7-8 hours of sleep. No excuses. Get your rest.
Ergonomics: There’s a reason why MNC’s invest in good furniture for their staff. If you’re spending hours at the computer, it makes sense to get a comfortable chair and table, making sure your eyes are level with your computer.
Breaks: Take regular breaks. Jeffrey Archer writes eight hours a day, in two hour chunks. After two hours, he takes an hour long break reading the paper, going for a walk, you get the idea. Break up your writing session into time limited blitzes. Your body and brain will thank you for the break.
Desk Exercises: I can’t stress how important this is. Learn simple neck exercises. I often teach this to professionals when we do health camps, but neglect to do this myself. Your neck muscles need to contract and relax. Keeping them taut too long, will eventually weaken them.
Eat healthy: I know caffeine soon becomes my best friend when I’m chasing a deadline. Occasionally, I skip meals because I can’t be bothered with cooking, cleaning the pots and returning with the same focus to my writing. My solution, has been to get a load of seasonal fruits, that I munch on throughout my writing session. Eat well to write well.
Exercise: The endorphins of exercise do wonders for the mind. Yet, I hate exercise. If you’ve been sitting in one place the whole day, without getting off your butt for anything other than the restroom, you’re body will turn to mush. Haha. Do something. I do go on a few walks now when it suits me, and I know I should do more. But I find the walks calming and inspiring,especially if I’m not plugged into music or an audio-book.
Pay attention to your body: Sometimes your body tells you, “Enough. Take a break.” And we push ourselves the extra mile, the next deadline, another page, one more word. Stop. Restock. Plan well and if you’ve failed despite the plan, its because the plan was unrealistic anyway. So be realistic and watch out for the signs your body sends you. Writer’s burnout can be prevented.
I was reading Steve Chandler’s Time Warrior- How to defeat Procrastination– How to defeat Procrastination and he says, “Everybody gets 24 hours a day, if you can’t finish your work in 24 hours, it’s because you’re trying to please too many people and taking on other people’s work, without prioritizing your own.”
Are you taking on too much work? Are you pleasing too many people?
Image: Pixabay CC0 Creative Common License