In a Toxic Relationship with Writer’s Burnout?

Let me teach you how to break up in 5 easy steps.

When I first started writing five years ago, I specialised in writing advocacy pieces. All my articles were lengthy and overloaded with information. As an activist, I felt obligated to ensure every piece I published had to be about social justice.

This expectation I had of myself gave me the anxiety to start writing anything new. Writer’s burnout became my boyfriend. Writing turned into a chore.

I am sure you have felt this too. You fall into a slump. You no longer feel motivated to write anything new. Whenever I get overwhelmed and that feeling washes over me, these are the things that I do to slowly get back into the groove.

1. Inspire through vulnerability

While I still enjoy writing advocacy pieces, now I allow myself to be more vulnerable. I did not want to portray the ‘distant, angry activist’ persona anymore. I wanted to show people a more human side of me.

I started writing about things that happened in my life; things that helped me grow. I want to inspire others the way others have inspired me. My social justice pieces weren’t the only things that I could use to educate. I have many life stories that are packed with lessons too.

In fact, we all have stories of things that happened in our lives that made us who we are today. Sometimes, the most inspiring stories are those that we keep to ourselves. We don’t share it not because we are selfish, but because we are ashamed of letting the world know.

However, some people need to hear our stories as reassurance that they aren’t alone. As writers, we have to understand the weight of our words. It is our responsibility not only to be brave but also to be human.

2. You don’t have to publish every day

I took the “write every day” advice seriously. I published at least one story daily for a month. It wasn’t easy trying to post a polished piece while juggling a 9 to 5 office job! So I decided to tweak the rules.

We should continue to write every day to keep our brain juices flowing, but we don’t need to publish every day. It doesn’t matter what you write. You could be venting your frustrations, jotting down ideas, or working on a draft; as long as you write.

After I stopped publishing daily, it made writing fun again. I stopped feeling like I was running out of time. And more importantly, it didn’t make me feel like a failure for not being able to keep up with an unrealistic goal. When you see writing as a form of relaxation, it becomes your second nature.

3. Read anything you want, anytime you want

Another cliche advice, but I mean this liberally. I’m so jealous of people who can dedicate hours of their day indulged in a book. I have a short attention span! If you’re anything like me, this tip will help you.

As writers, we know how important reading is. It provides us with knowledge, inspires us to write more, and helps us to improve our craft. Sometimes, I feel like less of a writer for not having an extensive collection of books that I finished reading.

But it’s fine! Read anything that you want: Tweets, poems, newsletters, quotes, comments etc. You don’t need to pressure yourself. Get inspired in your own time.

4. Praise out loud

This next tip is a combination of advice 2 and 3. When you read something that resonates with you, don’t praise it in your heart — tell the author.

Tag them or comment under their post. Don’t worry about whether they will reply to you. What counts is that you made an effort to pat another fellow writer on the back and tell them that they did a good job. On a rough day, your positive comment could change someone’s life.

Doing this does not only help you summarise what you read, but it also enables you to do some introspection. You get to feel good and make the author smile too.

When I first started writing on Medium, one comment made a whole lot of difference. It motivated me to write even more. Now I try to make it a habit to make other writers smile as well. It doesn’t take much effort to make someone’s day. Write it down.

5. Rest as much as you write

We tend to put so much unnecessary stress on ourselves. We set unrealistic goals that stress us out even before we begin. The most crucial advice that I have for all writers: Rest, rest, and more rest.

It is important to have big dreams, but it is also just as important to keep yourself in good shape — mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you need to refresh, relax, and rewire, please do so. Do not stop yourselves.

I try my best to make writing a priority, but sometimes all I want to do after a long day of work is rest. I don’t mind commenting on stories or tweeting my thoughts, but my brain does not have the energy to string paragraphs together.

If you experience a creative block, it’s time to step on the brakes. Learning to take it slow does not make you any less productive. You might even find that your mind becomes sharper after a good rest. Your words will flow out better too. A mental block is our body telling us that we need to take it easy.

In any line of work, we need to have discipline. However, we shouldn’t be putting too much pressure on ourselves either. Remember why you started writing. Most probably, you’ll find that whatever made you stop isn’t worth risking your passion for.

This article was originally published in The Writing Cooperative.