Writers are some of the hardest working people I know. Most of my writer friends are writers by day and writers by night. But working at magazines and freelance writing and in marketing and public relations departments all day long sometimes makes it hard to go home and continue working on that novel or screenplay or memoir. I know that happens to me a lot and I wish I could just work full-time from home so I could dedicate my time to my fiction, but you have to make a living somehow, right?
Writing all day long kind of sucks the creativity out of me. So what usually happens is, I end up spending very little time writing my novel and when I am writing it, I get burned out quickly.
Oddly enough, for a project at work, I’ve been researching and learning about job burnout. The symptoms of project burnout include:
- Inability to concentrate on the task at hand–working on your project
- General apathy, particularly in issues relating to your project
- Lack of interest in socializing because you feel like you have to spend all your free time on your project
- Inability to have fun
- Feeling like nothing ever happens with the project
- Feelings of stagnation
- Feeling that no one cares what’s going on with your project
- Feeling that everything is wrong or is not working out
- an overall negative attitude
In order to be a writer for the long-haul, you need to takes breaks every so often in order not to get burned out on a project (especially when you write all day long).
Here are some ways to avoid project burnout:
- Take a mini-vacation–go away for the weekend with your friends or significant other, take a day trip to the beach, go visit a friend who lives in another city. Anything you can do to take your mind off your project for a little bit is good.
- Switch off–it’s good to be working on a couple projects at the same time* so if you get blocked on one you can work on the other. This helps me immensely with not burning out, but I also find by working on two or three projects simultaneously that when I’m working on one project, I’ll get ideas for the others.
- Take a Break–leave the project for ten minutes, an hour, whatever and grab a cup of coffee, or take a walk around your favorite local mall. Getting your mind off your project for even a short period of time can help when you’re blocked. By thinking about something else, I always get ideas for my projects.
*One word of caution–don’t try working on more than three projects at one time or you may risk spreading yourself too thin. Instead, try to dedicate your time evenly to all of your projects. And ignore this caution when a project takes off; when this happens, you’re better off running with it and coming back to the other ones later.