Five Tips to Beat Burn-Out

Burn out. It happens to everyone, in every job—even writers. Ever feel like you can’t write another word?

When I was a freelance advertising copywriter and executive speechwriter I had a busy season that ran from January to April. In that period, I would write about 12-14 hours per day, six days a week to hit my deadlines for ads, brochures, speeches, newsletters magazine articles, and annual reports. By the first week of May I was comatose, my energy level was zero, my creativity was shot and the left side of my brain was mush. Now what?

When I was crispy around the edges from too many writing assignments and unthinkable deadlines, I followed these five tips to rekindle my passion—and my energy—to write. Maybe they will help you too.

  1. Rest and boycott the English language. Take a week off—guilt free. Do anything you enjoy, just don’t set foot in your office. Relax. Take long walks. Air out your brain. Daydream. Call an old friend. Take in a movie. Just boycott the English language and give your mind a rest. You will soon realize that resting is a discipline all its own. Discipline yourself to rest to keep your writing rolling.
  2. Reorganize your work space. After you take a week off, reorganize your work space. Shake things up. Move things around. Clean your files. Cleaning files is therapeutic. It’s like downloading your brain of meaningless information. It will also help you feel more organized. Next, rearrange your furniture so you feel like you’re stepping into a new office. I did this several times and I was amazed at how it always put me in the mood to write.
  3. Alternate writing environments. If rearranging your work space is not feasible, try writing in a different environment. When I’m not motivated to write, I head to Barnes & Noble, the library, a restaurant, or simply a different room in my home to write. On a beautiful day, I grab my laptop and a lawn chair and set up an outdoor office in a park by a pond. Somehow the sounds of nature in an office without walls frees the mind and rekindles creativity.
  4. Energize with exercise. Few professions are as cerebral or as sedentary as writing. When I sit at the computer too long, my body screams for exercise. Exercise energizes my body and invigorates my mind. Exercise is also a great stress reliever and helps put your work—and your life—in perspective.
  5. Read to whet your appetite to write. We all know that if you’re going to be a good writer you have to be an active reader. But reading does more than help teach us how to write; it inspires us to write. Writing is a hunger. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a best-selling novel or a brochure for a best-selling shampoo, we write to satisfy a hunger. A hunger to tell a story. A hunger to share an experience. A hunger to communicate our thoughts, ideas, or feelings. A hunger to persuade others to take a desired action. Or, a hunger to simply express ourselves and connect with people, like this blog.

When we get burned-out from writing too much, we stifle this hunger. So, when you can’t write another word—rest—then read. Reading will subtly whet your appetite to write. And there’s something tremendously motivating about feeling that hunger again.


Your Turn:  How have you overcome burn-out in your writing career?

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Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Mr. Magruder

    Your blog is inspiring me to keep moving forward even when you hit a roadblock. Great advice. I particularly like your suggestion in #3 above to find an alternative writing environment. The “Lawn Chair Living” concept is a great one. I think I’ll try it myself, next time I’m trying to write. Best of luck to you, I know you will eventually get published.

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