Hey all! It’s been such a weird year in terms of…everything. I’m doing well with writing, but my focus is all over the place. I think that’s improving a little, at least.
But this blog’s topic is an important one to me – knowing when to slow down. Historically, I’m really not good at knowing when to slow down. I’m usually the type to keep going and going until I actually burn out.
Obviously, I want to avoid burning out.
This is also topical as it’s currently NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Those who have been following me for awhile know that I’m big into NaNoWriMo. Though, sometimes not entirely in the sense of I must get 50,000 words in 30 days and more in the YAY NEW STORY!
It’s really, really easy for a writer to burn out during NaNoWriMo.
So here are some of my tips, I guess.
know your burn out signs
Specifically, the signs of when you are burning out. This is one that takes a bit of self awareness and, admittedly, I still struggle with this. I’m not always good at noticing when I’m wearing myself thin. I am getting better at it though.
Are you too tired to write? Do you stare at the document and feel unable to make progress despite knowing where you want the story to go? Do you feel like working on anything other than what you’re supposed to be working on? Do you just feel apathetic…? (I’m aware I’m partially describing the symptoms of depression, but there’s overlap.)
But if you know your signs, you can start to look for them. You can start to notice when you’re getting too overworked and can scale back.
give yourself breaks
And I mean this in multiple ways. The first is the general description – breaks from work. Make sure you stop and eat, stop and go for a walk, stop and do other things. Make sure you give yourself time to do fun things. Self-employed creatives often feel like they need to be constantly putting out material to be successful or productive or whatever. Nah. Go at your pace.
And then don’t be afraid to give yourself breaks from certain projects. Sometimes if you work on a project intensively for months or years you start to get tired of it. You dread opening the word document to get through it. You want it done, but you just don’t want to work on it. I got to this point this year with the McHanzo Big Bang project I did – I adored the story. I loved where it was going. But I was so stressed and burning out that I dreaded working on it and actually writing it was like pulling teeth. The Reverse Bang went a bit better, but I was still getting really stressed out.
ease back into it
This is another one that has multiple meanings. I’ll go with the more general one first. If you burn out, ease back into work. Don’t just dive in head first and get all gung ho. Don’t get the mindset of ‘I have to make up for lost time.’ You know what will happen if you do that…? You’re going to burn out again! And probably fairly quickly.
Ease back in. Build up your stamina. Set a schedule. Hold yourself to it.
The other is easing back into big projects. I learned a lesson this year. I did two big community events for McHanzo (big bang and reverse bang). I loved participating and it was a great experience all around. Like I said, it stressed me out and nearly had me burning out.
Should I have done two big community events basically back to back? No.
Should I have done those big community events while keeping up with my other writing? Absolutely not.
If you do a big project, give yourself a little time before you do another big one. Give yourself time to relax, breathe, recharge. It’s so important.
I really don’t feel qualified to give advice on this…
Because I very nearly burned out this year. I’m aware of it now. It’s why I sit here and stare at documents and wonder why the words are coming slower than I want. It’s why I’m not mad that I’m so far behind on NaNoWriMo that I’m not going to catch up. My health is more important, my sanity is more important.
My pace is a little slower right now, but that’s okay.
So I’m still doing NaNo, but not seriously. I’m just happy to be working on a new story.