Getting Over Writer Burn Out
My last blog post was about refocusing my plans for a book I had started in 2010 called The Return of Pandora. I rather ambitiously decided that I was going to try and recreate Nanowrimo in February and write 70,000 words in 20 days. Yeah… that didn’t go to plan.
By the end of February, I had written four chapters, around 7,000 words. I know I didn’t feel like a failure, I’d just proven that I was awful at keeping track of my own commitments. 70,000 words in 20 days and a 10 minute musical in 2 weeks? Yeah right!
Despite that minor failure, I did have a pretty decent start to the year. By the end of February, I had not only written 4 new chapters of Pandora, I had also developed the vague outline of a new full-length play called Radio Therapy and written my first musical. It was a short musical sure but I wrote it in 2 weeks and it was my first time writing lyrics, dammit, it counts!
It was all going so well…
And then I moved to London and very quickly lost any motivation to write a single word. I moved country, it was stressful so I forgave myself… and the months passed. Four months to be precise.
Four months in which I rediscovered my love of ballroom, did a self-guided tour of Italy, settled into my new job and saw an endless array of musicals and plays. Four months where at no point did I feel remotely guilty that writing hadn’t crossed my mind once! I forgot my various open projects existed. Scripts went unedited, treatments didn’t get written and ideas fluttered away.
I was content until one night in July when I mentioned to my new housemate that we should write a musical together in passing. My mind very quickly threw an idea at me and then it started throwing characters and lyrics.
It was like I’d cracked the dam with the tiny innocent suggestion and the pressure built up until the barrier I’d built between myself and writing couldn’t stand up anymore.
I’m not back in full swing yet. I’ve reread my four chapters and the short script I wrote in October 2016. I’ve gone through my lists and organised my priorities. Again. Ideas are starting to trickle through. I’m still making excuses about time and tiredness but at least I’m thinking about it now, right?
Was I burned out?
I’ve never really understood what being burnt out was meant to feel like. Is it a depressive sort of state where you just hate every word you write and every idea you ever had? Or is it more of a numbness that sucks away all of your motivation to write or care about what your characters have to say?
I think I’ve experienced both at one point or another. Definitely, after finishing my Scriptwriting Masters but at that point, I felt so guilty I couldn’t ignore that I wasn’t writing and it was almost impossible to make myself believe I could do anything but write.
Looking at it now, I don’t think I’ve stopped feeling burnt out since finishing that Masters. It’s possible the guilt talked me into getting back to writing sooner than my mind was needed and I didn’t actually get the level of rest I needed. Maybe that’s why every time I set myself a new challenge to jump start my writing, I failed?
But moving to London was different. I told myself I was focusing on my television career, my production career and if I didn’t have time to write that would be fine because there’ll be plenty of time down the road. And I was fine with it – no guilt, no struggling to go to sleep because characters were having conversations that I knew I should have been writing down, no mindlessly staring at a blank page.
The problem is I don’t feel rested. I feel exhausted and it’s an exhaustion that just keeps growing no matter how much I sleep, how healthy I eat or how much time I spend moving. Yet my creative juices have started flowing and I’m raring to get back into my work despite this exhaustion.
I don’t know what the solution is but I do know that I’m feeling positive and motivated. The only person who could stop me building on that is me.
For anyone suffering from burn out, I have no idea what advice to offer you. It seems focusing on something other than writing or my writing career helped me immensely without my realising it. Perhaps it could work for you too?