The past few weeks, I haven’t been able to write much at all. Between my lack of inspiration, my job, my internship, and upcoming life changes (college… cue the nervous laughter), I’ve been feeling burnt out and not at all motivated to start any new projects. So today, I am beyond thrilled to be discussing this topic with Lu C., who runs a writing tips account on Instagram called @the.writing_corner! Her insights have certainly provided me with reassurance on the subject during our question and answer style interview. I hope they do for you as well!
What are some reasons writers become unmotivated and burnt out?
I think the main reason has to do with expectations. So many of us have this dream of publishing, some even hope to achieve that before a certain age, and that can make writing become more a chore than a hobby. We think “oh, I have to write x amount of words per day so I can finish this draft in time” and while that can be beneficial if you have a busy schedule, it also promotes this idea in your head that you have to write, instead of it being something you want to do. And with these expectations, we begin to overthink about whether or not our work-in-progress is as good as X book and if the story will be good or interesting or original enough to be published or even just read by other people.
There’s also this “trend” (I guess) in the writing community where staying up late and having messed up sleep schedules is incredibly romanticized. If someone sleeps three hours a night once or twice it’s harmless, but when it starts to become a routine, the brain gets tired and that will inevitably lead to burnout.
Have you ever experienced this problem in your own life? What helped you emerge from that period of time?
It’s happened multiple times, but the most recent was a few months ago while working on the third draft of my novel. I got stuck right at the beginning and writing it became so difficult that I considered giving up on writing in general, even though the story is so close to my heart. I decided to take a few days off of writing, and that break ended up giving me an idea that changed my plot entirely, but got me way more invested than I was before. I began outlining the new storyline for a few days before I let myself write again, and by the time I got to chapter ten, I basically had the first few pages already written in my head.
When taking a break from the craft, how do writers know when to jump back into the swing of things without overwhelming themselves?
The moment someone can read their own writing without immediately wanting to cry or press “delete” is when they should go back. They don’t necessarily have to like what they’ve written if it’s an early draft, but if they cannot even read it it’s likely a sign they should either should change something or take a longer break. That said, the best way not to get overwhelmed is not to expect the same work or word count you did before taking a break. It’s best to aim for a lower word count and write every day than to write 3000 words in one go and not touch the story in a month. Just take it slow and remember that writing is supposed to be something enjoyable and a break from real life, not another stress-inducer. Start little by little, and eventually you’ll get back into a steady rhythm.
What are the three most important tips to regain that inspiration and motivation?
Don’t romanticize overworking yourself, there is no time limit for completing a draft/publishing and stop comparing your writing to other people’s WIPs or even published books.
Anything else you want to add?
The only thing I’d like to add is really cheesy, but just that we’re all on our own individual paths. A lot of writers get caught up wanting to publish young, but the truth is, most authors started their careers in their late 20s and became successful much later. It’s okay to take breaks and enjoy everything life has to offer. If your story is right, it’ll be there waiting for you when you’re ready to write it, and if it’s not, then let the experience teach you something for your next adventure.