Writing Fatigue and...
 
Notifications
Clear all

Writing Fatigue and Burnout

12 Posts
7 Users
33 Reactions
361 Views
DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
Posts: 837
Platinum Member
Topic starter
 

I figured I'd throw this up, because as much as I've struggled with it at times, I haven't seen it discussed here too much. And when I think about it, I could approach it from a lot of different angles, so I'm going to try and touch on at least a few of them, as well as remedies.

So, to causes, or perhaps better put, compounding factors.

The first is plain old energy. As much as I love writing, that's not at all like saying that it's always easy to sit down and just do it. It isn't something that comes without effort, so when my energy levels are low from work, from day-to-day chores, or from other personal matters, I can find it challenging to sit down at that keyboard and start. It takes energy, at least to get started--so if other things are sucking that energy away, it can be really rough to pursue.

The second is a sense of stagnation--of feeling like I'm not making any progress, or worse, that I don't know what to do in order to progress. At times, someone can tell you something and it'll just click--it'll be a missing piece, something that fills in the blanks for what you're doing just perfectly. Other times, though, it's either that the right advice isn't out there, that you can't find it, or that you just aren't quite ready for that bit of advice yet--maybe there's another step you need to take, or something else you need to learn, before this next piece will fit. I have bashed my head against this more than once, and it has never felt like my writing progressed in anything like a smooth climb. It's always fits and starts, jumps and stalls, and occasionally feeling like I made progress that I didn't quite understand, and then slipped back from--which can feel even more infuriating than simple stagnation.

Third up, I'll put motivations in this little heap.  More than anything else, this is a lack of connection with what I'm trying to do. At times, I feel very strongly about what I'm aiming to do, what I want my writing to be, what I want my work to look like. Other times, though, I lose sight of exactly what I'm doing. Regardless of what progress I may be making, I'm not sure where in blue blazes I'm actually going with it. When this piece slips, writing can start to feel like it's nothing more than a routine, and no more rewarding than a day-job.

Lastly, which I think is more of a compounding thing than a cause in itself, is rejections. They're not quite so internal, but sometimes--no matter how thick I think my skin has gotten--I'll catch a rush of them that sting, and just take the wind right of my sails. This can be a spell of nothing but form rejections, or a run of almost-but-not-quite kind of rejections. As a rule, if I'm in a good place with my writing already, I'll just ride over the top of these like they're gravel on a path. In a bad place, though, they can feel like I've just run headlong into a wall.

I think, for me at least, those are my four major pillars--and while any one of them alone can lead to a sense of fatigue, it's when two or more of them start to pile up together that I think I start to feel real burnout. The more there are, the more scorched the earth.

So, what about corrective?

Well, firstly, sometimes I do think you just need to rest. When things get too much, it's important to be able to step back and allow yourself space to breathe, to distance from things, and let your heart and mind settle again. And this is very much a personal thing. At times, I've felt like what I needed to do was to step back and let the writing drop for a while, simply because I needed all my energy for other things.

At other times, though, I've felt like I needed the writing as a crutch--that if I put it down, things were only going to be worse. And in those times, I've found it really helpful to simplify things. For me, in the Writers of the Future quarters, I found a simple set of rigid motivations I could aim for. In 2019, I was having a rough time; but those, combined with having joined Wulf's inaugural Super Secrets challenge, gave me a structure to lean into when I would have struggled to provide one for myself.

Find writing friends. Online, in person, or whatever, but more than just a broad forum like this--a closer group of people, one to whom you can reasonably say I'm feeling burnt out on this right now, and share the actual challenges that are facing you, that are causing you to feel this crash. There's a great pressure release in being able to open up about it to people who understand where you're coming from, who may or may not be able to offer advice, but who can simply tell you that they get it, and that they'll be there to offer a shoulder when it's needed. 

And the last one, which to an extent, combines all the others--be kind to yourself, as much as you can. None of us is some invincible fortress of emotional power, and most of the time, the pressure on us is all coming from us, too. We have the freedom to ease off as little or as much as we need. We can stop writing if we need to, at least for a little while. Or if we want to continue, we can let ourselves write without expectations or challenges, write terrible fiction and be okay with that. Write something that's fun, just because it's fun. Or do something completely different, something that we can't have any expectations of, because we've never done it before--write a second-person present-tense erotic thriller about blue crab people. That story's probably going nowhere, but it'll be different.

I probably have way more to add about this, but I'm also sure that a lot of other people do, too--and I'm curious to see what any of them might have to say about it. So, as they say, tag--you're it.

DQ:0 / R:0 / RWC:0 / HM:15 / SHM:7 / SF:1 / F:1
Published prior WotF entries: PodCastle, HFQ, Abyss & Apex
Currently on a writing hiatus

 
Posted : September 13, 2023 1:58 pm
Ellis Eden, Morgan, crlisle and 3 people reacted
David S. Pittsenberger
(@undreamedages)
Posts: 59
Bronze Star Member
 

The first is 100% me. I just commented on a writing discord I belong to that I'm beginning to feel like I won't be able to write until I'm an empty nester. Between work, household obligations, helping kids with homework or just spending time with them, spending quality time with wife, nearly every day I don't have anything left. And, by the time that's all done, it's like 11pm. I have to get up for work at 6:45am. Someone is always asking for attention.

And then, once you do write things, then you submit. And that takes time. Especially, when so many publications have nitpicking rules about formatting. Even ones that just say use Shunn may also ask you to take off your name, have a separate title page with specific info, add a bio on the last page, etc. And you have to manage, submittable, moksha, emails, website forms. Finally, you must track them all somehow excel, submission grinder. And I didn't even mention finding where to submit to in the first place and determine if it's a good fit, the right length, and if the market is open.

Some people will smugly say if you want to write then you'll find time. I don't think that's fair at all. It's not reasonable to imply that someone must have to sacrifice their livelihood, friends, family, health etc. That shouldn't be a way to gatekeep.

Literally, time is the only thing in my way. I'm not bothered by rejections. I don't have writer's block. I don't even think it's a real thing to be honest. I have tons of ideas, more ideas they I can write down. But it's just being able to sit down and compose everything together that's the struggle. Even if I wasn't exhausted at 11pm, I can't afford to stay up late every night and then have my day job performance suffer. I have a family to support.

 

I currently have this quarter's story outlined in my head with a little written down. It'll probably be around 5k. I've got something else to write and submit by the end of the month that will be 1500. I have no idea how I'll get those done at a good quality. I've got a few other ideas as well. And then there's my novel which has been stagnating at around 15k. I have a ton plotted out and many seeds of sections written, but I can never actually get to it.

 

Haha, thanks for allowing us space to vent.

V40, Q3-4: HM, RWC
V41: in progress

 
Posted : September 13, 2023 2:33 pm
atkirk, Dustin Adams, Morgan and 3 people reacted
 TimE
(@time)
Posts: 408
Silver Star Member
 
This will be the first quarter I haven't entered for years. From getting HMs with the occasional SHM, my last 2 entries have been RWC's, and like someone said a while back, I can't see which comments apply so they are no help. I'm not just not progressing, I'm going backwards. 

I think it was Hugh Howey on his podcast who said something like - people play golf every week whatever their level. I play golf but I usually have an idea what I'm doing wrong, I can watch videos and work on it. I'll never be a scratch player, but I know when I'm playing well. I've birdied every hole at my club. When it comes to writing I don't know what I'm doing badly or well.  The only measure of my writing is the RWC's which I see as poor.
Maybe I'll have a go next quarter. Maybe I've packed in. 

?

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 1:44 am
Dustin Adams, DoctorJest, crlisle and 1 people reacted
Todd Jones
(@toddjones)
Posts: 544
Gold Star Member
 

Posted by: @time

This will be the first quarter I haven't entered for years. From getting HMs with the occasional SHM, my last 2 entries have been RWC's, and like someone said a while back, I can't see which comments apply so they are no help. I'm not just not progressing, I'm going backwards. 

 

I think it was Hugh Howey on his podcast who said something like - people play golf every week whatever their level. I play golf but I usually have an idea what I'm doing wrong, I can watch videos and work on it. I'll never be a scratch player, but I know when I'm playing well. I've birdied every hole at my club. When it comes to writing I don't know what I'm doing badly or well.  The only measure of my writing is the RWC's which I see as poor.
Maybe I'll have a go next quarter. Maybe I've packed in. 

I understand the frustration, especially with creative writing. It's not just a game where when you practice you see tangible results, at least not all the time. It's just different and one market may love something that another market doesn't. WotF has the R(s), HM, SHM, and SF scale of rejections. SF are still rejections, but they let you know you are close. This has been very helpful in keeping me writing. I would have given up a couple years ago, then I received an HM from WotF. 

If you want, PM me and I'll look over one of the RWCs. Maybe something will jump out at me and I can help identify what can be polished. (also send the RWC comment).

Hang in there and keep writing. I'm struggling with being creative for this month's entry too. smash  

 

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."~ Henry Ford
2024 - V41 - Q1-RWC (Resubmit of "HM"), Q2-Submitted, Q3-WIP, Q4-?
2023 - V40 - Q1-HM, Q2-HM, Q3-R, Q4-HM
2022 - V39 - Q1-SHM, Q2-HM, Q3-SF, Q4-HM (Resubmit of "HM")
2021 - V38 - Q4-HM (Resubmit of "R")
2020 - V37 - Q2-R

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 3:51 am
DoctorJest, TimE and crlisle reacted
crlisle
(@crlisle)
Posts: 412
Gold Member
 

@time the next time Kary @karyenglish does a live slush read, submit 450 words for her to look over and comment on. I've found her comments to be very eye opening. It's usually at FyreCon which should be coming up soon. It's also anonymous so no one knows who submitted. It is online. "The Slush is Alive."

Vol. 36: 3rd -- R, 4th -- R
Vol. 37: 1st -- R, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- HM, 4th -- SHM
Vol. 38: 1st -- HM, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- HM, 4th -- HM
Vol. 39: 1st -- SHM, 2nd -- RWC, 3rd -- RWC, 4th -- HM
Vol. 40: 1st -- HM, 2nd -- R, 3rd -- RWC, 4th -- R
Vol. 41: 1st - R, 2nd -- pending, 3rd -- pending

"Never give up! Never surrender!" -- Galaxy Quest

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 5:56 am
(@morgan-broadhead)
Posts: 453
Gold Member
 

This is a great thread, and I'm glad Rob (DoctorJest) brought up this topic. I experience burnout frequently, and I often step away from writing for brief (or extended) respites to catch my breath and renew my energy. I've written about this extensively in posts on my website, but I have a couple thoughts I want to add for this discussion.

I would venture to guess that many of us writers — certainly not all, but at least a fair representation — are perfectionists. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to putting undue pressure on myself with submission deadlines, word count goals, consistency in my work, routing stories around on submissions, and making sure every tee is dotted and every eye is crossed. Wait. Or something. You know what I mean. We don't need someone standing behind us, lashing our scarred backs with wet noodles, because we do enough of that to ourselves.

We are also kings and queens of expecting way too much of our stories.
"This one's gonna win the contest!"
"Neil Clarke is gonna love this one!"
"Wait til Jody reads this!"
"Tor will give me a million dollar contract for this novel!"

Whoa! Easy! Slow down there, hoss! First, you gotta write the thing. Then you gotta finish it. Then you gotta rewrite it and whip it into the best shape you can, then you gotta submit it. After you submit it, guess what? It's 100% out of your control at that point. It's not your baby. You didn't just send it off to college. It ain't gonna drop by for unexpected visits on the holidays to catch up on old times. You wrote a story. That's it. It's nothing more than that. You gave it to someone else. Now it's their story, and they're allowed to do whatever they want with it.

We want to change the world with our stories, I get it. We want people to read our stories and have their minds blown. We want our stories to win us prizes and make us money and help us quit our day jobs and take us around the world on speaking tours and book tours and WorldCon panels. But they're just stories, three or four or five or six thousand words we strung together on paper and released into the wild like mice we trapped in our pantries. And it's a terribly unfair burden we place on ourselves and our stories, I think, to expect so much from them.

Lastly, it is about Einstein's theory of time-relativity. I cannot tell you how much time and energy I've wasted saying to myself, "Man, if only I had started writing back when I was a toddler." I wasn't born clutching an iPad in my fist (for which my mother is eternally grateful). I haven't been writing stories since the time I could read. I didn't chase an MFA or study fiction writing in college. I was never a journalist. Like many, I came to writing late in life, after I already had a full-time job and a family and a mortgage and was responsible for putting food on the table and medicine in my kids' grimy little mouths. Writing is a priority, yes, but all that other stuff is a HIGHER priority, which is how it should be. Unless of course you're one of those writers who's into angst and depression and alcohol and divorce and enjoys starvation and living in a van down by the river. But I'm one of those weird people who believes that pursuing a creative life — whether that manifests as writing or music or dancing or art in all its many forms — is actually meant to be enjoyed. When all the stress builds to a point where it's not fun anymore, it's 100% healthy to step away and regroup until some semblance of balance is restored. Keep it light. Keep it fun. Keep it happy. Otherwise, what's the point?

Good discussion! Thanks!

"You can either sit here and write, or you can sit here and do nothing. But you can’t sit here and do anything else."
— Neil Gaiman, Masterclass

Drop me a line at https://morganbroadhead.com
SFx1
HMx4
R/RWCx5

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 7:10 am
atkirk, DoctorJest, TimE and 1 people reacted
crlisle
(@crlisle)
Posts: 412
Gold Member
 

Here's an interesting Ted Talk by the author of "Eat, Pray, Love", Elizabeth Gilbert, about the fear of failure after succeeding. It might help put things in perspective. Many creatives suffer from this. Writers, comedians, artists, singers, and so on. I watch it every so often to help me stay on track as to what my ultimate goals are. Because success isn't the end.

Success, failure and the drive to keep creating | Elizabeth Gilbert - YouTube

Vol. 36: 3rd -- R, 4th -- R
Vol. 37: 1st -- R, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- HM, 4th -- SHM
Vol. 38: 1st -- HM, 2nd -- HM, 3rd -- HM, 4th -- HM
Vol. 39: 1st -- SHM, 2nd -- RWC, 3rd -- RWC, 4th -- HM
Vol. 40: 1st -- HM, 2nd -- R, 3rd -- RWC, 4th -- R
Vol. 41: 1st - R, 2nd -- pending, 3rd -- pending

"Never give up! Never surrender!" -- Galaxy Quest

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 8:10 am
DoctorJest and TimE reacted
Todd Jones
(@toddjones)
Posts: 544
Gold Star Member
 

Posted by: @crlisle

@time the next time Kary @karyenglish does a live slush read, submit 450 words for her to look over and comment on. I've found her comments to be very eye opening. It's usually at FyreCon which should be coming up soon. It's also anonymous so no one knows who submitted. It is online. "The Slush is Alive."

That's a great idea, thank for sharing.  I love learning new things every day.  Smile

 

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."~ Henry Ford
2024 - V41 - Q1-RWC (Resubmit of "HM"), Q2-Submitted, Q3-WIP, Q4-?
2023 - V40 - Q1-HM, Q2-HM, Q3-R, Q4-HM
2022 - V39 - Q1-SHM, Q2-HM, Q3-SF, Q4-HM (Resubmit of "HM")
2021 - V38 - Q4-HM (Resubmit of "R")
2020 - V37 - Q2-R

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 8:59 am
crlisle reacted
Todd Jones
(@toddjones)
Posts: 544
Gold Star Member
 

@morgan-broadhead - Well said (typed).

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right."~ Henry Ford
2024 - V41 - Q1-RWC (Resubmit of "HM"), Q2-Submitted, Q3-WIP, Q4-?
2023 - V40 - Q1-HM, Q2-HM, Q3-R, Q4-HM
2022 - V39 - Q1-SHM, Q2-HM, Q3-SF, Q4-HM (Resubmit of "HM")
2021 - V38 - Q4-HM (Resubmit of "R")
2020 - V37 - Q2-R

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 9:01 am
DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
Posts: 837
Platinum Member
Topic starter
 

Posted by: @undreamedages
I don't have writer's block. I don't even think it's a real thing to be honest. I have tons of ideas, more ideas they I can write down.

I can relate to this when it comes to writer's block for new stories, as I've never really been short of ideas per se, and I rarely struggle with starting. But the kind of writer's block I struggle with more often is when I reach a point in a story I'm working on where something needs to happen, especially at a story pivot point, and for all my ideas, none of them is the right oneA new story would be no problem, but that particular story is blocked.

(This is different to the "this story is just bad" thing, where I just throw the whole thing out because I feel like there's no saving it. I keep track of the ideas for those, though, in case they're useful for another story later on.) 

One thing I picked up from an old teach-yourself-writing book, years back, was to just sit back and brainstorm. Write down everything that could happen, no matter how ridiculous or outlandish. Write down five ideas, look at them, and see if any of them feels organic to the story. If they do, great, you can proceed with that, you are unblocked! And if not, just brainstorm and write down another five. The key is, none of them needs to be the right idea, or even a good idea, they just need to be a possibility. Aliens abduct the lead character? Write it down! Horse charges in from a nearby field for no reason? Write it!

It seems like you should just get trash from this exercise, really, but I've found it helps me clear through those blocks surprisingly well. Sometimes the trash ideas spark better ones. Sometimes, one of these random ideas just actually fits, even though you didn't think it would. And usually, what comes out of it is something I'd never considered before at all.

 

 

DQ:0 / R:0 / RWC:0 / HM:15 / SHM:7 / SF:1 / F:1
Published prior WotF entries: PodCastle, HFQ, Abyss & Apex
Currently on a writing hiatus

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 11:12 am
atkirk reacted
Gideon Smith
(@gideonpsmith)
Posts: 244
Silver Star Member
 

Posted by: @morgan-broadhead

We don't need someone standing behind us, lashing our scarred backs with wet noodles, because we do enough of that to ourselves.

We are also kings and queens of expecting way too much of our stories.
"This one's gonna win the contest!"
"Neil Clarke is gonna love this one!"
"Wait til Jody reads this!"
"Tor will give me a million dollar contract for this novel!"

Whoa! Easy! Slow down there, hoss! First, you gotta write the thing.

 

Though I do think this is a double edged sword of self-belief/self-deception. Self-belief can keep us going - writing the Q4 entry for instance having just got a RWC on the Q3 for example. Sending out another query letter after 6 months of 'no's, or even worse, silence.

 

The self-deception is whats harmful - not that we aren't writing something great, but we forget its not in a vacuum. When, maybe not *everyone*, but literally hundreds of others are *also* writing something great, we forget that fact and only really knowing how we feel about our own piece we set ourselves up for disappointment. And if we are disappointed, we forget that it doesn't mean it was bad. Just that others did really well. 

 

I may be rambling...lol

 

I just know that part of me *needs* to believe my stuff is good to continue writing, but if I don't keep in mind a 'no' doesn't mean I was wrong, just that there are other people that can write something better for that market right now, it can be damaging, and that's for me at least the hardest balance to keep

 

"...your motivations for wanting to write are probably complex. You may have a few great passions, you may want to be rich and famous, and you may need therapy."
- Dave Farland, Million Dollar Outlines

Writers of the Future:
2024 Q1: F Q2: P Q3:WIP Q4: ?
2023 Q1: RWC Q2: SHM Q3: SHM Q4: R
2022 Q4: R
Submissions to other markets:
2024: 10 submitted 4 acceptances
2023: 74 submitted 13 acceptances
2022: 22 submitted 1 acceptance

http://www.gideonpsmith.com

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 2:57 pm
Gideon Smith
(@gideonpsmith)
Posts: 244
Silver Star Member
 

Posted by: @doctorjest

Posted by: @undreamedages
I don't have writer's block. I don't even think it's a real thing to be honest. I have tons of ideas, more ideas they I can write down.

 

One thing I picked up from an old teach-yourself-writing book, years back, was to just sit back and brainstorm. Write down everything that could happen, no matter how ridiculous or outlandish.

 

 

I also think part of it is just the physical act of writing (/typing). Even if I don't write outlandish things, even if I just go with the first wrong thing I thought of, the very act of creating seems to activate the right pathways in my brain and I tend to find a better solution while creating what I know to be the wrong one. 

 

"...your motivations for wanting to write are probably complex. You may have a few great passions, you may want to be rich and famous, and you may need therapy."
- Dave Farland, Million Dollar Outlines

Writers of the Future:
2024 Q1: F Q2: P Q3:WIP Q4: ?
2023 Q1: RWC Q2: SHM Q3: SHM Q4: R
2022 Q4: R
Submissions to other markets:
2024: 10 submitted 4 acceptances
2023: 74 submitted 13 acceptances
2022: 22 submitted 1 acceptance

http://www.gideonpsmith.com

 
Posted : September 14, 2023 3:00 pm
storysinger reacted
Share: