There are days when it feels as though the only other person on this planet who could possibly understand the pressure associated with maintaining enough stamina to produce not only original, but meaningful work out of a few disparate images floating around the fog of one’s subconscious over and over and over again is another writer. Sometimes the weight of it all takes more of toll than one imagines.
How can one protect him/herself from burning out? Well, here’s a little advice from one writer to another:
Writing is a marriage or long-term relationship not a one-night stand. Relationships require time, commitment, the ability to listen to one’s partner without judgement. The same can be said for writing, don’t you think? Writing is a process. There will be good days when everything feels born of genius. And then there will be days that make you feel as though you’re fourteen again standing in the front of Mrs. Stoller’s English class, your cheeks turning from blush to crimson to despair as you stumble through diagramming a simple compound-complex sentence on the chalkboard. Everything evens out over time if you keep at it. Trust me.
Stop caring about what other think. I’ll be honest, this one catches me every time. If you’re anything like me, an innate people-pleaser, you already know how difficult it is not to let the opinions of others affect your work. Some people will absolutely hate what you have to say. Others will fall in love with you. At the end of the day neither matters. The greater gift is that you’ve dared to contribute your unique voice to this experiment we call humanity. Nobody else can do that quite like you can.
Unplug. Taking a break from the internet and/or social media can be regenerative. It’s crazy how dependent we’ve become as a society. Do we really need to check our Twitter feeds every half hour? Do we really need the drama, the play-by-play? Take a breather. Clear your head. You’ll be better for it.
Have something else in your life besides writing. Give yourself permission to live life. Bake bread. Plant a garden. Take a pottery class. Train for a half-marathon. Visit a friend in the nursing home. Play with your dog. Join a band. All these experiences eventually make their way back to the writing.
Read something beautiful every day. I have a practice of reading either a poem or a microfiction piece before I start writing each day. It reminds me what a privilege it is to be part of this lineage that chooses beauty and meaning over the superficial. What a difference words make in this world.
Take care of your body/mind/spirit. Eat right. Exercise. Meditate. Get your ZZZs. This is just good life advice, friends.
Spend time with a child. Play with your kids. Take your nephew or niece out for ice cream. Volunteer at your local school or Boys & Girls’ Club. There’s so much we can teach our children as well as learn from them. We need one another. Children are beautiful reminders of what it’s like to view the world through curious eyes.
Find a community. It’s often said writing is a solitary act. However, reaching out to other writers whether via a workshop, writing group, or forum not only provides an educational outlet but also a support network of writers who’ve walked along the same path. I don’t know what I’d do without my writing friends. We really are in this together.
Once in a while walk away. Don’t be afraid to take a break every now and then–be it a day, a week, a month. Regroup. Refill the well. It’ll still be here when you get back. Promise.
Remember why you fell in love with writing in the first place. Write out of passion. There’s no other way.