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Monday, July 2, 2018

Writer's Block vs. Burnout

"Writers write! If you aren't writing, you must not be a real writer."

"The only cure for writer's block is butt-in-chair, hands-on-keyboard."

I understand the sentiment behind these statements. I really do. If you want writing to be your job, you have to treat it as a job. If you sit around waiting for inspiration to hit, you're going to be doing a lot of sitting and not much writing.

Writing is a creative pursuit, though. If your job is manning a cash register, it doesn't matter if you are inspired or not. If your job is to create worlds and characters and adventures, you can try to force it but that usually results in crap on the page that not even heavy editing can fix. Getting in the habit of channeling your inner muse is great advice. You can train yourself to be more receptive, to be in the habit of putting words down. That makes for a much more productive writer.

But sometimes it just isn't working.

If it's writer's block, that usually tells me that something is wrong with the story. Or I need to dig deeper into the characters. Or I need to re-read things. Or move to another project. Maybe it needs abandoned completely. But the desire to write is still there. It's just that particular story that isn't working for whatever reason.

Burnout is a totally different ball game.

If I push too hard for too long, if problems and crises suck all my energy, if stress and depression eat up everything I have and still want more, I have nothing left for writing.

Burnout means I need to curl up on the couch and nurse my inner muse. I need to feed it books and movies and tv shows. I need to give myself permission to just relax. I need to take a break. When the well is empty, you can't keep pulling up water. You need to give that well a chance to recover and fill up to overflowing again.

Sometimes I make the mistake of not giving myself enough time. A few days might work some times, but when the burnout is severe, it may be months or even years before I have enough to give those projects again.

I've put out very few new things the last few years. I've got some short stories out there, but the novels are taking too much focus and more creative juice than I've got. But I'm slowly regaining that desire to spin tales, to tell stories, to create new worlds and let my imagination loose.

And I still consider myself a REAL writer.

Please keep your memes and platitudes. If they inspire you and make you a better, more productive writer, good for you! But don't push them onto me. Don't judge me for my output or lack thereof. My journey is different from yours.

And at the end of the day, all that matters is that we're kind to each other and we support each other and that we celebrate the triumphs no matter how small. Some days, we cheer for finishing a novel. Others, we cheer because we got out of bed. Each day, we do the best we can and let go of the guilt if we don't do what we thought we should.

Plan for the future, learn from the past, but live in the present. Be kind to yourself and your muse.

And when the words start flowing again, chase that muse and write that story.

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