What To Do When You are Burnt Out

Saturday, May 20, 2017
Writing is a solitary career--well, somewhat. The actual writing (not marketing or trying to get published) is between yourself and your writing instrument: pen and pad, fingers and keyboard, or voice and recorder. And sometimes we can get burnt out. Being burnt out is different than having writer's block. Burnt out refers to the fact that you still have ideas, but you aren't writing because you have no energy or desire to do so. I have found the cure for being "burnt out."

You must get yourself around other writers.

I'd been somewhat burnt out for a while. Part of it was just a busy life, but part of it was I had the ideas for a couple novels, parenting essays and my blog, but I wasn't making the time to write. Then I went to a writing conference. After one night, I was working on a novel I hadn't worked on since November!

Other writers make you want to write!

I know that it's not convenient or possible for every burnt out writer to go to a writing conference every time they feel this way. But besides a writing conference, here's how to find other writers--in real life. I'm not talking about a Facebook group. I'm talking about real, face-to-face contact with other writers for a period of time.

1. Go to your critique group

Sometimes, when we're burnt out, we tend to avoid our critique group because we have nothing to share. We haven't been writing, and so we are embarrassed, and we hide from the very people who want to help us become better writers. There's still tremendous value in going to your critique group and participating in critiques. It will usually inspire you to write; and at the very least, it keeps you in the game. It keeps you listening to other people's writing and discussing strengths and weaknesses.

2. Find a local writing group

In the St. Louis area, we have several chapters of national and state organizations that have regular meetings with speakers and other writers to encourage writers to continue in this sometimes lonely field. There are romance writers, St. Louis writers, children's writers, sci-fi writers, and more. Depending on how their parent organization works, some groups have inexpensive to no fees.

My point is you can attend these groups cheaply, and the rewards are invaluable. If you live in a rural area, I know it's harder. But contact a chapter nearest to you, and see what you can discover--maybe there are one or two writers that live near you and you can have your own small meetings. Remember the goal is face-to-face contact with writers in person on a regular basis.

3. Check out your library events

I've been preaching about this one a lot lately. But it is so true! Your local library will have authors in to speak. Some host writing events, especially during NaNoWriMo. They also are a good resource to discover if there are writing groups that meet there or other writers who are looking for a group.

Soon after the writing conference, my critique group was scheduled to meet. Being a single mom, I could not work it out to attend in person, so I was just going to skip it. But then I thought, doing Google Hangouts is better than nothing, so that's what I did. Even then, I was motivated and inspired to keep working on my projects. It's so true--writers need other writers--we understand each other on a different level. So if you are feeling burnt out, seek a writer you know or find a group and get re-inspired!

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, teacher, and mom living in St. Louis, MO. For more information about her books, please check out her website, where she also blogs about being a single mom and writer. You can also check out her novel writing course here in the WOW! classroom. 

Photo above is my critique group a few years ago at a writing retreat.


Murees Dupè said...

Feeling burnt out is the worst feeling. Like you said, I want to write but I just don't have the energy. What a great tip to hang out with fellow writers. I usually avoid them when I'm burnt out. But talking to fellow writers who understand could be helpful and comforting.

Sioux Roslawski said...


Can you change the location of your meeting place (like the library) so your daughter could join you, but at a different table/different part of the library? It's probably not possible, but it's an idea.

I agree. Surrounding ourselves with other writers helps nudge our writing along.

Margo Dill said...

I hope this solution works for you. I do think the passion of writing can be catching.

Sometimes she comes with me! :) This particular night she also had gymnastics and my parents weren't feeling well, etc. etc.

Sabrina A. Fish said...

Yes! This! I am the President of Oklahoma Writers Federation and have had other writers ask me, rather incredulously, "Doesn't that take away from your writing time?" Yes. Most definitely, BUT this gig isn't forever. The contacts I'm making and the motivation I'm getting from meeting/hanging out with so many other industry professionals is AMAZING!

Margo Dill said...

Before marriage and kids, I went to OWFI a few times. LOVE IT! :) And you are right, it is time consuming but great to be an officer in a large writing community such as OWFI. Congrats and glad you are getting so much motivation!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thanks for this, Margo! I've felt like I haven't had anything worthwhile to share right now, but you've reminded me it's not all about that. :)

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