How to Avoid Writer's Burn Out This Season

Monday, October 31, 2022

In an age where the push for side hustle turned into a no-hustle movement, which then morphed into this necessity to take on more work to make ends meet despite what "movement" is happening, it seems impossible to balance things.

As a writer, I struggle with saying no to projects and freelance opportunities. However, I know I need to remember: everyone has a stress limit. The last thing you want to experience is burnout. 

So, as we embark on another NaNoWriMo, and a push to meet our yearly goals by the end of the year, alongside the financial stress that comes with the holiday season, I thought I'd share a few ways for you to avoid burnout:

  • Put off accepting new projects.
As someone who finds it very hard to accept new projects, try and say no anyways. For example, a few weeks ago, someone wanted me to contribute a chapter to a writing advice book on marketing. As tempting as it was to contribute, I had to say no. The biggest reason? It wasn't a paying opportunity. 

If it doesn't feel right to say no to something, take a look at what's on your plate. Does anything you are working on have a deadline that will end soon? If so, tell whoever offered you the opportunity you don't want to decline if you can check in with them at a later time when things are quieter. I did that recently and got a positive response. It's not saying no, but it's not saying yes right now. That helped my stress levels a lot.

  • Push out deadlines.
If at all possible, delay your deadlines. This isn't always possible without putting a job at risk, but where deadlines are flexible, ask for them. Especially if you are already nearing your overwhelmed point.

I've done this recently for a writing job since the editor had mentioned I can let her know if my deadline needs an extension. And I'm glad I did.

  • Take regular mental breaks.
The best thing you do for your stress levels is to take regular breaks. No one can work nonstop without a break, so don't expect that of yourself. Whether you discipline yourself to end your workday at a certain time, play a mobile game for a few minutes between projects, read a book you love, journal, listen to music, or whatever it is, let your mind play for a while. 

  • Break things up into manageable chunks.
This is one of the ways I'm able to successfully handle doing a lot of tours at once alongside doing other writing jobs (and balancing a full-time day job). I break things up into easy-to-manage chunks. Those are small tasks, easy for me to conquer in one sitting. Do that for your projects too. 

  • Ask for help.
It's not always easy to speak up when you need help, but it's important. Let those around you know when you are feeling really stressed. If someone can't help you with your workload (or you don't have the budget to hire for help), get help with other aspects of your life like grocery shopping, laundry, etc. 

It's surprisingly easy to lose sight of your stress limit and hit burnout. So, make sure you know your own signs of feeling overwhelmed too. For me, it's hitting a wall of not being able to focus on work alongside feeling really emotional.  For you, it may be another sign. Stay in touch with yourself and don't be afraid to limit what you are able to take on.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. When she's not hunting down the right word, she's talking to God, reviewing books on her writing blog, watching movies, hanging out with family, and daydreaming. Her work has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, WOW! Women on Writing, The Voices Project, and Sky Island Journal. Read her musings at


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great tips, Nicole! Perfect timing with NaNo kicking off tomorrow. We have a similar work ethic and I hate turning down paying work because as a freelancer, I'm never sure when work will slow down. But I've come to recognize when I'm heading towards burnout, and it's usually if I start to stress out when one extra thing is placed on my schedule. Right now I'm okay though. TG! I like your tip of asking for help and would love to see your schedule some day. I also create blocks of time for various projects.

Renee Roberson said...

As someone who experienced burnout recently, which resulted in me walking away from my full-time contract gig, I concur! It took me way too long to address it, mostly because I always worry about where the money's going to come from like you mentioned it. But as my husband said me the other day, "Finding work isn't your problem. Balancing it is." I'm glad you are developing tools to protect your time and mental health. It's so important.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

YES! Such good advice.

Learning to say no and stand firm has been an important lesson. Of course, not everyone is super happy when you learn it. Am currently dealing with someone who thinks that getting pushy is the answer.

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