It is most every writer’s dream to be a published author – not just published but being able to make a living off our craft.
We would love for nothing more than to fill our days drinking coffee, dreaming, writing. It sounds idyllic. Down to the horn-rimmed glasses, and the chunky sweater.
So, how do you get there? You write. You write like your life depends on it. Until your fingers are bloody little nubs, and your eyes are as dry as sandpaper from staring at your own words. You write until it consumes you, devouring you whole leaving you sat in the belly of your own creation.
And then it becomes a slog. Where the words come slower and the mind turns off. You’re left with whispers filling up the cavernous belly that is now your home. “You’ll never get this done”, “this is all garbage”, “you’ll never publish.”
Before you know it, that manuscript you’ve been slaving over is set aside. Abandoned. After all, you only narrowly managed to avoid becoming a permanent fixture in the beast’s belly. Maybe you’ll come back to it later. Maybe.
It’s a cycle.
One I’ve seen repeated, not just by myself, but nearly every author friend I know. To become totally, utterly consumed with a book, only to be chewed up and spit back out again. I can’t even tell you how many books I’ve started and never finished! And I am, by far, not the only one.
So how do you break it?
It’s simple really.
Write. For fun.
I know, I know. That sounds insane. We were just talking about burn-out, and if you’re already working on writing a book, why would you divvy up your time when you could be working on your manuscript?
Hear me out.
You fell in love with writing for a reason.
The moment you start making it your job is the moment you fall out of love. Nothing, regardless of what it is, is going to be sustainable if you learn to resent it. If it feels like an obligation instead of a joy, you’re already losing the battle.
It can help you re-find your inspiration.
Taking a step back and writing something non-book-related might be exactly what the doctor ordered to keep your creativity alive and well. Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of it, it can feel like you’re slogging through the words. Your brain is struggling to put together two cohesive sentences, and all you’re left with is a pile of uninspired drivel. Taking a nice little scenic journey through another world can give you the kick in the rump you need to find your inspiration.
It can help you better understand your characters!
Let’s say you’ve found a few prompts that you find exciting, but couldn’t feasibly put them anywhere in your book – you can use these prompts to better explore your characters and their motivations. I, personally, play the ‘what if’ game a lot to help me get a better grip on the character’s voice. Besides, there are some ridiculous situations I’d love to see all of my characters plopped into that I cannot justify.
It can provide clarity.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I get on a roll and everything is going great until I realize I have no idea where I want the story to go. I have to force myself to take a step back and write something else until the answer comes to me. And it usually comes when I’m writing something completely unrelated, and just allow my mind to wander. The more we focus on something sometimes, the more likely it is to blur.
It can be content for your book.
Struggling to come up with something fun to write that isn’t the world you’ve built or the story you’ve been slaving over? Fine, I get it. I give you permission to go ahead and write that scene that you’re incredibly excited to write. Go on! Do it! Enjoy it!
We, as creatives, have the awful tendency of living inside our heads and focusing far, far too much or far, far too little (if you couldn’t tell, this is for my hyper-focusing friends out there). Allow yourself to remember why writing became your passion. Allow yourself to remember why it was fun in the first place.
If you’re starting to feel burnt out, do yourself a favor and step away from it for a bit. Your words will still be there when you get back. But hopefully, when you do, your heart will be in it again.
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