Writing Burnout. Are you treating your characters like co-workers?

is writing a job

I’m tired.

Not chronically tired like some folks I know are. Be that from having a new baby, taking care of someone who needs more help on a daily basis than normal, having a chronic illness and dealing with the pain. I mean, not like that kind of tired. That’s bone-crushing physical AND mental exhaustion.

Maybe I do feel more tired than someone who doesn’t deal with carpal tunnel on a daily basis. Yes, I had surgery on my left arm, but that didn’t take away 100% of the pain in that arm, and I do have some pain in my right arm, too. I don’t know if I’ll ever have surgery on my right arm . . . the pain was never as bad as my left, and surgery on my left arm/hand did bring my pain down from almost crying every day to a low level of discomfort that can come and go depending on how much typing I do that day. (Spoiler alert: that’s usually a lot whether I’m hurting or not.) So, to me, that was almost a 100% positive change. But I can still sleep funny and bring the pain in my back that’s connected to the nerves in my elbow roaring to life, and well, all I can do is hope I sleep better the next night.

I do realize how lucky I am because some of my friends deal with fibromyalgia, endometriosis, even cancer. Some people I know are just plain tired, and their doctors can’t find a reason for it. (And I won’t go into depression. I know that’s a different kind of struggle, and one, thankfully, I don’t have.)

But there’s a different kind of tired, that may or not be tied in with how my arms feel on a daily basis.

There’s a tired I feel from writing. I write a lot because I enjoy it. I really, really do. Anyone who is a writer who puts out consistent content enjoys it. We would have to, or we’d all be crazy in a matter of months.

I treat writing like my job, or I wouldn’t get anything done, no matter how much I enjoy it. I shoot for weekly word counts, I give myself soft deadlines I usually meet just because I like the characters I’m working with, and it doesn’t bother me to treat them like the co-workers they are.

But like any job, there comes a time when you get tired. There are one too many rude customers at the retail place where you work. If you work in a call center, maybe there is just one incident too many where someone tells you to “fuck off.” Sick of office politics, mind-numbing meetings that don’t go anywhere. Overbearing bosses who won’t leave you alone to do your job. And most of the time you can’t quit your job. It pays the electricity, pays for the food on the table, pays for the roof over your head. It pays for the laptop you use for your second job, the editing, the formatting, the cover design for the other job that you hope will maybe someday replace the first.

But in all honesty, is that second job any better?

Finding a publishing team, finding a street team, a review team, finding readers. Finding a typo in a manuscript you’ve read a gazillion times. Blah.

This isn’t a blog post turned pity-party.

But it is a blog post exploring how you can keep things fresh.

  1. Get some sleep. Let’s face it. I’m tired because a lot of the time I don’t sleep well. Our apartment doesn’t have central air, so it’s too hot, it’s too cold. It’s stuffy, and I can’t breathe. It’s always something. I have three cats, so they’re no help, either. This morning at 6:45am Pumpkin woke me up gacking up a hairball. Of course I had to get up and clean it, or the next time I got out of bed I knew I would step in it. Luckily I was able to fall back asleep (today was my day off my first job) but as anyone can attest, broken sleep doesn’t feel like any sleep. I need to go to bed earlier. That almost always helps. I just have to be a grownup and remember that just because I can stay up until midnight every night doesn’t mean I should.
    Case in point: Last night I stayed up to do this cover for Millie. I like doing covers, but probably I should have gone to bed. 🙂
    More than sisters. They're friends.
  2. Eat better. It’s easy to get caught up in the junk food thing us writers can have going on. A bag of chips while we type away? Sure. A fast food meal to give us more time to write when we get home from our first jobs? Yeah. And that goes for water, too. Put the wine and bourbon away and grab a big glass of water. The joints in your hands will thank you.
  3. Find your fun. Writing is work, no matter if you enjoy it. Designing book covers is fun, but you’re still using your creative side to make it look appealing. Blogging is fun too, but you’re still putting down ideas, and if you struggle with carpal tunnel, then it can become painful real quick. And pain can take an emotional toll. What else can you do for fun that doesn’t include writing and publishing in some capacity? Go to the pool with your kids? Go to a movie? I have movie night with my sister at least twice a month. Grab a bowl of ice cream and find the silliest thing on Netflix. Do this on a regular basis. Maybe not the ice cream part. Fruit. Fruit and Greek yogurt. And the movie. 🙂
  4. Take a break. Probably the main reason I don’t take a real break from writing is because I seriously might not ever pick it back up again. Not writing would create a hole in my life, that’s for sure. Before I wrote all the time, I ran. (I completed a half marathon in 2015.) So what would I do for that 10-15 hours a week I didn’t write? Maybe I would go back to school. Maybe I would dump my first job and get a different first job that would require more time and energy. Maybe I would stop writing, but still edit for others. I don’t know. I DO know that I don’t have to be so hardcore all the time. What if I wrote for 5 hours a week instead of 10 or 15? What if I put out one book a year instead of three? I promised myself after this quartet is published I will take a real break. A real fiction break, anyway. I have a non-fiction editing book that I want to try my hand at writing. If I can make a good go of it, it could turn into a good writing resource for other authors, and a different stream of income for me. Or maybe I’ll beta read for someone. Maybe I won’t do anything but binge Game of Thrones from beginning to end.
  5. Find your friends. Writers are notorious for being introverts. We like spending time alone. We hate the phone. But us writers are human, and we need the human contact. We need people, even if that’s in small doses. Don’t turn down the wedding you were invited to. Call up a friend and invite her to brunch. I just got invited to a writing group meeting at the end of the month. They are romance writers in my area. I would be silly to say no. So I didn’t. Some things are hard to do, and if you think it will take more energy than you are trying to save by forcing yourself to go, then don’t. Anxiety is a real thing. But you need people around you. You can die of loneliness.
  6. Improve other areas of your life. (Meaning, if you can, get rid of the aspects of your life that make you unhappy.) I got chubby after I quit running. There’s no denying health quotemy metabolism is so low its having tea in hell with the devil. I’d feel better if I lost some weight. That would probably help with my physical tiredness. I would probably sleep better. I felt great when I was running. I heard somewhere that humans, in this day and age, have no idea how GOOD the human body is designed to feel. America is rampant with overweight people, and unfortunately, that has become me, too. Could I put running/walking into my daily schedule? Sure. Would I write less, yeah. Well . . . anytime you feel better physically, you feel better emotionally, and you do better in all aspects of your life. So maybe, maybe, I wouldn’t write less. But even if I did, I would figure better physical health would be a good trade-off, and you would, too.

The fact is, writing can burn you out if you’re not careful. And I love writing too much to let myself burn out. I take writing seriously, maybe too seriously.Burn out

Even when I’m taking a break, I’m “working.” Listening to a podcast, reading a non-fiction book. Reading a writing magazine or a lit mag. It’s crazy how totally I have immersed myself in this writing business.

I need to lighten up, because I want to be in this for a long time.

How do you keep writing fun?


Joanna Penn has a great blog post on burnout, and is the author of the Healthy Writer.

To purchase Joanna’s book, look here.


My books are no longer wide. Please bear with me as I make changes to my publishing schedule and platforms. In the meantime, by books are available on Amazon (though not yet in KU as it take time for books to be unpublished various places) and you can give my Amazon profile a follow for updates on new releases. 🙂 Thank you!