Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Soirée - 4 ways to deal with exhaustion, frustration, block and burnout

Rules, schedules, routines and deadlines help to keep us focused on our writing, disciplined and motivated. But they can draw us into a swirling vortex and then spit us out exhausted and frustrated. Then when block and burnout come calling, we don't have the strength to send them packing. So they enter and our writing suffers.

I share strategies that help me to recharge not only my physical energies but my writing batteries as well.

Break it up

Yes, sometimes you just have to break up your writing time into segments for coffee, walking, thinking, laundry, dishes, sleeping and whatever activities make up your day.

When block comes knocking on your door with burnout at his side, it is time to stop and get a life apart from writing. Of course you’ll want to take care of any outstanding assignments. Finish the work with the shorter deadlines. Tidy your desk. Pile all loose paper in a folder and turn off the computer.

If a mental note along doesn't do it for you, print and post a sign above your desk that reads


I guarantee you’ll feel guilty for doing this. But consider the scenario if you fell gravely ill. You’d be forced to stop. Right? And probably not even have time to tidy your workspace before getting to bed, the doctor or the hospital.

You can decide if your need a few hours, a few days or a couple of weeks to recover from your feelings of overwhelm. Be honest with your diagnosis and generous with your solutions.

That’s not to say that during your time off you won’t write. Perish the thought! You’re a writer how could you not write? Instead of the focused, deadline-plagued and rule-based writing you will write for sheer pleasure and the love of the craft.

After the break you can return to whatever you were working on with a new perspective, mentally, physically and emotionally refreshed and as passionate as ever.

Mix it up

Just you mix up different pieces of clothing to create a new outfit to make you look and feel special, different and fresh, if the outline, the plot, the characters, the poem or article you’re working on don’t seem to be working, mix things up.

Shuffle the outline - try the last point nearer the middle and move an earlier point closer to the end.

Turn your personal essay into a how-to piece instead –give advice, inspire and motivate your readers.

Switch your characters’ roles - you could change them back later if you wish, but a switch now simply helps you to play with them, explore and experiment with your writing.

Spice it up

What do you do when the same old, same old chicken recipes no longer cut it? You don’t stop eating chicken, you spice it up. You add you own blend of spices to kick it up a notch or three.

Do the same when the topics that once burned passionately in your heart, begin to taste like rubber without salt and pepper. Spice up your writing by putting a negative spin on a positive topic, make it humorous, tell a story from someone else’s point of view, play devil’s advocate, etc.

Give it up

When the pressure is one and frustration builds, you might even consider giving up on writing altogether. Don't. Instead, give up listening to the annoying, lying inner critics and heed the voice in your heart that tells you that you will die if you don't write. Listen to favorable comments, constructive criticism and positive feedback you receive on your work. Let those voices override all others and write your heart out.

What frustrations are you feeling today - block, burnout, exhaustion...?If you remember Break, Mix, Spice and Give you just might have the antidote to deal with whatever is knocking at your door

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