Has your writing recently hit a speedbump? Is your output suffering for some reason? Like, you’ve got ideas but ugh. The war to get them out of your brain and onto the page is exhausting. Just the thought makes you want to check Facebook. Maybe you even feel guilty about all the writing you’re NOT doing. But the question is: Are you getting lazy, or are you suffering from a full-blown case of writer burnout?
Both maladies require drastic, and very different, measures to fix. Don’t quite know which one is killing your writing time?
The One Key Difference Between Laziness and Burnout
If you’re burned out, you show up every day, and nothing comes out. If you’re lazy, you’ve talked yourself out of showing up at all.
Laziness and burnout are subtly different, but they both have an underlying cause.
If you’re lazy, that means something in your life is way, way out of balance. Your willpower is being used up somewhere else, and you’ve got nothing left for your creativity. My day job, which has a way of following me home and affecting my emotions (even my dreams!) at all hours of the day and night, sometimes gets to be too much for me to handle and still focus on the rest of my life. (It doesn’t help that writing is my day job—that usually just creates more negative writing associations.) Sometimes, I don’t even feel it happening, but I’ve gotten lazy. Blogging turns into a struggle, and all my works in progress wilt on the vine for a while.
If you’re burned out, you’ve become your own worst enemy. That’s not an indication of some kind of moral failing; it’s just a fact. You’re trying to drag something out of yourself that you’re not ready to give, expecting something that you don’t have the resources to produce, or overwhelming yourself with negative thoughts. Burnout comes when all of this gets to be too loud, and too much. Sitting down day after day and getting nothing but dribbles here and there is a sign that you have to jettison some sort of mental baggage, stat.
How to Fix It: Stop Punishing Yourself
Writers get into writing because they’ve got big dreams, big plans, and big bestseller lists they want to top. They want to share with the world, and when something is stopping you from writing, you feel all that grind to a halt. This puts tremendous pressure on your mood, on your brain, and on that special creative something that you harness to get your words just right.
The thing is, they all work better in the dark. If you start to shine a spotlight on your moods, your brain, your creativity, they shrink back away from your suddenly critical gaze. Instead, you should begin shining a spotlight on other areas of your life, because more often than not, that’s where the problems are really coming from. Think about it: Being a writer is your natural state. All else being equal, you’d be writing if you could. Right?
So, instead of trying to attack some facet of your writing habit, turn your focus outward. If you’re lazy, get critical with whatever’s holding your life out of balance. Deal with it. Let it go. Get it done. Tell it to bugger off. Your writing soul is too important, and you’re completely within your rights as a writing person to refuse to allow that thing that’s got your attention to keep dragging you where it wants, like a whiny toddler pulling on your pant leg.
Likewise, for you burned-out people—dumping the mental baggage is extremely painful, and it doesn’t all go at once. Like a plate with stuck-on pasta sauce, sometimes you’ve got to clean your mind of distractions and negativity once, twice, three times or more, to make it useful again. Remember, you’ve got every word you need to get done whatever needs to get done.