Fun Things You Can Do To Overcome Writer’s Burnout
Ways to step away from writing for a short break — while still being productive
“I just… don’t… wanna… anymore.”
Writer’s burnout is different from writer’s block. When you have writer’s block, either you can’t think of a topic to write about, or you have a topic but the right words won’t come to mind. When you have writer’s burnout,
- You have a topic you want to write about, and have the words, at least approximately; or
- You have a topic you want to research; or
- You have other things you want to do to polish up your writing, like practicing writing headlines, or reading the work of accomplished writers and taking notes on their style; but
… you’ve been going at it hard for hours and you just… don’t… wanna… anymore. You know what it’s like when you’ve lost the motivation — when you want to keep going, but at the same time, you really don’t want to keep going.
When that feeling hits you, it’s easy to flip on the television, binge on junk food, mix a drink, or engage in other behaviors that kill your productivity as a writer for the remainder of the day.
In this article, I will show you some ways to step away from writing for a few minutes. However, you may find that the activities you do to get over burnout end up benefiting your writing career.
Earn some easy cash to pay for your writing supplies
Sign up for the Microsoft Rewards program and spend 5 to 10 minutes a day doing easy tasks to earn points.
Once you’ve become a member for free and taken a couple of days to hit Level 2 membership, you can do Bing searches using the web/desktop interface (30 per day), on mobile (20 per day), and in the Microsoft Edge browser (4 per day) to earn Rewards points.
There are also other activities that get you points: searches of the day, polls, and quizzes. You get extra points for completing a certain number of days in a row, and once in a while Microsoft will reward you with bonus points for no reason at all.
Points can be redeemed for a number of different rewards, my favorites of which are $5 Walmart or Target gift cards. You’ll earn a $5 gift card every 18 to 20 days.
How does this tie into writing? For me, two ways:
- I like to use the gift cards to purchase writing supplies like notebooks and pens for my personal journals, which I often mine for professional writing topics
- I like to do Bing searches on possible future topics for stories
Take a “brain break” and learn interesting new facts
As someone with 15 years’ experience playing on trivia teams, I have learned that there are few better breaks for your brain than a round of trivia.
If you have topics you plan to write about, get on Google (or Bing, if you took my Microsoft Rewards advice) and search for “(your topic) trivia.” You may be astonished to find that trivia quizzes exist for just about any topic under the sun, and you may learn something you can use in your next story.
If you don’t have any topics in mind, there are plenty of general trivia quizzes on the web, and plenty of free trivia apps for your phone.
Fall down a rabbit hole of information
I like to surf Wikipedia when I get burned out from writing. This is one case where I don’t recommend searching for your writing topic; it’s not far enough removed from what burned you out. I like to start somewhere random and see where it takes me. Here are some of my favorite starting points:
This will take you to a list of events that happened on this date in history, with lots of interesting links to follow for each. For example, here is the October 11 page. In addition to historical events, you get
- A list of famous people born on that day
- A list of famous people who died that day
- Holidays and observances on that day
This gives you a list of important events that happened during the year, again with plenty of links to learn more. For example, here is the 1972 page. In addition to historical events, you get
- A list of famous people born that year
- A list of famous people who died that year
- Nobel Prize winners for that year
- Events that happened that year for which the exact date is unknown
Article of the day
The featured article of the day always appears in the upper left of the Wikipedia homepage. If the particular article isn’t your cup of tea, you can browse a list of past featured articles of the day by topic.
You can also request a random link from Wikipedia. Do this and you could find yourself reading about a tree frog in the South American rain forest one minute, then a punk band who headlined Milwaukee clubs in 1979 in the next.
It’s easy to fall too far down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia, visiting hyperlink after hyperlink without realizing hours have passed. If you use Wikipedia for your burnout break, you might want to set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to get back to work.
Fund your book-reading addiction
It just wouldn’t be an article about writing without the following advice, now, would it?
To become a better writer, read a lot!
Amazon Mechanical Turk is a place where you can get paid to perform Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) that have been outsourced by companies. These tasks usually take only a few minutes to complete. Looking at the current list of tasks, here are some examples of things you can do to earn a little pocket change:
- Take a survey
- Extract items from shipping receipts
- Rewrite how-to questions to make them more readable
Mechanical Turk can be set up to transfer earned funds to an Amazon account balance or a bank account on a schedule you specify. I like to send my funds to my Amazon account. Now and then my escapes from writer’s burnout earn me enough to buy a book!
Especially recommended for beginning writers
You won’t earn a fortune on Mechanical Turk, but you’ll earn something. That matters to beginning writers who may go days with only a few views and no payouts on the stories they’ve written. Between Mechanical Turk and Microsoft Rewards, it’s nice to know there’s something you can do, at any time, to earn a little cash every day.
Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference
If you’re burned out on writing, perhaps staying cooped up in the same place for too long is the problem. Change your location and you may well change your perspective. Grab your laptop, tablet, or phone and try one of these locations:
If you have access to a park with Wi-Fi or a restaurant patio, a bit of fresh air might be just what you need to jar an idea or two loose. Even without Wi-Fi, you can type your writing into a note, text file, or word processing document, then paste into the editor when you get reconnected.
Libraries are nice, quiet places to work and they nearly always have free Wi-Fi. Grab a window seat where you can look outside as you work.
If you have a list of topics you want to research, you couldn’t be in a better place! Between the available print resources and your online resources, you should be on your way to writing some dynamite new content.
A coffee shop
If you can handle the distractions of a more social, lively atmosphere, coffee shops make excellent temporary offices. Some coffee shops even host regular meetings of writers’ groups, which will allow you to network with other writers and get feedback on your drafts.
If you write at a coffee shop, be sure to buy one drink for every two hours you spend working there. If they serve food, consider buying breakfast or lunch to eat as you work. You want to be a good citizen and pay your “rent” for your table, your seat, and your Wi-Fi.
I love to go to bars to write between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. The lunch rush has ended, and happy hour hasn’t yet begun. Oftentimes you will have the place to yourself, or you’ll find only a handful of other people there. Conversations with bar patrons have led me to some of my best post topics ever.
What I like to do when I write at bars is take the first drink at regular speed, then slow-play the second drink. So, I might drink a 30–minute beer followed by a 90-minute beer. That keeps me focused enough to concentrate, but the slight buzz just might jar an idea loose.
One word of caution here: Bars are great places to sit for ideas and to put initial thoughts in a post. However, between the noise factor and the booze factor, I’m not sure I would recommend you make your final edits and click Publish there. Use your own judgment.
If you live in a country where tipping is customary, consider tipping a bit extra if you slow-play drinks while working. I like 25–30% as a general rule.
There are a number of things you can do to step away from writing for a short while. These activities allow you to avoid writer’s burnout and get back to writing fairly quickly, while still being productive in some sense during your break. These include
- Money-making activities such as Microsoft Rewards or Amazon Mechanical Turk; money made can then be funneled back into reading and writing expenses
- Websites that not only relax you, but possibly lead you to ideas, including trivia websites, trivia apps, and Wikipedia
- A change of scenery: go outside, go to the library, go to a coffee shop, go to a bar
Happy reading! You can sign up for my mailing list if you’d like to read more from me. Here’s another story that may help with your writing endeavors: