Writing is an intense creative process that can take an immense amount of mental energy. It is impossible to be passive when your mind is actively creating worlds and people and situations. And that can be incredibly tiring. As we write more and more often, it becomes easier for us to sit and extend our writing time, but we all eventually reach that limit where our brains are just too tired to write another word. And normally, that doesn’t present an issue.
But what about when other things in your life are draining your mental energy? When you can barely stand the thought of adding even one word to your manuscript?
Previously, I’ve discussed the difficulties of writing when life is crazy or when you are experiencing some sort of health problems, and today I want to revisit that just a bit with a related topic: writing when you feel drained.
You see, the last few weeks have been kind of hectic at work; we have had a huge project generating mountains of data every day, and I had the herculean task of compiling, organizing, and arranging all of that data. And it’s been constantly changing, requiring me to go back and change all the previously generated analyses. This has led to three weeks of constant data processing for the entire workday, and it has left my brain feeling fried.
And I’m sure I’m not alone. How many other writers are out there with their day jobs sucking away their creative minds? How many other writers toil the day away at work or even at home and feel too tired to work on writing by the end of it? The truth is simple: nearly everyone will experience this at one time or another.
So what can we do when we feel drained? How do we keep ourselves motivated without burning out? I have a few tips (and these might sound familiar).
- Give yourself a break. I know, counterintuitive, right? But when we are tired and our creative well is low, we don’t need to be beating ourselves up for not being productive. We need to cut ourselves some slack, understand that it’s okay to take a break, and be kind to ourselves. And if that means not writing for a few days or even weeks, then so be it. You cannot fill from an empty cup.
- Take time to recharge. When things are busy and difficult during the day, it can be hard to sit down and write when we actually have the time. So when you can’t write, make sure you are doing things that will refill that creative well, things that will ease your burdened brain. Spend time with your family, go for walks, relax in front of the TV… do what you need to do in order to feel better. Your health and well-being always comes first!
- Set reasonable goals. Don’t forget about your writing schedule, even when you’re not writing. Make yourself a goal or two during the downtime. Maybe your goal is simply to scribble one sentence per day. Maybe it’s to brainstorm new ideas. Maybe it’s even to take a week off. Decide what will help you and your writing best, make it achievable, and follow through. Do what you can… but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. Make your writing habits work for you during this time, and don’t worry about making adjustments. Personally, my habits are always shifting, anyway.
- And finally, use your time to your advantage. You can recharge while still making your time productive and contributing to your writing. You can listen to podcasts or read or draw your characters. You can talk about the story to a friend. You can simply binge Netflix for “research.” One thing I find helps me when I’m tired is reading books, and this is a great way to keep up on things we should be doing as writers. Whatever you do, try to find at least one thing that will make you a better writer and add it into your recharge time. But make sure it fills that recharge requirement, too!
These are some tips I find helpful when I’m feeling creatively drained due to mentally taxing things going on in my life. One important thing to remember, though, is that you can’t take a break forever. Don’t wait around for things to slow down or life to improve… it may never happen. Make your writing happen instead in the midst of a hectic life. If the draining time is dragging on, it may be time to re-evaluate your daily and weekly writing goals. But when these bouts of feeling drained crop up in our normal lives, utilizing the tips above will help you to recharge, feel better about yourself and your writing, feel better in general, and get back to the things you love.
Take breaks when you need to. Take care of yourself. Cut yourself some slack. And remember this one final thought: you are still a writer, even when you aren’t writing. Taking a break doesn’t make you any less.
And when you’re feeling better, dive right back in.
Your turn: what tips do you have for when you’re feeling mentally drained? How do you approach your own writing at these times? Tell me in the comments!