Writing fiction is a passion for most authors, who come from all sorts of career fields and backgrounds. At the same time, it’s definitely work, too, to see a story through from start to finish. While there’s plenty to be said for work-life-writing balance in general and also sticking to deadlines when writing full-time and juggling other responsibilities, this article will focus specifically on how to avoid writing burnout when your other work involves writing and/or editing as well. For example, you might be a copywriter or marketer at a corporation or a non-profit or produce content for an online periodical. You might work as a freelance developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader for other authors. When much of your work day is already devoted to the written word, it can be more difficult to view your own writing and revising as an escape, a relief from your other obligations.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with your writing and editing work for clients or employer, but if you don’t treat your own work as necessary, it’s the first thing to get cut when you’re scrambling to meet other deadlines. Most work days, you should devote at least an hour to your current novel, whether that’s plotting, drafting, revising, or marketing. (However, don’t force yourself to work every day of the week if possible.) Block it out on the schedule, even if you have another deadline looming.
Find the most productive part of the day for you to focus on your fiction. For many, that’s the first hour they devote to work in the day, shortly after waking up. For others, it’s during a lunch break or an hour before bed. Don’t schedule your fiction-writing hour right after working on other writing or editing. Make sure you recharge yourself. (See next section.) If fiction writing a full hour per work day seems to be too much, start with just half an hour. The key is not to overwhelm yourself.
With deadlines looming, it can be tempting to stay up late, get up early, and forgo every other activity in order to get all the writing and editing done. In that frame of mind, you’re not only not at your best creatively, but you definitely won’t feel like fiction writing is the escape it needs to be for you to enjoy yourself and work productively during what limited time you may have during the day to work on it.
Sleep as well as you can. If the stress of everything else you have to work on or your schedule precludes you from working on fiction writing first thing after you get up—when your mind is refreshed and better able to focus—try scheduling it after you take a break from your work writing and editing. Eat a meal. Go for a walk. Do a twenty-minute workout routine at home. Do something that pulls your focus away from writing and editing entirely, preferably something that gives you more energy and gets the blood flowing, like exercise and healthy snacking. When you allow yourself this break even when you’re dealing with deadlines, you’re actually likely to be more productive and to get more work done when you sit down to do it.
For those who write or edit for a living in an office, this may be easier, but in general, separating your work station from your fiction-writing nook may boost your productivity and help you avoid writing burnout. Those who work at home may be tempted to do client/employer work and fiction writing at the same desk or in same area of the home. However, this may train your brain to blend all of this work together, making it more difficult to find the creative energy you need to jump into your own fictional worlds. Keep your client and employer work to your desk. For fiction writing, you might consider:
Fiction writing on a laptop, tablet or phone with attached keyboard, or word processor can help you write “on the go,” away from the confines of an office desktop and chair. Writing on a Wi-Fi-free device like a word processor or resolutely sticking to a period of “no Internet” (there are apps to help with this) on your laptop or phone can also help train your brain to think of this place as your fiction writing center without distractions.
Some writers can’t—and don’t necessarily want to—escape writing and editing all day, even when not working on their own fiction. However, the non-stop writing work can lead to quick burnout and fiction writing getting pushed aside sometimes more often than working in another field entirely. Treat your own writing as a necessity, reenergize yourself between tasks, and retrain your brain to be at its most productive when it’s time to work on your fiction, and you’ll still be able to achieve your fiction writing goals.
by: Amy McNulty
Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance under a variety of author names. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not reviewing anime professionally or editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.