• J. Woken

3 Keys to Avoiding Writer Burnout

Writing gets boring. Trust me. It takes some creativity to keep from going crazy and giving it all up for a job that promises more "fun" and regular paychecks.

But writers aren't the only ones who suffer burnout! In response to a discussion started by a member of The Freelance Writers Team (on LinkedIn), I made the following comment. The tips are applicable to any job, not just writers, so I encourage anyone and everyone to take heed... and avoid BURNOUT!

"Burnout in writing is just like burnout in any other full-time vocation. To ask "How do you deal with writing burnout?" is likely to get the same result as asking a Human Resources Rep, "How do you prevent employee burnout?" The answer? A simple mix of three components: taking breaks, variation, and time off.

Taking Breaks

There are good reasons behind regulated break systems. When I was an HR Rep in California, the rules were easy: a 15-minute break every two hours, a 30-minute lunch every four. Although there is something to be said for that super-dedicated employee who puts their nose to the grindstone and stares work in the face until they pass out from exhaustion or starvation, getting away from the work area every once in a while is actually healthy. For desk jobs (like ours), constant sitting is a real-life vocational danger: just type in "why sitting is dangerous" into Google Search and you'll see results which will make you want to go all Deeks from "NCIS" and get a Walking Workstation.

It's easy for writers to get stuck at their desks and type, type, type away like happy little chickens and loose track of time. For me, its not uncommon for hours to go by and - lo and behold! - I haven't moved at all from my chair! But, I do my best to try to get up every once in a while: to play with the cat, to get a snack, to refill my water/coffee cup, to put the mail out, to pace the room as I make a call, or to do a quick chore that gets me moving (like vacuuming or dishes).


Nobody wants to eat the same thing every day. Though its possible to survive on the same food for an extended time frame (think prisoners' porridge, seamen's gruel, or even 40 years of Heavenly Manna), nobody likes it. Even the blessed Israelites griped for something different (Numbers 11:4-35).

In work, its good practice to vary the type of tasks to keep the brain interested and engaged, lest the employee face unhappy days, unfulfillment in the workplace, depression, and, eventually, total burnout.

Time Off

Let's be honest: sometimes taking short breaks and varying the work just won't cut it. What you have on your hands is a straight-up "I need to get away from here" situation. Though we Americans sometimes see ourselves as lazy good-for-nothings, we may be selling ourselves short: Americans are 7th on the "hardest working people on the planet" list (just behind Mexicans, Chileans, Koreans, Estonians, Russians, and Poles, according to

Try These

For Breaks: Set a timer at 30 minutes. When it goes off, get up, stretch, make a call, do a five-minute spout of yoga, whatever you need to do... then get back to work! You'll be surprised how much your body (and brain) will thank you for the little time away from the keyboard.

For Variation: Writing isn't exactly a varied kind of work. There are really only two options: pen and paper, or at a keyboard. But, what we CAN change is our environment. Take your work to a library, coffee shop, or park. Not only will your senses be delighted at the different surroundings, but you may also find some inspiration in the sights, smells, sounds, and people you experience while there.

For Time Off: This one is easy: take time off! Step away from the computer, get out, and have some fun, whether for a day or a full week you need time to refresh and recharge. Have fun: spa day, camp out, cruise, whatever you need to STOP WORKING. That's right: while you're out you're not to do ANY writing. The whole purpose of the vacation is to vacate your work, not just your workplace. Is reading allowed? Sure! Grab that novel you've been eyeballing and have at it with a thirsty, well-earned vengeance.

#HappyWriting (or whatever it is you do)!

This article originally published December 9, 2013.