Is there anything harder than trying to push through that mental fog?
The second you stop feeling excited to create—be it art, writing, etc.—there’s a problem. I don’t think anyone can deny this—unless you’re like me, insisting that you just have to “push through” and “get this part done” and “make it to Saturday.” But the reality is that art requires a few things:
In my case, that art is writing, and for other writers, I'm here to say: no one is making you be a writer (or any other type of creative). Even if you're creative as a career, no one is forcing you to choose this career path. It’s certainly not an easy one, no matter what anyone thinks—and the passion fatigue and burnout that can come with it are so very real. I don’t doubt many creatives struggle with it: the need to write, sing, paint, finish our projects, even at the expense of our other hobbies and relationships, and with no regard for how the mental work that goes into it.
There are some things you can do, though. Here are three that you can implement today to combat burnout.
Schedule Your Time
I and many others have said it before: if you give yourself 8 hours to do something, it’ll likely take at least 7.5. Challenge yourself to a creative sprint: for example, for writers like me, try hitting your word goal in 3 hours. Mark how long it takes you to hit a certain word count each time and keep it within that time frame. I typically hit my daily word count in two to three hours, and I try to keep it at that length of time for the sake of not spending more time than necessary on writing.
(Though I also wait until the end of the day to do my writing, which makes it harder since I get tired, but I don’t want to dive right into work after a full day of, you know, work.)
Schedule Rest Time
Speaking of that gap between work and work, the most important thing you can do is remember to give yourself some down time wherever you can. Your brain needs time to transition between tasks and take a breather; if you wouldn’t push your body to keep working past its breaking point, I can tell you that it doesn’t make sense to do it to your brain, either. Make dinner, read a chapter of a book, do some self-care—whatever you need to feel a little fresher before jumping into another night of writing, painting, or whatever other work you do.
Take a Long Break
This one is scary. It scares me, too. But sometimes it’s necessary. I know we all want our manuscripts written and drafted as fast as possible, but if the cost is your mental health and your love for your art, it really isn’t worth it—and I can promise you that taking a couple days, a week, or even a month off won’t put you dramatically behind. Remember your goals are entirely self-imposed (unless you have an editor or other outside force giving you a deadline); if you need to take that time off to focus on hobbies you’ve been neglecting, you shouldn’t feel bad about doing it.
Your work will still be there when you come back, and it’ll still get done. In fact, it’ll probably get done a lot easier, since you’ve taken the time to refill your mental well with all the passion and fun you’ve been missing. I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes, distance really does make the heart grow fonder; I’ll come back from a break suddenly clawing for a pencil, looking to write down ideas for a story that had me stuck for ages.
So try it out—build a routine, and build some well-deserved rest into that routine. Give yourself a minute to step back and remind yourself that this whole thing you’re doing is a marathon—not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to be done in a day, and it doesn’t need to be done at all at the expense of your health. Sit back and relax!