Beating Burnout: How To Overcome Freelance Writer’s Block
The page is blank and your fingers are stiff. The pressure to write has never been greater, but your brain just can’t seem to get on board. We get it. As a freelance writer, it’s normal to feel some burnout from all the writing. The stress of getting paid, the lack of inspiration and your busy life make it that much harder to sit down and create. Writer’s block is a real problem.
The Three Phases of Writer’s Block
Whether you recognize them or not, the experiences and pressures in your life can affect your feelings towards writing. Many freelance writers work on the side of an already busy job or lifestyle. Others love the freedom of a stay-at-home job but struggle to keep a steady schedule. Sometimes big life changes can uproot a writer, making it even harder to sit down and write about car parts or real estate. Occasionally, you just wake up and don’t feel like writing. Those times can be both frustrating and perplexing.
Sometimes, total and complete writer burnout can creep up on you. Like the sun moving towards the horizon, the gradual change of attitude and effort is hardly noticeable. By the time you do something about it, you might already be in the burnout phase.
So what does it mean to feel “burned out?” There are typically three stages of writer’s block that freelance writers can cycle through:
Some writers write the same thing every day. Others pick up topics that don’t always match their interests. Either way, topic fatigue can set in. The disgust, exhaustion and hesitation radiate from your face as you begin researching and typing away. At this stage, your creative facilities are still working, but you’re not enjoying it like you usually do. It might take you longer than you expect to complete a project.
This stage is when it really gets hard to write. No matter how hard you try, you can’t find the right words and every sentence you type looks ugly to you. You procrastinate working and find other things to prioritize. Perhaps you start to feel a little anxious as you think about that unfinished work. You may even start picking up less work.
You can’t even look at the empty page. The words just won’t flow, and you have no desire to write. You’re in a funk, and you can’t find a way out of it! This is a hard and disappointing place to be in, and watching Netflix always seems like the better option.
Even if you experience writer’s block in a different way, you probably feel those same feelings of frustration. And chances are, you don’t want to keep feeling that way for long. The downhill process of writer’s block can be discouraging, but it isn’t incurable. It’s important to recognize where you are in the process so that you have the power to get up and fix it.
Signs You Might Be Burning Out
Just as a match ignites and eventually burns out, writers can feel like the “fire” of their writing is going out. Here are a few signs you can recognize in yourself:
- Your quality levels are going downhill
- You don’t feel motivated to write
- You’re dealing with difficult life situations
- You feel stressed about writing
- You avoid writing when you can
Do these signs sound familiar? What you are feeling is a normal part of being a freelance writer.
How To Overcome Writer’s Block
Let’s be real, writing is hard! Luckily, overcoming writer’s block is possible. Before you know it, you’ll be back at it again, pounding out amazing content at brilliant speeds. Here are seven of the best writing practices that can give you just enough motivation to get the fire going again.
1. Feed Your Brain
Just like a car, our brain needs fuel to work properly. And, also like a car, low-grade fuel can actually keep your brain and body feeling clunky and sluggish. If you’re stuck in a fog of writer’s block, you may need to evaluate what kinds of things you’ve been using to feed your engine. If candy bars and day-old coffee is at the top of the list, make an effort to seek out some other, more powerful food for thought. Drinking a glass of orange juice, snacking on a handful of blueberries, or simply trying to eat a solid breakfast every day can go a long way toward helping you stay motivated in your writing.
2. Get Outside
Going for a walk can do a lot more for you than just stretch your muscles or up your daily dose of Vitamin D (although those are two great reasons to do it). Studies have found that taking a break to go outside can positively affect your health physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. Getting exercise is a great way to boost your brain for non-exercise related activities, such as writing. Doing so outside only increases your chance of hitting “reset” on your internal motivation setting.
3. Check Something Else Off Your List
Writer’s block can be perpetuated by procrastination. Literally checking off a box can help to break this cycle, because that tiny action can signal the release of dopamine, which is connected to our mood, focus, pleasure and motivation. Take a couple of minutes to write down a list of things you need to do. Then, pick an easy one (something that can be done in five minutes or less) and move. When you’ve completed the task, physically check it off your list. Seeing the check mark can help spark a little motivation to get more done, clear your mind a bit, or refocus your energy in a new direction.
4. Crank Up Some Music
Many people say that music can be a powerful motivator, and there is actually a lot of science to back up such claims. Music wakes up your brain, stimulating memory, movement, and the release of – you guessed it – dopamine. If you don’t already have a “get pumped” playlist, now might be the time to create one.
Sometimes, you just have to get things flowing. One of the best ways to do this is to engage in something called “freewriting.” Without feeling constrained by proper grammar or punctuation, sit down with a notebook and pen (or laptop!) and write out anything and everything that comes to mind. This can be especially valuable if you do so with emotional issues you’ve been trying to process internally. Writing them out, including any stray thoughts that might enter in, can actually be therapeutic in many ways. This kind of catharsis may open up the needed space required to focus on things like work.
6. Start From the Bottom
Even if you’re banging your head against Writer’s Block, you sometimes have to simply push through. Instead of staring at a blank screen trying to conjure up a title, try starting your article from the bottom and working up. Working from an outline is a brilliant way to make this possible without wandering too far from your assigned topic. It will also save you time, energy, and frustration.
7. Write in Small Increments
To piggy-back off the tried-and-tested outline strategy, consider revving up your focus by writing in small increments. There are lots of recommended ways to portion your time for increased productivity, but the gist is that short bursts of productivity followed by purposeful breaks can actually improve your output.
Get Started Again
We gave you the kindling, wood and fuel, but are you going to build the fire? If you want to reignite your drive to write, you need to make a plan. American novelist Louis L’Amour advised, “start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” In other words, if you want to punch through writer’s block, get up and get started.
Make a Goal
Start by writing down what you want to do (i.e. complete two 500-word articles by the weekend) and then wrap your schedule around that goal. Schedule your outdoor breaks, that trip to the grocery store and any other activity that will distract you from following your plan. Challenge yourself to achieve your goal and congratulate yourself on each baby step.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Are you bound and determined to get those articles done? Enlist your loved ones to help you stay on track. Let them know what you’re planning to do and have them check in on you occasionally. Did you write yesterday? Did you make your desired word count? Even better, let them be your personal cheer squad as you write to the finish line.
The first few achievements after a long writer’s block should be highly praised. You defeated the odds by pushing through, and you’ve finally come out on the other side. Don’t forget to reward yourself with your favorite treat, time to relax or a night out with friends. You deserve it!
You Can Beat Writer’s Block
As writers, we face mental blocks, creative droughts and burnouts all the time. It is all part of the job description – being a content ninja has its highs and lows. Just don’t let those moments get you down. If you’re in a rut, remember that there are good things to come as long as you keep getting back up. Keep working through writer’s block, punch through if you must and hold on to the hope of brighter days. Now go and get the fire going!
Do you have any great tips on ways to push through writer’s block? Comment below!
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