5 Ways to Avoid/Recover From Burnout

On a lighter note from last time.

In 2017, I read about ten books. Far below what I would usually like to go through, though to be honest, my reading had been decreasing for a while.

So in 2018, I applied to be on an Aurealis panel, and as a result, read 70+ books in just under twelve months!

But for all the fun of the reading, it was a real change of pace, and a real grind at times. Add in a stressful job, keeping up with my writing, a bunch of medical isssues in the family, changing jobs, then preparing to move states (again), I’ll admit I felt a little burned out. I still do. Writing became hard, a chore rather than an escape, and I’ve really struggled over the last few months even after the other issues have run their course.

So in short, this is as much research as it is advice. Because if I’m going to learn something new, what’s the point of keeping it to myself, right? But the first is from me, and I’m sure plenty of other writers coud back this one up.

DISCLAIMER: Different methods work for different people. If one of these doesn’t work for you, don’t stress. There are plenty of methods – the trick is just like writing; find the one that works for you.



Go to the gym

Or the pool, or for a walk outside. Anything physical. It doesn’t even have to be that hard, just something that will get the seratonin, dopamine, and all the other chemicals in your brain going.

Clearly, I’m not a doctor, but these chemicals help manage anxiety (little ‘a’ not big ‘A’ – that one is probably best addressed with a real doctor) and stress. Not only that, but for many people, exercise allows them to practice mindfulness. For me, it’s basically meditation with which I can move. Sitting still has never been my strong point.

Either way, if you can fit it in, it’s a great way to relax your mind, and relieve it of stress before you write.


Read for FUN

I can personally vouch for this. The reason I say ‘over seventy’ is because there were the books on the Aurealis list, then there were the occassional books I read to relax. NY Book Editors suggests the same thing. Reading for fun can remind us of why we write, and get the fun and/or meaning back into it. It’s like a nice adventure out of our own heads. . .except still in our own heads. . .maybe in a neighbouring region?

Ok, I lost the simile, but you get the idea. It’s not your imagined world. It’s geting lost in someone elses. There’s no pressure. It’s more fun that way, and can bring the joy and energy back to your own books. Plus you get to buy another book.

Image: DDP Yoga (also part of my ongoing quest to prove fitness and writing memes are 90% interchangable)

Keep on writin’

Might sound a bit contradictory, but where some advise suggests taking some time away from writing, The Write Practice suggest pushing on. Writing begets writing, they argue, so the more you push forward, be it on the project that got you stuck or another one, then the more you push the problem behind you.

I’m not sure if this would work for me. Generally when I get to a burnout stage, I need a complete break, even if just for a few hours. But it might work for others, and it’s always worth trying.


Brad, Chris, Kim – if any of you stumble across this, I swear I don’t do this!

Treat writing like a real job

Because it is one. Seriously, the amount of people I’ve met who say ‘but my real job is blah’. . . just stop. I used to do the same thing, but as soon as I stopped and took my writing seriously, productivity pretty much doubled. Treat writing like a hobby and it gets pushed aside way too easily. It loses meaning and priority.

Thats why The Writing Cooperative say to treat writing time like office hours.  Take a bit of objectivity, treat it like a job, and don’t get distracted.

It actually ties in with a few sites that talk about schedules,  a space, and ensuring there are no interuptions, then finishing at a planned time to ensure no continued burnout.

The Writing Cooperative have another gem in there – stop writing while you still have ideas. This gives you somewhere to start next time. Kind if like a jump start from one session to the next.

Image result for thinking too hard

Stop Thinking!

Easier said than done, but in this wonderful post that seems to almost pull an exact scene from by brain, KM Allan reminds us that the more questions we ask of ourselves, especially questions regarding our abiliy, the grammar, the structure, etc, the less brainpower we have to think creatively and move forwards.

Seriously, there is a time for editing later. Those questions can come then. They have a place, but clogging up your head while writing is not always it.

Although it is easy to say ‘get rid of the questions’, sometimes they just creep in witout us realising, or are so ingrained that we just can’t get rid of them.

That’s okay as well. As long as we can at least reduce them, or make them little voices at the back of the mind where the creative ideas have room to cut in front, rather than taking all the space at the front of our thoughts, then even that can free up some space.

As with all of theses ideas, each will be easier to some people and more difficult to others. Some people won’t be able to get up and move, others struggle to block out those questions.

But all of them give a start, and if they even give just a little more capacity to enjoy writing, that’s something.

I’m volunteering again with Aurealis, and if I get on a panel again, then I’l probably face a similar list. But now I have strategies to deal with it, and now I have no excuse not to get my writing done.

Good luck to anyone trying the same strategies!


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7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Avoid/Recover From Burnout

  1. Great post, Nathan. Love your tips, especially reading for fun and treating writing like a real job. When I was let go from my last job, I replaced my working hours with writing and finished the drafts for the four books I’d been working on for years. Sticking to 9-5 hours was the only reason for the bump in my writing productivity. It’s definitely a tip that works if you get the chance to do it. Thanks also for the shoutout to my post 😊.

    1. Hi Madeline! Glad it helped 🙂 One of my previous lecturers put it as ‘letting your subconscious do the work for you’. Hopefully it works for you and good luck.

  2. Loved this Nathan. Great advice – my favourite, Treat Writing Like a Real Job! Your mindset really does change when you do this. I would love to know what your top 10 books (out of the 70) are? Cheers Jemay

    1. Thanks Jemay, but unfortunately I can’t give out the top ten as the winners of Aurealis haven’t been announced yet. But the shortlist is available at https://aurealisawards.org, which gives an inkling as to which ones we enjoyed (I was on the Fantasy Novel panel)

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