Recovering From Writer’s Block and Freelance Burnout

I’m usually a bit skeptical when I hear people talking about ‘writer’s block’. I’ve been knocking out an average of 4,000 words per day since turning full-time as a writer four years ago. There have been days when I’ve felt too lazy to write, but it seems a bit disingenuous to use a fancy name to describe these periods of not wanting to work. You don’t hear nurses claiming they have ‘nurse’s block’ or fire fighters moaning about ‘fire-fighter’s block’ when these professionals are in the mood to take things easy.

Life as a Writer

More to Writer’s Block than Laziness?

It is only in the last few weeks that I’ve come to appreciate that there may be more to ‘writer’s block’ than just a fancy name for laziness. I’ve had a few days recently where writing has felt like pure torture – even responding to an email or replying to a Facebook comment has been hard work. I’ve managed to still meet my work commitments, but it is taking my twice as long to get things done, and it has been a real battle with my brain.

This recent struggle with writing does not seem to be connected to motivation. I’ve no problem sitting down in front of the computer, but it is like my mind won’t cooperate – I can’t concentrate and the words don’t come. If I try to force myself to write, I start to feel physically ill. It’s been a scary time, and I’ve had to seriously consider the possiblity that I might need to give up writing completely.

Freelance Writing Burnout

It is pretty obvious that this period of ‘writer’s block’ is a symptom of burnout. I’ve been pushing myself too hard and my brain has started to rebel. I hardly ever take a full-day away from the computer, and I haven’t had a real holiday since I began freelancing four years ago. I’m also very bad when it comes to taking regular breaks when I’m working.

Forcing myself to work when feeling like this only makes the situation worse, so I’ve decided to be kind to myself instead. I can’t really afford to, this could not have happened at a worse time, but I’ve temporarily reduced the amount of work I’m taking on from clients, and I’m going to take a few days away from the computer over the Christmas period. I’ve gone back to using the pomodoro technique – this means that I only work in 25 minute slots. I’m only going to write blog posts as I feel like it – I’m not going to feel guilty about not posting.

This episode of writer’s block appears to be resolving, but it has been a bit of a wake-up call. I need to take better care of myself – if I don’t make time to relax, may brain will take action so that I have to rest. In future, I’ll be a bit more understanding when I hear other people complaining about writer’s block.

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2 thoughts on “Recovering From Writer’s Block and Freelance Burnout

  1. Hi Paul,
    I would advise to take a longer break and really go somewhere else.
    Short breaks may help, but your brain is still in the ‘must perform’ mode while you’re in your house, so I worry for you that it might come back.
    Alternatively you could change the place where you work.
    When the weather gets better, you perhaps could take a hammock or something like that to the beach and continue your work on a tablet with 3G for a while 😉

    1. Thanks I-nomad, I’d love to take a longer break and go away for a few days, but I just don’t have the money at the moment. I’m not going to push myself and hopefully this new attitude of being kind to myself will be enough to snap out of it.

      I’ve found that writing for more than five minutes on the beach is nowhere near as relaxing as it sounds 🙂

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