How do you handle burnout?

I am about 1/6 of a way through a novel, just started a short story collection, and have written several short stories and poems in the last three months. Then, out of nowhere, nothing! I stare catatonic at my computer screen for hours at a time and nothing comes out, try as I might. I use prompts and paint or read in the meantime, but what do you guys do when you feel like your brain is literally empty? If I take a break I may drive myself nuts with my high expectations for my performance.

I’m going through the same thing right now. I’m trying to listen to upbeat and largely instrumental music to help get SOMETHING creatively flowing.
Also, coffee. :joy:

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YES! Both of these things are a must for me lol. I like Spa Radio on Pandora. Sometimes makes me sleepy though… which I quickly remedy with more coffee.

I know that feeling and it’s not fun!

As for what helps me, I have several projects going at once - my ‘main’ one and about six others. I find that, when I can’t figure anything out on my main one, one of the others generally has titbits I can work with, whether they’re scenes for the future or chronologically working through the story. I try to write every day, even if it’s only a couple of hundred words, and usually this works.

However when I do get completely stuck and nothing in my brain is working, I absorb all the creative media I can. Books primarily, but also movies, music, TV shows and video games, especially if there a similar genre to what you’re writing.

I don’t know if my choice of music will help you or scare you off (it has done both in the past! :joy: ), but I find metal is really great to listen to when you’re writing fantasy :smile:


Two Steps From Hell, particularly the Archangel album on YouTube is my go to when I’m in a creative rut.

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I also love their Unleashed album. It’s a good mix of pretty and intense!

I always leave myself hanging. The past few weeks I’ve not written a lot, but since I left myself hanging I go back read the current scene or the last scene and then I go on.

I have a general plan, but as long as I don’t finish I can always at least get something down to finish that sentence or the scene or whatever I left on at… cliff hangers for myself :slight_smile:


I’ve found picking up another book helps sometimes. Other times I chat with a friend of mine who also writes about our current projects, and sometimes its honestly just time!

I’ve also tried writing less linearly. Sometimes its not writing in general, but the chapter I’m supposed to be working on that’s doing the damage! I’m at chapter ~8 right now, but actually skipped ahead to a scene that’ll be chapter ~17 just because!


Instrumental movie soundtracks help me come up with new ideas as I imagine scenes that fit the music. But if I already know what a scene is about random songs can derail it by setting the wrong mood.

I think it would be nice to compile lists of music for different moods, but I imagine I would get sick of the music in the process. Can someone else do it for me? :smile:

Gimme some emotions you’d like to see because these are the kind of projects I LIVE for!


Haha, any scene emotion. Here are what I can think of off the top of my head: excitement, love, flirtatious, romantic, sorrow, guilt, fun, suspense, wonder, climactic, wistful, yearning, action, whimsical, epic, thoughtful, distressed, despair, delight, anticipation, gratitude. If I were to do this, I would probably put some songs into multiple categories. Love might have some from flirtatious and romantic, but others might only be in one or the other. Just depends on the feels.

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I walk, preferably anywhere without people. Helps get me on my feet, refreshes me, and tends to help get the swamp out of my brain. I listen to music a lot when I walk, usually the playlist that I have for whatever story I’m writing.


How do I handle burnout? Not very well. :smiley:

Mostly I try to avoid it by not forcing myself when I’m not feeling up to it. I’m a hobbyist (for now), so I have that luxury. I balance this with discipline by making sure I spend a minimum of ten minutes a day on my writing. If I feel like doing more, great! But if it’s just not coming, I make myself stop at ten minutes. I’ve been able to stay pretty consistent for six months this way, which is far longer than I have in the past.


I always have two or three projects started and if I burn out on one, I skip over to another and pick it up until I feel like going back.



I’m learning I really don’t handle burnout well.

I spend all day writing at my day job, and then I come home and write more - and for a little while I was doing really well. I wrote some 34K words in September, then maybe 2K words in October, and 200 words in November. It also hit me at work at about the same time, so I definitely understand the feeling.

I think instrumental music has helped me write a lot, also talking things out with a good friend of mine and brainstorming. At the end of the day, what usually gets me out of my rut is just sitting down and forcing out a bunch of terrible, never-to-be-read words until I get back into the swing of things and can edit the part I wrote just to get through.


I love those never-to-be-read words. I’m sure we all have them.

And they’re always good for a laugh when you finally do get back to editing them. :smiley:


This is what makes NaNoWriMo so intense for me.
Publishing non-fiction is part of my day job (and reading and writing reports and computer codes and graphics and and …) , but the storyteller in me just wants to go silly, write funny horror or thrilling comedies … I was thinking of going rogue one NaNo and just count the words I write in work emails every day for a month.

In any case, I am just happy, I found out that writing in my free time is actually possible :).


That’s a great idea. I beat myself up constant for not writing for an hour or 1000 words a day or something similar. If I set a minimum goal of 10 minutes a day, it would fit into my busy schedule and I’d accomplish something! Thanks! Every little bit adds up.


So. In dealing with burnout I kind of have 2 phases. First phase is, if it’s at all possible, I take a break. An hour, a day. It depends on the project and how i’m feeling. In that time I’d normally be writing I do normal self care tasks (I make sure I’ve eaten, I figure out if I’ve slept enough, take a shower, whatever). If I’ve done all those, I may play a game for a bit, or even do a bit of meditation or light exercise to try and relax. Above all, for at least part of the break, I get the hell away from my computer and writing program. Close the entire project, and give yourself permission to walk away.

Yes, sometimes it ends in berating myself for not meeting my own expectations - try to remind yourself that you have to take care of yourself to write your best. And sometimes that involves taking a break, too.

So once I’ve done that, if I still can’t write anything on the project I’m working on - I try something else. If I was trying to work on something brand new, I skip over to an older project. If I’m fighting with one project I move to another or allow myself to brainstorm on a new one. Sometimes a short while looking at something else is all it takes.

If that doesn’t work I chatter at my writing friends - especially about the project I’m having trouble with. Sometimes I’ll talk my way into a solution, or I’ll run into what is bothering me. OR they’ll have a suggestion or a question that makes me go “oh that’s what’s wrong”. It happens. If you don’t have writer friends a close friend who is willing to listen to you even if they aren’t into writing themselves generally will work - as long as they’re the sort that actually listens and engages in the conversation.

If I’m still stuck at that point, that’s when I start breaking out prompts - nano’s prompt generator, tumblr shared memes. Or I ask one of my writer groups for a prompt.

For me, the most important part when I’m at a block or burn out is getting something written. It doesn’t have to be great. Because getting the words flowing again is the most important part.


I never get true blocks because I never force myself to write every single day. My full time job is rather intense and it’s twelve-hour shifts, so I’m totally okay not writing between two or three of those.

However, there are those times when I WANT to write, but I just can’t get anything out that doesn’t sound like a travelogue or a to-do list and that’s just…depressing.

One thing that works for me is to switch formats. Sometimes I’ll just try for two or three more sentences in my phone’s notes app and then transcribe those back into Dabble later.