Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Fatigue

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Writer’s fatigue and writer’s block are similar concepts. Whereas blocks can happen at any point in the writing process, even before you’ve begun, fatigue normally occurs after extended periods of writing. The condition is frustrating, emotionally draining, and affects confidence.

The symptoms of writer’s fatigue include some of the following.

  • Unclear thinking
  • Frustration with sentence structure and vocabulary

  • Feeling like every sentence written is worthless

  • Rewriting the same concept repeatedly with no satisfaction

  • Negative thinking that clouds judgment, thoughts, and writing style

Unfortunately, there is no magic remedy that will ease this roadblock in your writing; however, there are a few ways you can reduce its impact over time.

  1. Break up your writing – Even though it’s tempting to keep writing while you’re on a roll, taking a break is healthy. Sitting in front of a computer is physically detrimental to your health. Every 20 minutes or so, give yourself several minutes to readjust. Get up and walk around every hour or two. When writer’s fatigue hits, you will likely feel it in your muscles and joints as well as in your head. Set a timer if you can’t remember to get up and move around.

  2. Change your location – If you write in the same place every day, you may just need a change of scenery. Try standing up, going outside, or doing your work in a coffee shop. Anything that forces you to move around challenges your brain and decreases the likelihood of burnout.

  3. Complete a guided meditation – Do a simple Google search for “guided meditations.” Find one that looks calming to you and do it. Turn out the lights, lay down, and try to follow the instructions. Sometimes, clearing your mind and being present at the moment will give you enough of a rest to start writing again or the confidence to put it off for another time.

  4. Honor your body – It is time to stop writing if you have aches, your brain feels tired, and you are reacting emotionally to your writing. Everybody works differently. Your work and your health will suffer by forcing yourself to write through your fatigue. Set limits on your rest. Take a day or two, but never longer than a week. You want time to recover, not time to get out of practice.

  5. Communicate – When writers spend several hours in their heads, ideas become muddled and stop making sense. Call or visit a friend and go over ideas together. Bouncing ideas off a friend or fellow writer can help reorient your thoughts.

  6. Exercise – Exercise is good for your mind and body. Physical exertion increases blood flow and circulation. Your thoughts become clearer, and restlessness settles with exercise. Afterward, stretch before starting to write again.

  7. Keep writing – Those who write for a living may not be able to afford a lengthy break or may be working under a tight deadline. When the only choice is to keep writing, look online for inspiration. Keep searching for different iterations of an idea until something strikes you, and then follow the thought. Getting something down, to begin with, may make going back and reevaluating the content much simpler. You may find that your content isn’t as bad as you thought it was.

  8. Take a nap – Thinking and writing are both difficult without adequate rest. A short, 30-minute nap can do wonders for your attitude, eliminate brain fog, and give you the energy needed to write. Anything over 30 minutes, however, can actually make you more tired.

  9. Complete a power posture for 2 minutes – This recommendation is based on a TED Talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. Get up and remain in a “power pose” for 2 minutes. Set the timer and stand with your legs apart and hands on your hips or in another assertive position. Two minutes is all it takes to physically alter the way you think. The original purpose of the exercise is to improve interview performance; however, it can give you the necessary boost to sit down and write again.

  10. Grab some caffeine – If possible, enjoy a cup of coffee on a deck or out in the yard. The caffeine – and the break – may provide you with clarity. Limit your use of caffeine when you’re feeling fatigued, or you could develop an unhealthy dependency.

Writer’s fatigue is not a fun experience, and it does have the potential to compound over time, which may lead to burnout. Avoid burnout by incorporating some of these fatigue-fighting solutions. If you reach the end of your rope, take some time away from writing to refocus. You’ll need to develop healthy ways to cope with writer’s fatigue before starting to write again. Jumping back into a routine too quickly could lead to a relapse, which can also damage writing confidence.

Listen to your body and your mind and address fatigue when it strikes. If you do, you will be able to keep up your writing pace in a balanced and sustainable way.


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