Battling a Burnout (or Creativity in Hard Times)

Hello everyone! First of all, I apologize that it’s been so long since you’ve heard from me. Hopefully I’ll get back to posting on a regular schedule, but we’ll see what happens. I may switch to a post every two weeks instead of once a week.

Over the past few months, I have been suffering from a creative burnout. Those of you who are serious creatives know exactly what I’m talking about. Sitting down and writing or painting or doing anything else like that seems too difficult. For me, this usually occurs after Nanowrimo.

In a way, that’s what happened again this year–part of it at least. I was already burnt out from Nanowrimo and the week after when I pushed to finish my novel, Alliance of Wolves. A bit after that, I decided not to return to co-op and switched back to full-time, true homeschooling for the first time in nearly ten years. Though it was a change that needed to happen, it threw me into chaos. If it wasn’t for some pre-written and scheduled posts, there would’ve been a much larger gap of time between this post and my last one.

And blogging wasn’t the only thing I fell behind on. I have a calendar hanging up in my room to keep track of how much I write every day. Over the past three months, there are large gaps of time where over and over I have a big, fat, red zero on every day. The deadline for my current project, the second draft of The Wolves of Wullferg Keep, has been pushed back from February, to March, to April. Now–I hope–the deadline will stay on April 30th, 2020.

This has been without a doubt one of the longest burnouts I’ve had, and maybe one of the most frustrating. I hardly wrote, I didn’t update on Wattpad, I didn’t keep up with my buffer blog posts, I didn’t draw anything. But that’s okay. After all, failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. And I have learned, and I’m still learning.

In my experience, one of the most frustrating things about being burnt out isn’t the burn out itself, but not being able to get out of it. You feel helpless and stupid. After all, you should be able to make yourself just sit down and work, right? (Sorry, this isn’t actually how it works.)

I have here a few things that I’ve learned in this most recent creative drought, and hopefully they’ll help you as well.

Get Some Sleep

I’ve probably talked about sleep in an earlier post, but I’ll never be able to talk about it enough. I fell into a terrible sleep schedule these past few months. At first, it was pretty fun. I didn’t have to get up super early to go to school–it didn’t matter that I was getting late. I got to watch Frasier and Cheers. I had (and still have) a whole stack of movies from the library, ranging from thrillers like Psycho and Misery and animated children’s movies like Song of the Sea and Castle in the Sky. I love watching movies! I was having a great time.


Day after day, I rose later and later. I stopped getting things done. My brain can’t handle math after one o’clock, and certainly not chemistry. My collection of undone homework was building up and hiding away even the slightest possibility of finding time to write. And even if I had the time, I was so lethargic most days that didn’t have a single word to write down.

The past few nights have been late ones, I’ll admit, and I’m certainly paying for it. But one or two late nights doesn’t hurt so much if you were sleeping well the whole week before. Melatonin is your best friend, people. Just make sure you take it at like, nine, or you’ll still be groggy twelve hours later. Trust me.

Now that I’m sleeping again, I’m able to get up at a decent hour, write for a bit, pound out my homework, and then have the whole afternoon open for other projects. Usually writing. It’s better to go to bed earlier and get up earlier than staying up late and moving like the walking dead the next day.

Change Your Focus

Is your burnout keeping you from working on your novel? That’s okay, just change directions. I’m not saying you should start a whole new novel… though you can. With digression. But maybe try your hand at short stories or poetry–something short and simple that you can finish in a day or two. In my case, I started a huge short story collection with over a dozen other writers. Because that was a smart idea. Totally. (Okay, the truth is that despite how much fun it was coming up with prompts and writing the stories, I was having majormajormajor anxiety over the nitty gritty details. Like copyright and publishing. Anyhow.)

Maybe you really can’t bring yourself to write anything. That’s fine. You can read instead. For the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long, I started and finished reading a novel that wasn’t for school. (The Visitation, by Frank Peretti. AMAZING book.) It was such a nice change of pace that I just started another Peretti book, Prophet.

The point I’m trying to make is that if you can’t do one thing, work on another. No one has just one thing going on in their life. Try and find something to distract yourself with. (Something that isn’t just binge watching on Netflix. You need something besides that.) When you’re not focused and stressing over a problem, it can often fix itself with time.

Tidy Room = Tidy Mind

I don’t know if this is true for anyone else, but it certainly is for me. If my room is a mess, I can’t function. I have to move into another room.

I had a ton of new furniture moved into my room in the last two months, and my room was utter chaos so much of the time. I can’t even describe the mental peace I settled into once my new bookshelves were fully organized, the underside of my bed was clean, and some plants were back in my room. I’m still reveling over it.

Maybe take some time to put a room in order so you can put your mind in order as well. This is a another type of distraction–something to shift your focus too–but you’ll be moving as well. An added bonus is that whoever you live with will be ecstatic to see how much cleaning you’ve done.

For many people around the world, right now is a strange and fearful time. Maybe you just can’t find toilet paper, or maybe you’re completely quarantined. I’m a bit of both right now. Here in Montana, most nonessential business have closed down, along with schools, churches, and any extra curricular activities. For me, that means no church, no writing meetings, no D&D, no possibility of work. Though it’s not enforced yet, my family is choosing stay at home except for grocery shopping, appointments, and my dad’s work. (He works maintenance and only interacts with about five people every day. I promise we’re not being foolish.)

Whether you’re quarantined by yourself or–like me–with a collection of siblings and animals, you can use this time to refocus your creativity. Try something new, something exciting. I’ve started a weekly art challenge with two friends, one in Montana and another in Missouri. (What better time to strengthen your connections with out of state friends?)

You could set up weekly writing sprints or start a book club. You could start a short story collection like I did, and work with writers across a whole spectrum of ages, skills, and locations. Most creative endeavors are done at home, so go do some! We don’t need to sit at home and do nothing but binge watch whatever the newest article is recommending. This is an opportunity to reevaluate everything, try new things, explore, and grow. So let’s do it.

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