Writer's Burn-Out! What Can Be Done?
Burnout is a problem in every profession, and academic writing is no exception. Although freelance academic writing certainly provides quite a bit of diversity in terms of what one writes about, where one writes, how one writes, and so forth, doing anything at all for any length of time can lead to boredom, ennui, and even burnout. This article examines some of the things that can be done when burnout seems imminent.
The best thing to do about burnout is, of course, to recognize it before it’s gotten that far, and so keeping an eye out for new emotions is a good idea. Do you notice yourself getting crankier and crankier every time you sit down to write an article? Do you feel unaccountably weary, or bored, or just plain aggravated that you have to keep typing, keep moving your fingers, and keep writing those words on that screen? Notice those feelings the minute they crop up, and keep an eye out for them. It could be that you are feeling this way because of PMS, or because your teenage son is acting like a jerk, or because someone just dented your new car. However, these feelings could also be the onset of burnout.
That’s why it’s important to watch and see. If you have a bad day now and then, but otherwise everything is fine, then there is really nothing to worry about. But if one bad day follows another, then it’s time to examine what’s going on. This is particularly true for those people who aren’t independently wealthy and must continue to write in order to make a living. It’s not easy to replace a freelance writing job, and so you want to hold onto it/them as long as you can.
The best thing to do, if you notice these feelings, is to try to soothe them. Yes, I know it feels like the world will end if you don’t pound out that essay in the next 10 minutes, but I assure you that it won’t. Contact your client (or the company for which you work) and let them know you might be a bit late. Then tell everyone in your household (if you live with other people) to leave you alone, and find some way to take care of yourself. The cliched answer, of course, is to take a bath. Personally, I’m a shower girl myself, so that never spoke to me. But sitting in front of the television with a bunch of potato chips and watching a few sitcoms tends to make me feel pampered and helps me escape from the world. Then when I do get back to my desk, I’m refreshed.
Such interventions can help a lot in the very early stages of burnout such as this. Sometimes, the stage goes away, and all is well. Sometimes, though, things get worse, and it’s not possible to make things better by taking a bath or playing some music. That’s when it’s time to get a bit more assertive. Perhaps seeing a therapist might help. Renting an office so you have boundaries might help (now I am at work, and now I am not). Finding a writing buddy who can help you through especially difficult patches might help. These and other tricks can be used quite effectively by folks who are on their way to being burned out as writers but cannot quit (or do not want to quit).
This is also the time to investigate other employment opportunities, just in case. That way, if you do end up completely and totally burned out, you won’t starve to death. Of course you most likely won’t do that anyway; we all have the amazing ability to do what we need to do, when we need to do it, when it comes to our survival. But it’s better to go through life happily rather than grudgingly and bitterly, so do pay attention to how you feel as you work as a writer so as to avoid burning out altogether.