It takes a lot of skill and a slice of luck to carve out a successful career as a writer. Many of us have to put the novel we hope will change the literary landscape forever on the back-burner in order to pursue more lucrative careers.
If you’ve managed to find a job that lets you write in some capacity, congratulations. You are among the fortunate ones. Generally, turning a passion into a career is not only difficult, but can also be a double-edged sword. There are so many challenges you have to overcome.
Whether you’re a sales copywriter, an SEO content marketer or an aspiring columnist, consistently tailoring your writing to someone else’s specifications – be it your editor or audience – can gradually suck the life (and literary prowess) out of you. You may start to feel less motivated to write on the clock or off.
Telltale Signs of Burnout
If you're worried about a lack of motivation, a creative dip or feeling like your work’s been a little lacking lately, you could be approaching burnout.
Watch out for the tell-tale of a writing burnout:
1. You don’t want it perfect, you just want it done.
Most writers are perfectionists. It’s torture at times, but it also means that we consistently produce good quality work. After all, in the words of Justice Brandeis, “there is no great writing, only great rewriting.” If you find yourself rushing to get through your work every day, it’s generally a bad sign.
Whether you’re writing about a subject of personal interest or a press release for a plastic bag company, you owe it to your clients (and more importantly, yourself) to put your complete expertise into your work. Never forget that you’re an artist (even when you’re writing about cloth diapers). If you’re too quick to slap a ‘finished’ label on things you’ve written, you’ll often miss typos and other inconsistencies in the text. Your work will suffer and so will your confidence as a writer.
2. You’ll take any opportunity to avoid writing.
Most of us embarked on this career path not for money, but because of our unquenchable passion for the written word. If you feel that love waning, you’re probably approaching a writing burnout. It’s important to ask yourself why you’re avoiding the work. Are you worried you’re under-qualified? Over-qualified? Can’t make the deadline? Maybe the work just doesn’t feel meaningful any more.
If this rings all too true, you should consider taking a break. If you can’t afford time off, discuss with your clients ways in which you can make your workload more manageable, such as extending deadlines. Downtime is vital in any occupation, especially one in which it sometimes feels like you’re spilling your soul out via your keyboard. If you’ve got a side-project or a novel going on, revisit it. Remind yourself why you feel in love with writing to begin with.
3. You’re having problems with clients.
When you’re approaching a writing burn out, everything feels a hundred times harder than it did yesterday. A seemingly simple task can feel monumental. So when you turn in an assignment you’ve agonised over all day only to be told that a revision is required, it can be difficult to keep your cool and avoid sending back ‘screw you’ in 100pt Comic Sans MS.
An occasional disagreement in the workplace is normal, but if you’re getting in increasingly frequent spats with co-workers or clients, it’s time to take a serious look at your stress levels. You owe it to yourself to tackle this issue before it gets worse. Again, it’s about setting aside the time to do the things that make you happy, writing related and otherwise. It sounds corny, but it’ll do you and your muse a world of good.
It’s difficult to combine your work and your passion. Ideally, one day you’ll end up in a place where you have complete creative control over your output. Until then, it’s all about reconciling your need to pay the rent with your desire to produce meaningful content.
If you have to write about Giraffe Onesies or Ten Things Miley Should Never Have Done, you might as well do it to the best of your ability. Take pride in elevating what could be crap content into a powerful call-to-action that might just make one of your readers smile.
Keep calm and write on!