This is a guest article by Indiana Lee. If you want to submit a guest article of your own, be sure to read the guest article guidelines.
Every writer experiences burnout at some point in their career. But, as a professional writer, you probably can’t afford to put down your pen and stop writing. Navigating burnout can be even more tricky when you’re freelancing. If you want to keep your clients, you have to resist the urge to close the blank page, uninstall Microsoft Word, and ignore upcoming deadlines.
Instead, you should learn to identify the early signs of burnout and take a break before it’s too late. Even small changes to your daily writing routine can help you make it through a particularly tricky brief and see that life as a writer is a blessing, not a chore.
Burnout afflicts folks in professions all around the world. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” which may result in feelings of fatigue, disdain for one’s job, and reduced professional efficiency.
As a self-employed writer, you can’t afford to become burnt out. Burnout will plague your productivity and reduce your words per minute to a single-digit figure. This will lead to longer work days and less time off, as you’ll still be typing long into the night as you strive to meet clients’ deadlines on time.
If you’re feeling fatigued and are starting to resent your work, you should try to receive a burnout diagnosis. A burnout diagnosis may help you get extensions on important projects and ensures that you get the medical help you need. A diagnosis can also help you receive medical support from a licensed therapist who specializes in burnout and chronic stress. Therapists will also help you make lifestyle changes and build better habits to avoid burnout in the future.
Build better habits
Writers are the quintessential creatures of habit. Haruki Murakami writes every day from 4 a.m. till noon. Hemingway started each day with detailed revisions. Maya Angelou rented a hotel room where she wrote all of her poetry and prose.
As a freelance writer, you don’t have to follow a strict schedule or take yourself off to a private space to write—but it might help. Following a routine can help you get back into the flow of writing and help you rediscover your momentum.
A good routine may help you secure a better work-life balance, too. You’ll get used to your work schedule and will work within your scheduled hours. This means you won’t be tempted to burn the midnight candle or work into the wee hours just because you wanted to sleep in or check socials when you should be writing.
When writing, experiment with your setup. If you want to work in silence, consider donning a pair of noise-canceling headphones to cut out background noise. If you like a little background noise while working, consider setting up in a coffee shop or playing pre-recorded sounds of public spaces.
Try to avoid distractions while you write. Pop your phone in a drawer, block certain sites on your desktop, and make it clear to others that you are unavailable. This may be tricky if you have roommates, but they’ll soon get used to the idea that you are unavailable while you’re writing.
Rediscover your passion
Starting a career as a freelance writer is exciting. You get paid to flex your creative muscles and spin a story that readers and clients love. Freelancing also gives you greater independence and more time for self-care and self-improvement.
However, you’ll quickly realize that, even though you’re your own boss, you’re still on the clock. You can’t spend all day searching for synonyms and you must hit a certain word-per-minute count to ensure that your work is worthwhile. This can quickly lead to burnout and frustration, as you may be tempted to sacrifice quality for speed and efficiency.
Take a step back if you find yourself rushing through a client’s work without a care for quality. Producing poor work will erode your passion for writing and only lead to frustration for both parties. Slow your pace and try to approach each project with curiosity and creativity. Taking pride in your work is a great way to avoid burnout and rediscover the joy of writing.
Look at the business side
Writing is about more than wordsmithing and witticisms. You have to take care of the business side of your work, too. However, you may find the business side of your work to be both boring and anxiety-inducing. But burying your head in the sand will only lead to burnout, as you’ll be forever running behind on tax returns and invoicing.
At the start of each quarter, set aside time to complete a risk management assessment. Risk management can help you forecast future challenges and break down the big picture. This means you won’t overcommit yourself to client projects when you should be working on your own business.
A good risk assessment can help you plan some time off, too. As a writer, you need to take time away from the keyboard once in a while. A well-timed vacation ensures that you return to work feeling rested and rejuvenated.
Every writer experiences burnout. Whether you are writing ad copy or film scripts, you’ll hit a point when the words don’t flow and the work feels boring. You can overcome burnout by seeking a medical diagnosis and making a few strategic changes to your routine.
About the author: Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3.