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  • Writer's pictureDebra Stang

A Freelance Writer’s Guide to Dealing with Burnout

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

My pen flew across the room, narrowly missing my 14-year-old cat who had chosen that moment to stick his head out from behind the sofa following a long nap. I cursed. I was sick and tired of writing self-help articles. I'd been writing several such articles every day for two or three weeks. The tone of my writing was beginning to change from sympathetic to sarcastic, and I found myself having to self-edit more and more severely.

I was seriously burned out, but what to do about it? I needed the money. Since I had to keep writing, and I couldn't keep beaning my cats with pens, I had to find a way to deal with my burnout. Fast. Here are some ideas that worked for me.

Work on Something Different

Sure, it was a bit of a pinch, but I reduced the number of self-help articles I was writing and started working on some projects I wanted to publish on Kindle. I also took on some editing projects. Branching out didn't solve the problems entirely, but the variety did help take the tedium out of writing the self-help articles.

Set Aside a "No Writing" Day

By day, I'm a social worker (another high-burnout job). By night, I'm a writer. I also write on Saturdays and Sundays. No break? No wonder I was going off my nut! I decided to start calling Saturdays a "work free" day. No social work, no writing. I spend my time hanging out with friends, watching movies, and reading fun books. It's a very welcome break, and by the time I get back to my keyboard on Sunday, I'm ready to roll again.

Do Away with Unmanageable "To Do" Lists

I'm a huge fan of "to do" lists. When I'm depressed, they give me a specific goal to shoot for. When I'm manic, they give me something to focus on. They keep me sane. Except when they don't. 

I tend to get carried away with my lists and include more items than I could complete if I lived another hundred years and worked every minute of them. When that happens, I get discouraged, and nothing gets done. So, I put my "to do" lists on a diet. My weekday lists are allowed to contain three to five items. My Sunday list contains five to seven items. Period. You might think I'd get less done with fewer items on my list, but actually the opposite is true. Plus, it's a really good feeling to be able to check off all of the items on the list instead of only an eighth of them.

Write Something You Enjoy

Freelance writers can't always count on getting the assignments we want. There are times when we'll be stuck with an interminable job that bores us to tears. When I get a project like that, I always make it a point to do some sort of writing I enjoy, even if that writing is not profitable. I may scribble in my journal, for instance, or write a few lines of poetry that nobody but me will ever read.

Every job has its share of burnout, and freelance writing is no exception. When you are fried to a crisp, how do you turn things around?

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