Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Indie Tuesday—Dealing with Burnout

by Jessica Keller @AuthorKeller

It happens to every writer at some point. It can strike at any time and can derail any project—no matter how much we love what we’re working on. Outside stress comes. We’ve taken on too much. Publishers, editors, agents, and readers are depending on us. We’ve been at it for too long without recharging.


Guilt creeps in. It’s not supposed to feel like this, right? We’re living the dream. Publishing books. We’re supposed to love every second of the process. We begin hating the career we always wanted.

To start, let’s remove that guilt. Every single writer faces burnout. It doesn’t discriminate. And if you’re an indie author following the advice that you should be releasing books quickly—then burnout is a given.
Now, take a second and write down your burnout warning signs. If you don’t know them, then ask a close loved one. Common warning signs include over-eating or under eating, short temper, avoiding work, becoming overwhelmed/emotional about things that normally wouldn’t set you off, etc.
Half the battle is knowing that burnout is going to happen and having a plan of attack ready ahead of time. Either print out your warning list and tape it near your desk or keep a document saved on your desktop. While you’re working on a project glance at the list once a week and do a self-assessment. Addressing burnout before you’re in full-out crisis will save you and your loved ones a lot of heartache.
Switch it up. Sometimes working on something else for a few days can give you a fresh perspective on the project at hand. Even when you’re on a tight deadline, you can do this. Right now I’m under a deadline for a book but am feeling burnout nip at my heels so I allowed myself one day to brainstorm and jot down notes (and find picture inspiration online) on another idea that has been rattling around in my mind for the past few months. After that one day, I went back to the deadline project and wrote more in one day than I did the entire week prior.
Reward yourself. Make them small rewards (save the big ones for when the deadline is met). You can only allow yourself dessert if you hit a certain word count each day. Set a goal for the week and if that gets met then you can go to the movie you’ve been dying to see. Allow yourself one chapter in the next book in your TBR pile. This week for me it’s Nutella Hot Chocolate at night if I meet my goals.
Take a break. Again, small breaks are needed to keep us from total burn out
(and sometimes big breaks are needed after major deadlines are met—I usually take a week off before starting the next book). A mix break/reward for me is doing something fun with my family. This weekend, even though I’m under deadline, my husband and I took my daughter to meet reindeers (because, you know…they’re better than people and all). It was a two hour excursion that fueled me to write late into Saturday night after my daughter went to bed.
Immerse yourself in something you love. Do you feel recharged after a run? Become inspired when surrounded in nature? Escape everything for thirty minutes with a candlelit bubble bath. Watch the latest episode of your favorite show. Whatever it takes to help you feel renewed and inspired again. I usually mix exercise, music, and the outdoors. A 20-30 minute walk with my ipod and the stroller does wonders to lift the weight off my shoulders  
Do the minimum. This is a divide and conquer method when you’re about to hit crisis level burn out. Sometimes you can’t do something else because the deadline is getting closer and you feel like you’re drowning and are considering giving up all together. Figure out what is the lowest amount of words/work needed each day to achieve your deadline and only do that. After that, give yourself the rest of your time to relax and do some of the other things on this list. Living like this always will kill your writing career, but in crisis mode, this can save you.
Set goals. Setting daily, weekly, monthly, and annual writing goals for your career helps to ward off burnout before it ever happens. I’m a planner so I have calendars full of color coded goals. Doing this helps me decide when I should turn down a project and know when I’m starting to take on too much.
With everything on this list, remember that each of them should be used sparingly. If you start rewarding yourself for every ten words you write…that’s not helping anyone. And if you spend a month immersing yourself in tv show marathons and don’t get a word written it’ll be that much harder to get back into the groove. Above all, try to catch the first signs of burnout and deal with it before you’re in a do or die moment. Take care of yourself.
Have you ever faced burnout? What was the situation? Do you have any tried and true methods for dealing with burnout?
Six ways to deal with writer burnout. –via @AuthorKeller#indiepub #publishing #amwriting #burnout (Click to Tweet)

Jessica Keller holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Inspirational Romance and has 100+ magazine and newspaper articles to her name. Her latest indie release is Searching for Home. She also has a speaking ministry and loves to talk books. Jessica lives in the Midwest with her amazing husband and their very giggly daughter.

Connect with Jessica through her Website, blogFacebook, Amazon Page, Pinterest, and on Twitter.


  1. Jess, this is such a valuable post! I'm dealing with a bit of burn-out right now. Not from writing, but from trying to write with all the chaos going on around me! I'm going to take this tips to heart.

    1. I'm there with you Edie. For me juggling "real life" issues while writing is my quickest (and the most often way for me) way to burnout. I've learned to start using the different ways to recharge and cut down my projects when stress from things other than writing start closing in on me. Be well!

  2. Great post! Sometimes you really do have to totally unplug, especially as an indie author marketing all the time. Or sometimes changing direction and focusing on a totally different book helps. I know RIGHT where you're coming from here as I was in burnout mode for months this summer.

    1. YES Heather! I feel like this is a constant battle for indies and hybrids. There is such a demand to put books out as a much quicker pace for us. And you touched on something I forgot to -- marketing is draining. Really, really draining. That can really burn us out too. I've had a few months were I had to step back from marketing 100% and just allow myself to enjoy writing and forget about sales for a set time period. I found that helps give me fresh energy for marketing later on.

  3. This one sure grabbed my attention! I have some of the classic burnout symptoms. I asked my friends on Facebook if they knew of a lone writer's retreat to fit anyone's budget. One of my writer friends offered her home anytime between 12/21 through 1/9, as she'll be out of town for 3 weeks. I have a 4 night retreat planned. Just me, some rest, and my laptop to finish up my next book. This is how I'm handling my slight burnout.

    1. Wow Terri! What an amazing opportunity. Spend some of your time unplugged from the Internet and a retreat like that is sure to recharge and inspire.