Friday, December 3, 2021

What to do When You're an Exhausted Writer

by A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

Being creative is fun, isn't it? Inventing characters for stories is an exercise in stretching our imaginations. Building worlds that only exist on paper, using only words to breathe them into being, is a time-intensive process that can absorb all our focus. Developing the individual voices of multiple unique people so clearly that readers can identify them by what they say or how they say it requires intentional research.

But isn't it amazing?

As storytellers, we use words to frame and create a whole world, a host of characters, and captivating cultures. And readers? Readers take those words and understand them, hook up their imaginations to your vision, and dream along with you. 

I don't believe in magic, but I do believe in miracles. And the creative process of storytelling is miraculous.

Do you know what it also is? Exhausting. 

Making beautiful things is tiring. Yes, it can be fulfilling and even fun, but any investment of time, energy, and focus will drain you. Even if it's something you love doing. 

I have a lot of stories to write. A lot of concepts that my readers are begging for. But I'm only one author, and as much as I would love to do nothing but write my books, I have other income streams that need attention. (You'll find that most career authors these days have multiple income sources, especially if they are the sole income producer for their family.) And while it's refreshing at times to work on other projects, it splits my focus. And it exhausts me further. 

If you've ever had to build a website for one client, design a social media strategy for a second client, and still hit a manuscript deadline all at the same time, you know the mind-numbing weariness that sneaks up on you. Sometimes it masks itself as perfectionism or as anxiety, but I am beginning to believe that all of it stems from a lack of true rest.

When was the last time you let yourself rest?

When was the last time you took a day to not work intentionally, even if you felt like you needed to?

Have you ever done that?

It’s tempting to believe that writing isn’t work. It’s not like you’re getting your hands dirty or exerting yourself physically in any way. But is it fair to say that writing isn’t work? 

Not at all. Telling stories is a complex process within the mind that draws on every area of expertise and combines it with the art and skill of communication in order to help others understand a deeper theme or message. 

I may be biased, but I believe storytelling is a superpower. And if you’re trying to tell stories that make a difference in peoples’ lives, you must do it from a healthy heart.

Mental, emotional, and spiritual health is vital to storytellers. It's beyond important that we care for ourselves. Otherwise our perspectives will suffer, and the shift to an unhealthy outlook on life will bleed into the stories we're telling. Or we'll even walk away from storytelling altogether. 

I don't know if you're an organized person or a seat-of-your-pants person, but whether you plan your life or don't plan anything, you must make purposeful space for rest. Especially when you feel like you don't have time for it. 

Rest is something you have to be intentional about. If you don’t make space for it, you won’t do it. You'll keep working until you burn out. 

Set aside time to not work, to do something that refreshes you and restores your soul. Whatever that is. You'll be shocked at how much more creative you will be after you give your mind and heart a moment to breathe. 

Work is important, yes, but if we’re too tired to do our work well, no one wins.

Do you feel like you don’t have time to rest? Maybe you don’t, but you still should. Prioritize this. It won’t change until you change it. If you can’t take a whole day, take a half day. If you have to say no to something, say no.

Remember that we’re coming off two of the most stressful, exhausting years in recent history. At the beginning of the year, I recommended that we all leave space for grace in our writing goals, because life happens. But now, as we approach the end of the year, we also need to remember to leave margin for rest. 

Your writing deadline isn’t worth your health. Your readers may love you and desperately want your next story, but here’s the truth, my friend: Your readers would rather you be healthy so that you can write the story after this one. 

Shut down your computer. Switch off your phone. Give your brilliant, miraculous brain room to breathe. Make time for rest.


Award-winning author, A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at


  1. Great advise for this time of the year!

  2. As I am exhausted today, I'm about to take your advice!

    Thank you!

  3. You are so on track with this! Stepping back is so necessary but also so hard to do. I have a ticket to an immersive art exhibit tomorrow and will go by myself because it means I can soak it all in at my own pace. I've been thinking of it as a treat for myself but you've nailed what it really is -- a chance to rest and recharge. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Thank you for this reminder. Sometimes we feel guilty about stopping to rest!