Editorial: Writer Fatigue

Being overwhelmed by writer fatigue
Being overwhelmed by writer fatigue

Anyone who writes regularly, has periods of time when writing is difficult, when they run out of ideas or when they wonder why they write. It’s normal and it happens to every writer. That doesn’t make it fun or something a writer enjoys but we should all take a little comfort in the fact that we aren’t alone when it happens. In fact, I was just talking to another writer about writing issues because I was suffering from a little writer fatigue.

While I’ve written about ‘writer’s block’ before, as had many others, after a couple of recent conversations, I thought it was time to write about something I term ‘writer fatigue’. Okay, it’s not my term… just type it in Google and you’ll see several articles about it. But for me at least, it’s more annoying and serious than writer’s block. Why? Keep reading

What is ‘Writer Fatigue’?

It’s when, even when you have lots of ideas for writing, perhaps you even have written outlines for your articles, but you just can’t or rather don’t feel like writing. You feel like you have nothing to say even when you have a topic and know what you want to write about. It’s almost like writer’s depression. To make matter’s worse, it feeds itself because you get stressed at not writing which makes you not want to write more which gives you more stress… And when you’re the primary writer for your online magazine… yeah, not fun.

How is it different from writer’s block?

Writer’s block means you can’t think of what to write. You’re stuck, your writing can’t move forward and/or you can’t think of a new topic. You draw a complete blank. Writer’s block can happen in the middle of an article, chapter or story; or it can happen when you are trying to think of what to write next. But the key point is that no ideas are coming into your head and the page – or screen – is blank, sometimes tauntingly so.

Writer fatigue means you’re overwhelmed by writing and need to take a break. It’s not that you have no ideas or can’t write, but rather that you feel tired and like you have nothing more to say, even when you have lots of ideas floating around in your head. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen often because there is only one cure. Basically, it means you need a writing vacation. The key point, in my opinion, is that writing has become stressful, almost to the point that you can’t write. So you need to de-stress, rest and relax so you can write again.

It happens to everyone

While writer’s block frustrates the crap out of me, I’m lucky that it’s usually a short-term problem for me. I’ve been writing pretty much all my life, from short stories to the articles here, and I usually don’t lack for ideas. When I do, I’ve developed a handful of things that help elevate the issue. And because there are several ways I can get around or get past writer’s block, it doesn’t overwhelm.

However, writer fatigue, for me anyways, is much more serious and there’s only is cure… at least that I’ve found so far. And that’s to take a vacation. Completely. And to give yourself permission to NOT stress about not writing, to allow yourself not to write for a couple of days, until you can. You’ll know when you’re “recovered” because you’ll want to write again, you won’t feel like you’re forced to do so.

Yes, it means you not only need to step away from your computer and put down your pen but also try to do other activities that have nothing to do with writing… and here’s the rub, have nothing to do with what you write about. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often – for me, every 18 months or so I get hit with it because I try very hard to not get to that point.

But I noticed from observing ATK’s writers, that it hits everyone. And after talking with a couple of others who write, including a couple of past ATK writers, as well as pulling from my own experiences, I’ve come up with a couple of things that you can do to lessen the frequency of writer fatigue and perhaps to prevent it. I thought I’d share them with you… and make our writers read them too. It’s good to have healthy and happy writers. ^^

How to prevent writer fatigue?

Okay, what I’m going to tell you won’t completely prevent it, at least it hasn’t in me, but these tips might lessen the frequency of writer fatigue.

Take breaks

Don’t let yourself get so overwhelmed that you really feel horrible about writing. Take an half an hour (or whatever works for you) every day and go for a walk, get some exercise, read a book, knit, watch TV, bake cookies… it doesn’t matter what you do, just spend time regularly doing something you enjoy that doesn’t have anything to do with your writing. Let yourself recharge.

Take writing vacations

Once or twice a year, take a long weekend off writing and away from technology, especially if you write online. Go camping, get away with your significant other, play with your family, plant your garden, take a pottery class… basically take a short vacation where you don’t write. For me, I’ve found that this time also has to mean that I can’t do any of the prep work for an article (no events, concerts, watching films, listening to a new album)… nothing that has anything to do with my writing. 

Exercise and/or meditate

Other than taking vacations or breaks, the only other thing that I’ve tried that helps is exercise. But meditation should too, I’m just not very good at it. Since both relieve stress and writer fatigue is a type of stress (or overwork), they can both help to keep it under control. Bonus points that they will both help you stay healthy.

Final Thoughts

For anyone who writes regularly, I can pretty much guarantee that at some point you’ll face both writer’s block and writer fatigue. Hopefully, between this editorial and the one on writer’s block, I may have given you some ideas to combat them. Because trust me, they aren’t fun.

Have you battled writer fatigue before? What do you do to combat it?

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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