In 2006, I lucked into a sweet gig. It involved writing weekly articles about technology for a site affiliated with an electronics retailer. The pay was pretty good and I had quite a bit of freedom when it came to what I wrote about. On top of that, I was writing for a new and often enthusiastic audience.
As I said, a sweet gig.
But in early 2010, I gave it up (although later that year I wrote six more articles as a favour to the folks who ran the site). Why did I give up a well-paying gig?
I was burnt out. At the time not only was I writing 1,000+ word articles each week for that site, I was also doing corporate writing, writing posts for three blogs, submitting articles elsewhere, and doing the occasional presentation. Something had to give. And you can guess what that something was.
Reaching burn out is tough. It takes a toll on you physically, psychologically, and emotionally. When it hits, it hits hard.
Over the years, I’ve run up against burn out on a few occasions. Here’s how I’ve dealt with it.
Recognizing the signs
Those signs take a bit of time to recognize. They include finding it hard to motivate yourself to actually do the work.
Sometimes, you feel like you’re going through the motions — writing without any passion or enthusiasm for a topic or a gig.
Worse still is that you have difficulty focusing on what you should be doing. Instead, your mind turns to the writing that you want to be doing — those blog posts or that book.
When you recognize any of those signs, you need to step back.
Dealing with it
There are several ways to do that. Here are a few suggestions:
Scale back. Spend a little less time on one gig or one aspect of writing. If, for example, you’re writing paid blog posts four times a week try to see if you can cut that back to two or three posts a week. That will bite into your income, but it the long run the loss of some cash is preferable to not being able to do that writing at all.
Find another outlet. And not just for writing, but for doing things outside of writing. Set aside time to spend with your family and friends, to exercise, to play sports, or to just go for a walk or read a book. Try to get your mind off what’s burning you out, even for a little while. That can pay dividends.
Try taking a different approach. Look at what you’re writing and see if you can apply different techniques or structures to it. Or, try to approach topics from a different angle.
Quit. I did that, and while I did take a small hit when it came to income I was a lot happier and a lot less stressed. While quit is a four-letter word, there are times when you need to do it. Just don’t make a rash decision. Think about the reasons why you’re doing something and why it’s burning you out. For example, if you’re only sticking with a freelance job for the money then maybe it’s time to let it go.
Photo credit: Ella