by Cole Smith
“Apply butt to chair.” That’s the ubiquitous advice. Write, no matter what. Even when you don’t feel like it, WRITE. But how do you know when it’s really time to step away from your work for a little while, and when you’re just making excuses to your internal editor?
True burnout goes deeper than fatigue or writer’s block. When, instead of writing yourself out of a funk, you write yourself deeper into one, you know it’s time to step away.
“How am I supposed to get any work done?” wrote a blogger in one of my closed Facebook groups. Then she went on to describe several truly terrible situations she and her family were navigating. There are seasons of life when self-care has to take priority over goals. Don’t give up on your work; just give it grace. Several members of my group were quick to support our friend. And maybe that’s what she was really asking, the underlying question beneath the surface: “Is it okay if I stop for a bit?”
Burnout is bad for creativity.
The Muse is real! Ancient creatives used the archetype to conceptualize the spirit of creativity. If you try to push through burnout with brute force, you’ll drive away your Muse and your subconscious won’t burp up those wonderful ideas any more. So how do you woo back your Muse?
Remember good ol’ Archimedes? According to legend, the Principle of Buoyancy came to him in the bath, and he was so overjoyed he streaked through town to tell everyone. Okay, so that story’s equal parts myth and fact, but it’s still very true, isn’t it? Suffering burnout, it was only when Archy settled down for a little relaxation that inspiration struck him like a suckerpunch. (And if streaking through town isn’t a sign of a burnout-addled brain, I don’t know what is…)
A full cup = greater impact!
The old adage, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is true. If you’re feeling starved in any area of your creative life, the inspiration that flows to you only serves to fill you up. But when you’re fulfilled, confident, and rested, you’re able to overflow into others. Your readers, accountabilibuddies, and community will benefit from what you’re able to generously pass on. And that’s no small thing–the world needs encouragement, inspiration, and joy.
Schedule a personal retreat, a day of creative rest, or just get away from your WIP for a while. It’s not selfish or weak, but necessary! If you need permission to step away, you have it. Your work is too important not to take care of yourself 🙂
Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for writers and other creatives at www.colesmithwrites.com. Her cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, is available here.