Writing a book is the weirdest thing in the world; you are energetic and exhausted at the same time. One second you are over the moon seeing how good the line you just wrote is, and the next, you go through major self doubt—will anyone even read my book? As rewarding as the end process of writing your book is, it is hard to get through the period of the actual writing without burning out or getting stuck. The following are the three ways I have personally found to be useful in avoiding burnout and creative blocks, whether be it while I am writing or working on book covers.
”I am speed. I am speed. I am speed…”
This is a point that I need to explain clearly because it can go extreme, pretty fast. I have noticed that when I am doing cover design projects, or writing assignments that span over a long time, I tend to lose my energy and start to feel bitter about it. I do pick myself back up, but the longer a project tends to go on, the more I start finding excuses not to do it or put in 100% effort. As a result, my work quality suffers. So, to combat this, I pick up my pace and work longer on one project so that I can reduce the total number of days I spend on it. This reduced my stress astronomically, but being the idiot I am, I took it too far. Three years ago, I just needed a few hours, maximum one day, to finish a book cover. But over the years, as my skill level increased, I started to make more complex covers and tried to complete it in a day like I used to three years ago. Six months ago, I realized how much it was affecting my work quality as well as stress level. I would be sitting in front of my laptop for 10 hours at a stretch painting on each strand of hair on the model. I would be so tired by the end of the day, that I barely had the mental space for anything else and often avoided doing pre-mades and instead just focused on customs. But once I started spreading out the tasks a bit more, I have been breathing easier. I do the basic concept one day, add details and do colour grading the next, then the typography on the third.
In the case of writing it’s slightly different. I tend to be a fast writer but I tend to push myself too fast and burnout. So for each novel, according to how much time I think it will require, I will mark some days off. On the days that I write, I pair it with non-strenous activities that don’t require much brainpower like laundry, cleaning, reading, binge watching netflix etc. As important as it is work towards your passion, you should not be so completely focused on it that you forget the other things that give you joy.
If you want to improve your writing speed, I have written an article on how to do it efficiently and without encountering writing blocks. These methods helped me finish my 50k YA novel in 9 days.
Keep Calm and Drink Water
I know this is a weird tip, but the old adage of a healthy mind resting in a healthy body is very true. So when you start to feel the symptoms of a burn out or creative block, pause and reflect. Were you drinking enough water, having meals at the proper time, blinking and resting your eyes, exercising?
When your body’s needs are ignored, it will yank down your brain’s capacity too. So, take care of yourself first. Take a bath, listen to music you love, turn off your social media notifications and stay away from your phone at least for a few hours. Do other things and you will automatically crave to write again. And the time away will give you new ideas to get over that particular scene you were stuck in.
“Your writing sucks”
Your first draft will 99.9% be one of the most horrible messes you have seen in your life—unless you are in that elite minority who writes perfect first drafts. But since you are reading this, I am guessing you are not. First things first, it’s okay to have a mess of a first draft or even a fifth draft. That’s why they are called vomit drafts because your brain is literally vomiting out a story and you are jotting it down in all its messy glory. Let go of perfectionism. Accept that your story is going to look pretty bad, but the best thing is that you can always keep on rewriting it till you are happy with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect because you could rewrite for ten years and you will still find things to improve. Once it’s in a good enough condition, let go of it and start writing your next story, using all the knowledge you learned from writing your previous books. You will notice that as you keep writing; plotting, characterization, dialogue—everything becomes easier. Art blocks will become less frequent. It might still happen, especially if the story doesn’t have a strong plot or you had a stressful day, but don’t give up. Keep on writing and editing. You don’t have to write every day, because some days you might be just too busy for it, but make sure there isn’t more than a two-day gap, otherwise you might end up feeling disconnected with the story and writing in general. Writing is a habit that you have to build up. If you keep waiting for your muse, you might never be able to complete your novel.
So feel happy that you have written a shitty first draft because most people don’t even complete the first draft before giving up. Glare at your draft. Curse it for being so horrible. Keep it away for a few weeks. Read it again and start rewriting. Seeing how much better it gets with each rewrite will give you the confidence to write many more shittier first drafts. And this is good because, every amazing story started out as a completely garbled mess of words on which the author didn’t give up.
I hope you found these tips useful. Don’t give up on writing. It sucks sometimes, but it definitely is worth it. Have a good day. Also, feel free to comment below if you need help on a specific topic.
About the Author
Amala Benny is an avid reader and professional book cover designer who has designed for multiple award winning and bestselling authors. She spends her free time Fangirling over Ilona Andrews and Leigh Bardugo.