Overcoming Creative Burnout  

by Rosemary Richings

May 2016

I had my first experience with writer’s block when I was only sixteen years old. Then I found Writer’s Block for Dummies in abookstore. The first chapter was the best part. It was a psychological overview of writer’s block and its causes. It was also jam-packed with freewriting exercises.

By age 16 I was working hard to get into university. I thought about my writer's block a bit, and then I realized that I needed to focus on school for a while. I took a break from writing so that I could increase my chances of early acceptance. My writing was right there waiting for me when I finished university.

After university, writing became what I always wanted it to be: a sustainable business. It started with the sound of crickets dominating my inbox. Then the project requests started pouring in. The deadlines were tight, and the demand was high. I was so eager to work that I accepted every single project request that showed up in my inbox.

I got so caught up in my eagerness to work that I spent too much time working. The first couple of weeks were a flood of ideas, and eager dedication. Then it hit me, a moment of spontaneous weakness. A question that haunted my brain:

“Why is every idea I have the same as everyone else’s? Why me, instead of someone else? Now what…?”

That’s when the spark of creativity just stopped for a while. I stared at my computer screen, and asked myself:

“Now what…?”

There were no ideas, no master plan, just a vacant, flashing screen, patiently waiting for my next move. At first I thought it was just another streak of writer’s block, but this was way worse. For the first time in my life I hated writing, and I didn’t know how long that feeling was going to last. I felt as if I was a victim of a Dementor, those ghost-like figures from the Harry Potter series that suck the joy out of the victim's soul.

When I realized that this was a problem that wasn't going away on its own, I asked Google for help. I learned a lot about creative burnout, and was a hundred percent convinced that I was experiencing burnout firsthand. I took time off from my writing, and then one day I decided to give a familiar strategy a shot: exercise and fresh air.

I wandered off to my local park and started to run, while smoggy wind gently passed me by. For a moment the world around me resembled a blurry photograph, as I ran faster, and faster, and faster in circular motion. Upbeat music blared in my ears, and the words of passersby were muffled.

That’s when my mind started to wander to thoughts of people that truly mattered to me, thoughts of these people looking genuinely happy. That’s when I was reminded of a crucial memory, one that I had nearly forgotten about. This one was about a former English teacher, who on the last day of high school, said to me:

“You’re a really good writer, keep up the good work.”

Then I remembered the acceptance letters, the encouraging words of kind mentors, and my unconditionally supportive friends, who called me the next Margret Atwood. By my final lap around the park, the encouraging words that were flowing through my head were my strongest weapon. My foggy outlook on the world around me stopped being so overwhelmingly blurry.

After my brief hiatus, I was ready to jump back into reality. I attacked my work with a huge burst of passion and energy. I wrote a personal essay, and had a ton of new ideas for articles and blog posts. The alluring new car smell that writing had back in my teen years returned, and I didn’t want to give up anymore.

I wrote in my diary a lot during my hiatus. My journal entries helped me articulate why writing has always been so important to me. When I started writing again I knew what I wanted, and I knew what I wanted to do to make it happen, which lead to better clients, projects, and opportunities.

Rosemary Richings is a professional writer, blogger, and copywriter that writes web/blog content for online news outlets and local businesses. Publication credits include yp.ca, befunky.com, kijjiblog.ca, Winnipeg Review, and more. She also has a blog called Rosie Writing Space: an Online Journal of the Writing Life. Her favorite things include coffee, zombie movies, and long-distance jogging. Rosemary develops attention-grabbing, authentic content that helps increase the online presence of diverse businesses.