Writing a novel can be a lot of fun. But it can also be stressful. For many people, writing a full-length book can take its toll on the mind and body. So I’ve decided to put together a list of my top 5 tips for avoiding Novel Writing Burn Out
And if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, these tips are especially helpful for keeping you healthy, sane, and on track to the 50,000 mark!
1) End each writing session BEFORE you’re actually finished
What??? What in the world does that mean? Well, I’ll tell you. It means try to end each day’s writing session at a point where you already know what’s going to happen next. In other words, don’t finish the chapter or scene you’re working on, even if you’re itching to. Especially if you’re itching to. Leaving yourself something exciting to work on tomorrow will ensure you’re always eager to get to work the next day and will help prevent that feeling of “dread” when it’s time to sit down at the computer.
2) Take 2 minutes every time you get up to clear and clean your workspace
A desk full of dirty coffee cups, crumpled napkins, and tea-stained notebook pages is only glamorous and romantic in the movies. In real life, it’s detrimental to productivity. When your workspace is clean and clear, your head is clean and clear and there’s much more room for creativity. Every time you get up from your desk (whether it’s at the end of the writing day or just to take a quick break), take 1-2 minutes to straighten up your workspace. (If you do this every day, the process will take much less time than if you let it build up!) Take that empty mug back to the kitchen, throw away any trash, straighten that toppling Jenga tower of craft books. Make the space look clean and inviting. Then, when it’s time to go back to work, you’ll instantly feel refreshed, instead of already feeling drained and overwhelmed before you even start.
3) Hydrate and Fuel
We all love our caffeine, right? And it can be super helpful in jumpstarting our writing each day and keep us going well into the night. But it can also be very dehydrating. So make sure you’re drinking LOTS of water while you write, to counteract the effects of that caffeine. Keep a large bottle of water at your desk so you don’t have to keep getting up to refill. I like to drink sparkling water when I write just to keep life more interesting. But try to avoid sugary, artificially flavored water that will only dehydrate you more.
And along the same lines, SNACKS! It’s perfectly normal to want to reach for the sweet treats when we’re burning the midnight oil and there’s only 500 more words to go! Especially with all that extra Halloween candy lying around! But sugar will cause you to crash fast and it does nothing to help brain function. Brains work best on protein. So stock up on some yummy high-protein snacks to keep around while you’re writing, like greek yogurt, trail mix, peanut butter toast, protein powder for smoothies, and protein bars. I really love Perfect Bars which can be found in the refrigerated section of most supermarkets (the Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter is the BOMB!)
4) Take PRODUCTIVE Brain Breaks
The key word here is PRODUCTIVE. I strongly urge you not to use social media, emails, text messages, or mindless YouTube browsing as your “writing breaks.” These activities will only fatigue and overload your brain instead of resting it or exercising it. I’m always 10x less motivated to write after I’ve checked my email or been on social media. And that’s the last thing your brain breaks should do!
Instead, try activities that give your brain an “active rest”. Like meditating, going for a walk, folding laundry, coloring in a coloring book, washing dishes, doing a puzzle. Recently I’ve discovered the Elevate App and I’ve been loving it. It’s amazing for not only giving me a productive brain break, but improving my writing as well! The app is a personalized brain training game. Kind of like going to the gym…for your brain! They have games in four different categories: writing, reading, speaking, and math and the app creates a custom training program for you, based on your current strengths and weaknesses. They have a one-month free trial. Try this between writing sessions to give your brain a much-needed boost.
I know this tip sounds super simple but it’s also super important. Writing a novel, by its very nature, involves a lot of sitting. Our brains and bodies can easily fatigue and feel the effects of burn out if we sit too long without moving. Whenever I’m on a big deadline and having to work for longer hours per day, I always build in multiple exercise breaks. Nothing too long or strenuous (that leaves me drained at the end), but something short and blood-pumping. Like a 10-minute run or walk, a couple of yoga flows, or even just a few burpees in my office. Brains don’t work well without blood flowing to them, so carve out some space each day (even if it’s just 5 minutes) to reactivate that blood flow and you’ll see the effects in not only your writing but your mood as well, making it much easier to power all the way through the first draft.
So, there you have it! My 5 tips for avoiding Novel Writing Burn Out! I hope they help you cross that finish line!