Camp NaNoWriMo just ended, with all of its story-crafting mania. If you met goal and/or finished your story, congratulations! If you made a good go of it but came up short, congrats to you, too! Just trying is worth giving yourself a cookie. But what about the rest, those that gave it a try, pushed as hard as they could, and ended up stressed to the point of tears with your project?

Bad news, you’ve probably hit burnout. Just like overdoing it at the gym and pulling a muscle, you can actually strain your creativity. But the good news is that there are ways to help yourself heal from it. You’ll want to make a plan before it happens, and here are a few techniques to get the ideas rolling.

  1. Close the story. That’s right. Close the documents. Put your notes away. If you have your story saved on the computer, put it on a flashdrive and give it to someone you trust so you can’t open it. Do not look at it, don’t think about it, absolutely don’t work on it. Your brain needs bedrest–you can’t get that if you’re still trying to make it do work. Only you can say how long you actually need to get away, but I know I usually need at least a week. Last time burnout hit me, I didn’t even look at my project for six months.
  2. Find a different creative outlet. Break out the sketchbook. Sing. Dance. Channel your creativity through a different center of your brain than your language regions. Like continuing to lift weights even though you’ve got a twisted ankle, this will give you a way to keep your creative side active while still letting you get some distance from your story.
  3. Find a physical outlet. Much like finding a new way to focus your creativity, doing something physical will get your brain working in new ways. Take up a martial art or a new sport. Go for a run. If intense physical activity really isn’t your thing, try yoga or even just a leisurely walk.
  4. Change your workspace. One thing I noticed the last time I hit burnout was that even just sitting down at the computer sent my brain into panic mode. The physical act of looking at the screen made me think I was about to open up my novel, even if I just wanted to check my e-mail. I felt actually ill. I got around it by changing up my work area. I moved my computer from the living room to the bedroom. I burned incense or candles to create a relaxing atmosphere. I exchanged the Pepsi that my mind associated with word-time to a glass of iced tea. Slowly, those subtle cues made my time at the computer less tense, so I could actually unwind at the end of the day.
  5. Start a new writing project. Maybe not jumping straight into the word-generating aspect if that’s what put you over the edge to start with. But start drabbling or world-building or brainstorming on a new story. Whatever part of that start-up process you find appealing, the thing that makes you excited to sink right into it. Use that as a gateway to remember why you like writing. And then, slowly, you can meander back toward the draft you had to walk away from.

As always, be sure to check out the twin post at Rachel’s blog, Undivinelight!

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