Writer’s Block vs Writer’s Burnout

Writer’s block is an insidious condition that afflicts almost all writers at some point in their career. It’s so prevalent that most of us have not only dealt with it, but we’ve also spent considerable time and effort trying to overcome it.

We’ve researched, read the articles, and tried all the best-touted cures. Not unlike the common cold, writer’s block won’t kill you and it will go away, but it will drive you crazy in the interim.

If you were to treat writer’s block like an illness, which to most writers it can feel like one, you would need a list of symptoms to see if it applied to you. So, the following is a checklist of a few of the traits that accompany this “ailment” and lead you to your “diagnosis.”

Writer’s Block is defined by:

·     An inability to think of a story idea

·     Failure to compose a story line or create a character composite

·     Impairment in choosing one superior idea from a list of ideas

·     Powerless to stop outlining outlines of outlines

·     Experiencing a loss of direction in plot causing paralysis mid-way through

·     Weakness in finding the right words to convey thoughts

·     Insufficient confidence that the transference of ideas onto paper is good

If have experienced these “symptoms” then you can be assured that your “diagnosis” is writer’s block.

The common prescription for a cure is to move forward, push through, get inspired, and get creative. Other treatments may include seeking your muse and finding writing prompts.

Each and all are useful but only if you are treating the right “ailment.”

None of these suggestions for overcoming writer’s block will be effective if you are instead suffering from writer’s burnout.

What’s the difference? The difference is that writer’s block often derives from deadline and/or performance pressure, perfectionism, unrealistic expectations, and often a simple fear of starting.

Whereas writer’s burnout is a condition that can follow a prolific phase in which writing comprises most of the time during a prolonged period. The following is a checklist of the “symptoms.”

Writer’s Burnout is defined by:

·     Displays exhaustion particularly when considering writing

·     Exhibits frustration with the prospect of writing

·     Indicates a high level of restlessness

·     Manifests a deep cynicism for the craft of writing

·     Demonstrates a significant degree of self doub

·     Shows evidence of cognitive impairment (i.e. fogginess, lack of concentration, no train of thought, etc.)

·     Reveals a desire to avoid or escape writing

It’s important to remember that writer’s block afflicts writers before or during the process of writing, whereas writer’s burnout affects writers following a very active phase of writing.

Knowing the difference between writer’s block and writer’s burnout is the difference between knowing when to push forward and knowing when to slow up and take a break.

Keep in mind that if writer’s burnout is not “treated” it can absolutely lead to writer’s block.

So, mind your symptoms, treat the cause, and find the cure so that writing never becomes anything less than a creative, passionate endeavor!

Thank you for reading. I look forward to your comments.

2 thoughts on “Writer’s Block vs Writer’s Burnout

  1. Recently, I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar. So I actually get really creative during hypomanic states. I’ve had to reel in my creativity and my urges to start a billion projects because of inevitable burnouts. Finding balance is key.

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About Sherry Parnell