Dear Sherry: Burned Out

Dear Sherry,

I’ve been writing for several years now. I have a handful of books published. Lately, the writing has just been, well, hard. This isn’t about writer’s block. I can get the words on the page if I have to, so I know it isn’t being “blocked” that’s slowing me down. Frankly, I’m burned out on writing. What are some methods you use to recover your sense of excitement?

Burned Out



Dear Burned Out,

You’re right. Feeling burned out is a different beast all together from not feeling like writing, doubting your abilities, or being stuck with the story.

Burnout can happen in any career, and writing is no different. Burnout causes an unhealthy kind of stress that negatively affects you physically, mentally, emotionally. That stress also negatively affects your relationships and your ability to function on a daily basis.

Before it gets to that point, stop, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. As you breathe in, imagine you’re inhaling cool, refreshing, stress-free energy. As you breathe out, you’re exhaling that stress. It’s a momentary help, but it is useful for taking the edge off.

If the burnout is bad, there is nothing wrong with taking a break from writing. If you decide to take some time off, whether it’s a day or a year, remind yourself that you are taking a break and that is it OK to take a break.

If you have a looming deadline and can’t take a break, or you just don’t want to, then yes, you do need to find ways to find that sense of excitement again. Only you can know what will truly spark that excitement and motivation for you. Here are a few ideas on how you can try to shake that spark into a flame.

Try allowing yourself to write something that is silly, or dark, something that is just for you. Write fan fiction, or try your hand at a different genre. It doesn’t matter how bad or ridiculous it is because no one else will see it.

Go on a writing retreat with other writers. Make sure these are other writers who will encourage you and inspire you, not inadvertently make you think you’re lacking some skill or aren’t where you want to be with your writing. Talk writing over meals, and laugh, a lot.

Don’t punish yourself when you have a not-great writing day. To quote Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.” Tomorrow is always a fresh start.

Take a day or a few hours to try some other creative outlet, such as scrapbooking, or taking an art class. Grab your camera and go take some pictures in the park. Experience the world and creativity from a different angle.

Be gentle with yourself. Set smaller daily writing goals. It may take you longer to finish, but you will still finish.

A writing career is like running the IronMan Triathlon in Hawaii. It’s grueling and exhausting. Stopping for a moment and walking to catch your breath and rid yourself of a cramp is better than pushing yourself so hard that you have to stop completely.

Let me know what works for you, and what gives you that spark back.

Creatively yours, Sherry

Sherry Peters“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.

If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at



  • Jayne Barnard October 22, 2016 at 2:21 am

    I agree 100% that taking a break to do some other creative thing (no matter how badly) can revive that creative spark for your writing. I did that last year with papier mache masks, and this past summer by dragging out my sewing machine. I’ll never be an award-winning paper artist or seamstress, but I had fun and came back to the keyboard recharged.

    Another issue entirely is to look again at what your goals were for your writing. Have you met those goals already and don’t have a new goal that seems worth shooting for?

    • Shara White October 24, 2016 at 11:22 pm

      Having new goals is really important. I think that hit me upside the head when I finished graduate school. I was so focused on finishing my novel and graduating that I didn’t make a new, solid goal of trying to get published, despite that being the obvious and next step.


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