Exhaustion and the Writer

You know how it is.

You lost your job. Your job is incredibly stressful. Maybe you’ve got a chronic illness. Perhaps you’ve had extra hours at work, or could it be that you’ve simply spent all night watching K-Drama and can no longer function normally?

You’re exhausted. Whether that exhaustion is physical or mental, it’s something that makes it incredibly difficult to work on your writing. So what do you do?

Well, if you’re anything like me, you sink into a well of despair, self-loathing, and binge-tv-watching, out of which it is incredibly difficult to drag yourself. When it feels like your head is going to explode, or you’re exhausted to the point that you can’t do anything but sit in the recliner without moving, it’s an easy fix.

Easy, yes.

Helpful? Not so much.

Here’s the thing with writers.

We have to write every day. Some of us write more, and some of us write less; and honestly, it doesn’t really matter what your word count is, whether it’s 50 words a day, or 5000. We just have to write every day. And when I say ‘have to’ write every day, I really mean ‘should write’, or ‘need to write’ every day. It’s not all about habit, though habit is a good thing to get into. And it’s not all about word count, though that’s important, too.

So what is the point, Frixos?*

The point of writing every day is to keep your WiP fresh. It doesn’t matter if you only write 50 words per day, and though it’s great if you write 5000 words, it’s not necessarily more meaningful. Because even 50 words per day is going to keep your WiP fresh in your imagination. It will keep your storyline present in your mind, and it will keep your subconscious ruminating on and building on the WiP. You’ll find it easier to slip into your narrative each day, and you’ll notice that the flow of the story is much smoother. In short, it will make you a better writer: it’s a bit like practising your instrument every day.

What does this have to do with exhaustion?

Simple. When you’re exhausted, it’s hard to find the energy to write. There’s always the suffocating feeling that you should be doing more: more words per day, more writing time per day. You get caught up with the idea that you’ll never feel any better. But sometimes it’s simply a matter of writing 50 words. You don’t have to break the bank. You don’t have to write 5000 words, even if that’s your normal words per day count. It’s okay to take it easy when you’re sick or exhausted. Just don’t give up altogether: a tiny word count each day is enough to keep your WiP going, and it’s incredibly important to keep it going.

And, yanno, have a cuppa. Take it from me, a cup of tea is the best remedy for exhaustion that I know of.

I know quite a few of my writerly friends suffer from chronic illnesses/have full-on day jobs/multiple kids/etc: what tips do you have for dealing with exhaustion?

*watch Princess Caraboo if you want to know what I’m referencing. Seriously. Watch it.

6 thought on “Exhaustion and the Writer”

  1. Reb Kreyling September 7, 2016 at 8:51 pmEditReply

    Thank you for this. I’ve been struggling with writing since I started my new job, especially since I’ve been stressed out with it. And I made the decision yesterday that I need to just choose some time and write, even if it’s just a few words. This just backs up my motivation and ideals.


    • W.R.Gingell Post authorSeptember 7, 2016 at 8:54 pmEditReply

      Oh! Isn’t it HARD when you start a new job! There’s so much to learn and it takes all the head-space usually reserved for writing, plus all the energy you’d usually reserve for it. Good luck with your decision 🙂 Sometimes that’s the really big thing, just making the decision- or understanding that it needs to be made, anyway.

  2. Intisar Khanani September 8, 2016 at 12:06 pmEditReply

    Thank you for this. It seems hard enough to write daily with two little kids at home–which really just means I don’t sit down to write until about 8:30 pm. I’m a bit grumpy and tired by then, and keeping the WIP fresh is a chore. But it is nowhere near as tough as it would be where my health not strong, my family not supportive, etc., etc.. So I’m going to stop being all “Poor me, writing is hard!” and get back to my WIP now. It isn’t all that fresh and I need to get back to that struggle. Thank you. I’m sending you virtual hugs, and dreams of tea, and an easy way back to writing. <3 Be well.

    • W.R.Gingell Post authorSeptember 11, 2016 at 8:49 pmEditReply

      Thanks for the hugs! I needed them this last week 🙂

      And good luck getting back to your WiP: It’s not so easy writing with kids at home, so I really respect anyone who can do both things…

      I’m really eager to see what you come out with next!

  3. Kate Stradling September 8, 2016 at 5:49 pmEditReply

    I’ve mostly dealt with exhaustion by cutting back on non-essentials as much as possible. Unfortunately, I think I put my writing in that category. On the days that real life demands too much, I let the creative projects fall by the wayside.

    There is sense in knowing when to step back, but there’s also something to be said for giving essentials their daily due diligence. I guess I have some mental priorities to sort through. (Yet another item to add to my endless to-do list, haha.)

    Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Makes for a lovely kick in the pants.

    • W.R.Gingell Post authorSeptember 11, 2016 at 8:50 pmEditReply

      Ah yes, I tend to cut back on the non-essentials, too. Only with me, that usually ends up with being stuff like eating and sleeping, and then I tend to get sicker (surprise!)

      My priorities are definitely not where they should be… 😀

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