Writer Fatigue: Do You Have It?

7 Jul

I recently read a very interesting article that has made me second-guess what I’ve always thought was writer’s block getting me down and stopping the words from flowing.

Like all writers, I thought I was the only one to suffer from the “Murky Middles” – the block that hits me in every project, without fail, around the 20,000-40,000 word mark (depending on the length of my manuscript). When I write I have the beginning close to perfect. I know how I want it to end, but something in the middle always seems to fail, and I find it slow and boring and tedious to write. Apparently, though, this “getting-stuck-in-the-middle” business is part and parcel of becoming a writer: it’s what we do.

I won’t re-hash the article, because it is wonderfully written and something every writer – aspiring or professional – needs to read. So, if you haven’t read it yet, HERE IT IS, what are you waiting for?

I will, however, pinpoint a few things I found really helpful from the article – like writer fatigue, for example. Before reading the article, I’d never even heard of writer fatigue, but now I know about it and the symptoms, I know I’m definitely suffering from it. I think it comes from working fulltime, spending quality time with my family (I might not have children but I’m plenty close with my parents, husband and siblings, so family time is important to me), having time to myself, general domestic duties AND also juggling writing and trying to fit the polishing of a novel in there somewhere.

The Symptoms

* Everything you write feels weak and reads crappy (in your opinion)

* You write the same sentence different ways, so your characters are saying the same thing over and over and you don’t even realise

* You re-read your paragraphs and you don’t pick up your mistakes (except for the crappy writing)

* You try to force the words after long, HUGE days and you get frustrated with yourself when the writing doesn’t happen (crappy words ensue)

* Your word count is stalled, yet you have plenty of plot and summaries to enable you to break through the block

Fatigue is Your Fault, Not the Plot’s

When I tally it up, I don’t think I’ve had a lunch break during the working week for going on four years now. Where most “normal” people will pick up a book and sit in a corner and read while they eat their lunch, I pick up the pen and I write – hard and fast, too, since I only get 30 minutes to crunch out those words and I want to make the time count. After work there’s the hassle of dinner, and then I jump straight onto the laptop and I will write for hours, sometimes until midnight or well after.

If you’re a writer you’ll be able to sympathise with how difficult it is to switch off the brain and sleep after a session like that. My head might hit the pillow at, say, 11pm, but the plots and the characters and their voices keep swirling around in my head for hours after. And I do this EVERY DAY, because if I don’t I get so frustrated with myself for being so lazy. Every day should be used to further the novel, in my mind, and any day that isn’t is a wasted day.

Now that I’ve taken all of this into account, I think I can safely say I have writer fatigue. I’ve probably had it for a while and I just didn’t know it.

The Recovery

The remedy is that I take a few days, weeks, a month away from writing and the novel to do other things. Not necessarily relaxing things, but something that’s so far away from writing to energise me.

I’ve recently found the joys of fishing and kayaking, so I’ve decided that I should take a kayak out as often as I can, even if only for a hour or so every second week, just to energise my mind and let the water and the soothing strokes of the paddle take away the stresses I get from writing.

It’s not an instant fix, but it’s a start.

Do you suffer from writer fatigue? What kinds of things do you do to take your mind away from your writing and re-invigorate yourself?

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8 Responses to “Writer Fatigue: Do You Have It?”

  1. Grumpy 07/07/2010 at 11:22 am #

    I can’t BELIEVE that you write in your lunch time. That is true commitment!

    I don’t think I have written ‘enough’ for writer fatigue…I mean, I have got a first draft of about 75 000 words but. I dunno. Is thinking the whole thing is a steaming pile writer’s fatigue? lol

    • thewritingant 07/07/2010 at 11:34 am #

      I can’t stop myself from writing in my lunch break. I feel like I’m betraying my novel and free writing time if I don’t, lol. That’s probably why I’m so tired all the time. ๐Ÿ˜›

      I’m not sure that thinking your first draft is a bunch of crud is fatigue – though maybe it is, in a way. I thought my last two drafts of my current WIP were utter shit!! (And I even still think the new draft is crap from time to time, though deep down I think I really love it)

      It’s all about balance, I’m finding. I can’t just write and write and write and expect my brain to be able to keep up with it. I need to write, and then do something for me, and then write, and then relax. I’ve found the tipping point, but I’m yet to balance it out again.

  2. miss ali 07/07/2010 at 12:25 pm #

    OMG! we are so here right now! Guh! I have all these plans for whats going to happen next but I just can’t actually WRITE them! I get all excited that I’m getting these “ideas” but I just can’t make SCENES from them! BAH! Starting to get out of the slump now as I have given myself a little time to recover- vitally important – and i have requested that my brain wake up. I haven’t seen my brain flip the bird yet so *fingers crossed* here’s hoping!

    great post- will check out the link now too! x

    • thewritingant 07/07/2010 at 2:47 pm #

      Yes, we are so totally here right now! I’m pushing through as best as I can, only managing a few hundred words a day. I feel like a snail, ugh. It’s frustrating but I really should take a longer break. I think my brain is telling me it needs one. xx

  3. Lila 07/07/2010 at 12:58 pm #

    Hmm. I don’t know. I’m struggling with the 3/4-Way-Through-Blues. Does that count as the Murky Middles? I don’t think it’s me though… I simply skipped ahead and I’m now writing the last two chapters of my book while I mull about what’s wrong with the 3 chapters before the final two chapters. If it was writer’s fatigue, I shouldn’t be able to write anything, right?

    I think I’m dealing with a plot problem, which is what the article you linked to suggested.

    So, the answer to your question about how I deal with my version of “writer’s fatigue” is what I just said – skipping to a more interesting part while I figure out what’s messing up the part I’m currently bored with. I think this would only work if you’re a planner though. Although, that would be an intriguing idea! Start with a bunch of interesting characters, and write random scenes that you really like, and then find a way to string them all together…hmm.

    And goodness sakes, take a week off! You make me feel like a lazy procrastinator! *shifty* And I’m so totally not… ๐Ÿ˜€

    • thewritingant 07/07/2010 at 3:01 pm #

      Yeah, it counts. You’ve just hit the murky middles a little later than I usually do. I’m still writing, but so very slowly and I think it’s all a bunch of crud so that’s definitely part of the fatigue, because I know which scenes I need to write next and I’m excited about them but I just can’t get the words to say what I want. Guh!

      I think I do need a week off, hehe! I may have to challenge myself to that in a few days – I’ll need to start on a weekend, though, so I have other fun things to distract me from my “not-writing” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Peggy 08/07/2010 at 7:04 am #

    So, the answer to your question about how I deal with my version of “writer’s fatigue” is what I just said – skipping to a more interesting part while I figure out what’s messing up the part I’m currently bored with. I think this would only work if you’re a planner though. Although, that would be an intriguing idea! Start with a bunch of interesting characters, and write random scenes that you really like, and then find a way to string them all together…hmm.
    +1

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. I like the numbness that comes with being exhausted « The Writing Ant - 08/07/2010

    […] ** Not my words. I just thought they were fitting, especially in my current state of writer fatigue. […]

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