Write Every Day, Writer’s Block, and Writer’s Burn Out

The Write Every Day Challenge

A while back, I started the Write Every Day Challenge. That’s more or less exactly what it sounds like. You write every day, and see how long you can go without missing a day. There are a lot of versions of the challenge, but this one happens to be a student-led challenge at Holly’s Writing Classes. (It’s in the free portion of the forums, but you do have to register an account. (Pick up the FREE Flash Fiction Class while you’re there.) (Yes, that’s an affiliate link. Yes, I get paid if you buy something. No, it doesn’t cost you any more.) Check in to report your progress, and support others.

So, I joined The Challenge. I didn’t expect it to go very far, but hey. Why not? A little encouragement never hurt.

At the end of February, I celebrated 500 days in a row of writing every day.

I’m still going.

Writer’s Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Not really. Not after 500 days and after years of educational projects where I sit down and write the thing in the last moments before the deadline sets in. No. You can always get your ass in a chair and produce something.

And I’m not going to pretend that the last 500 odd days weren’t productive. They were. I finished drafts of three separate novels. I’m starting to revise one of them. There were a number of short stories, blog posts, and ongoing projects. I also spent a good deal of time submitting, and then re-revising an earlier manuscript.

Deep breath.

The Write Every Day Challenge works. I got stuff done. And that’s on top of a day job or two, and family obligations.

Writer’s block was not a problem. You get into the habit, and then, you write. The ideas pop up pretty much on command.

Just like any other job. There’s no such thing as Lawyer’s block, or Electrician’s Block, or Mother’s block. And there’s no such thing as writer’s block, either.

What does exist, and what I suspect is a whole lot more common in writers than in other professions (for reasons I’ll get to) is burnout.

Writer’s Burnout Is Different Than Writer’s Block

Here’s the thing. I wrote for over 500 days in a row, and I did it with the full support of my writing community.

That’s over a year without a day off.

Lawyers don’t lawyer 365 days in a row. Electricians don’t electrician every day of the year. Even mothers hire a baby sitter from time to time, and nobody thinks the less of them. Sure, they come home early if the kid gets colicky or if the babysitter starts inviting boys over, but a day off? Sure.

Writers are a different ball of wax. Nobody goes to law school with the idea that the job will be “fun.” Fulfilling, maybe. Challenging, of course… but no. Not fun. An electrician knows when he’s on the clock, and when he’s not. And mothers? Well, nobody looks at a mother and assumes her kids are just “a hobby.”

How Writers Are Different

Writing starts out as a hobby. And it starts out as a hobby before most people have jobs and careers and responsibilities. Then, we grow up, and somewhere along the line, we decide that this hobby… this thing we’ve done for fun since we were children… Maybe we could do that as a career. That’s when it all gets a little hazy. It gradually becomes a job.

It’s a job people don’t recognize as a job. Progress is slow, and they just don’t see the hours and hours of work you’re putting in. Maybe they don’t believe that novel really exists, or that you will ever finish it. They don’t “get” why you need to work on your book instead of spending time with them. You don’t get the same level of support that “real” jobs get.

And somewhere in the back of your mind, you still think of writing as a “hobby”, too. There’s no little voice to remind you there’s a world outside of “work.” Nothing like a paycheck to remind you you worked a solid, eighty-hour week last week, or a hundred hour week before that. No immediate financial pay off to remind you you “deserve” a break.

You need a hobby.

Something other than writing, which has stopped functioning as a hobby.

Because, writing has become… A job? A career? Uhm… something more like entrepreneurship, actually.

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” — Anonymous.

You work without being told, and for waaaay more than 40 hours a week, and you do it without any real promise of a paycheck. Ever.

Oh, yes. You need a hobby. And a day off. Maybe a vacation.

You deserve a hobby. And a day off. And a vacation.

Is it writer’s block if you write every day without stopping? Writer’s burn-out? Or simple exhaustion?

Yes, I’m still tallying up the days since my last day off. And no, I don’t really have a whole lot of ground to stand on while I’m preaching about taking a break, and doing something fun. But looking at those numbers definitely has me thinking.

I need a day off.

If you want to read some of what I’ve been working on, I have some of my short stories linked here. You can check them out for free. I’d love to hear your comments, or have you follow my blog.

2 Comments

  1. A.S. Akkalon

    Reply

    Those are some deep thoughts. You’ve put into words some things that have been preying on my mind for a while. Other people do view my writing as a hobby and so don’t hesitate to interrupt it. Maybe I still view it as a hobby too. But you’re right, when writing becomes a job you need another hobby to unwind. (And I’m thinking Twitter doesn’t count.)

    500 days writing every day is impressive. I didn’t notice exactly when I started, but I think I’m at about 40 days.

  2. Damyanti Biswas

    Reply

    A day off in the life of a writer seems impossible at times…

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