Are you suffering from burnout?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about burnout.

I’ve noticed that writers often complain about feeling “burned out.” This feeling seems to be most common among (but not limited to) long-form writers such as book authors and students working on a thesis. Why? I’d always thought it was at least partly because of the multiple demands on their time.

Book authors (unless they are among the small handful of bestselling writers) usually have to work another job and write on the side. Students have to deal with all their other classes, perhaps a paying job AND the need to research and write their thesis.

But Eric Barker, in his blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree, offers a different analysis in a post titled “How To Avoid Burnout: 3 Secrets From Research. He begins by arguing convincingly that burnout is, in fact, another name for depression. Here’s what he says:

When you’re not clicking with your role, you’re overloaded, and your duties aren’t aligned with your expectations or values, it’s not merely the stress that gets to you; you actually experience a perspective shift. You feel you can’t make progress, you disengage, and you eventually become cynical and pessimistic… Burnout is the result of a pessimistic attitude toward your job. “This isn’t getting me anywhere. I can’t handle this. It’s never going to get any better.

And here are the three tips Barker offers for combatting burnout:

  1. Be optimistic: Pay attention to the voice in your head. When it starts describing negative events as permanent, pervasive or personal, correct yourself because these interpretations are almost always false.
  2. Find meaning in what you do: If you can consider your work a “calling” rather than a “job” you are more likely to avoid burnout.
  3. Invest more time in your relationships: The people who handle stress best increase their social activity when things get hard.

Burnout isn’t the cost of being a writer. It’s something you can avoid, if you take the right steps.