I think all writers get too drained to write from time to time. Sometimes life happens and we don’t seem to have the bandwidth for our work. Or sometimes, we just don’t have *it*, if you know what I’m mean. Maybe it’s not quite at a level of burnout, but burnout isn’t too far away. Moments like this tend to go in one of two directions. Either you set your work aside and fall into the trap of consistently not working, or you push through these moments and work anyway–though it often feels like wading through quicksand.
Obviously, the ideal situation would be to find some middle ground. I’ve found that there are a handful of non-writing related activities that can both give my brain a break while making me a better writer.
Without further ado, here are seven activities you can do when you’re too drained to write:
1) Listen to an audiobook
This may just be me, but often if I’m too fried to write, I’m too fried to read. It’s like my brain powers down and can no longer process written words enough to comprehend a story. Instead, I turn to audiobooks. This allows me to experience a story and move through my reading list while still giving my brain a break. And most libraries have a digital audiobook collection. So, if you have a library card, you can download books from your home computer at absolutely no cost.
2) Watch a TV show or movie
Storytelling and character development can be just as dynamic in TV shows and movies as it is in books. If you’re too drained to write or read, try watching a new or favorite show. And if you have the mental energy, watch it through a writer’s lens. Consider what makes the show compelling and what falls flat. Then consider how you can use what you’ve learned in your own work.
3) Listen to music
Step away from long-form stories altogether and let your brain reset with a completely different experience. The music itself will stimulate a different part of your brain, and I’ve found that if I put headphones on and close my eyes–so I tune out the rest of the world and just focused on the music–it can be fairly meditative. If you’re up for it, you can also use this experience to get to know your characters better. Either pick music you think you’re characters would like, or as you move through your playlist, consider which of your characters would like (or dislike) the song your listening to and why. It’s a quick way to get to know your characters a little better while your brain rests. For more benefits of listening to music, check out this article by the HuffPost.
4) Take a walk
Walks are a great way to let your brain do whatever it needs to do. Sometimes when I’m fried, it’s most helpful to let my brain wander and think about whatever it wants to. Other times, I still want to think about my story, just in a less structured way. Regardless, time outside almost always refreshes me and puts me in a good position to work either after my walk or the following day.
5) Cook or get crafty
Sometimes when my brain is drained, the best way to help it out is to give it something else to focus on. In times like these, I tend to cook, bake, or take a stab at a Pinterest craft. When I fully occupy my brain in this way, it makes it hard for my thoughts to wander back to my book and forces my brain to take some time off. This time away always goes a long way in refreshing my creativity and helping me to come back to my WIP with a fresh mind.
6) Talk with a friend
You can talk about what you’re writing or about anything but what you’re writing. Sometimes I find talking my stories out with a friend to be really helpful, especially when my brain is too tired to write. It’s one way of keeping my story on my mind and (assuming I’m talking to a friend who gets my work) they can often offer me a new perspective that helps me see my story in a different light. On the other hand, when I’m closer to burn out, talking about my book is often the last thing I want to do. In those instances, connecting with a friend can help to recenter me. And even if we’re not talking about my story, there’s every possibility they might say something that will find it’s way onto the page.
7) Sleep and take care of yourself
Blowing off work for sleep and rest may feel lazy, but when you’re brain is tired, it often does legitimately need rest. We live in a society that celebrates people who push themselves beyond their limits for the sake of their passions. And while there is certainly an aspect of that I can respect, it’s not a very sustainable lifestyle, especially given how mentally demanding writing is. Sure, sometimes we need to push ourselves, but sometimes the best thing we can do for our writer brains is to take care of ourselves. Sleeping, eating right, and taking writing breaks are all apart of this. For more tips on how to be a healthy writer, check out this post.
I hope this gives you some good activities to do when you’re too drained to write!
Now it’s your turn: Do you have any go-to activities for when you’re too drained to write? Is there anything on this list you’re excited to try? Tell me about it in the comments!
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