Surviving NaNoWriMo: Burnout

Surviving NaNoWriMo: Burnout.jpg

Burnout is a serious problem. And when it comes to NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to become burnt-out, especially if you’re not used to writing everyday.

If you’re feeling fine at the end of NaNoWriMo, as if you could go on to write 1667 (or 2000) words everyday for another month without breaking a sweat, good for you. If you end off the month wanting to never write again because you’re just so exhausted, welcome to the burnout club.

NaNoWriMo is amazing because it gives you that push you need to start writing a novel. A push that many want-to-be writers don’t get. But there is a downside. By the end you’ll be incredibly exhausted.

For a day, a week, a month, or even a year, you will be too tired to write anything.

But it doesn’t just happen at the end of the month. In my experience, that feeling usually hits me at around 3/5 to 4/5 of the story. It can also happen earlier, even before NaNoWriMo starts if you put too much of energy into planning.

Burnout will make you terribly unproductive and could be the reason why you don’t finish your novel. I’m here to help you prevent it. Or to help you treat it, should the need arise.

Prevention of Burnout

Burnout isn’t just exhaustion, it’s also feeling as if no matter how hard you work, you’re not making any progress. Because you’re feeling incredibly unproductive, you’ll probably try working even longer and harder.


This will make you feel even more tired and unproductive, leading to a downward spiral. You need to do the opposite of unproductive work. Take a break and/or shift your perspective.

You could work on a different writing project. If you’re working on a novel for NaNoWriMo, take a break from it and do some journaling or poetry. You could even work on a different novel for a couple of days. It’ll be a change of scenery and of characters.

Or instead of a writing project, you could work on a different kind of art or craft like knitting, sketching, or music. I find that doing this is a wonderful way to take care of writer’s block, as it allows for new kinds of inspiration to enter your soul.

Another way to prevent burnout while still writing is to change your scenery. If you’re always in your house while you write try going to a local café or library.

You should also try to get assistance from friends, family, or writing buddies. Their support and love will help you become stronger and it will be immensely encouraging.

Treatment for Burnout

If you do end up getting burnout, either by lack of prevention or by failure of the prevention techniques, then you will want to treat it as soon as possible.

The simplest way to treat burnout is to take a break. One day at minimum, one week at maximum for NaNoWriMo. The risk of this treatment is that you may get too used to the break and not want to continue working.

If you are going to take a long break, I suggest doing some other kind of creative work, like artwork or design. Maybe take the opportunity to learn about something new. That way the ‘creative juices’ will still be flowing when you do continue working.

If you are taking a shorter break, try filling yourself with inspiration. Think back to when you first started planning your story, or if you’re a pantser, to when the initial idea struck.

Was there a movie you had watched that gave you the first inklings of a story? Was there a book you had read that gave you a glimpse of a character full of conflict?

Rewatch that movie or reread that book.

A fun project that you could do over a day is making an inspiration board for your story. Try to find all the quotes, images, and things that represent your story and put them all in one place. This could be in a notebook, a journal, a Pinterest board, or a collage.

The treatment for burnout is very similar to the prevention for it. But if you are burnt-out, then you should go all out for the treatment. Take a mental health day off of work or school, and really treat yourself. Maybe have a bubble bath or take the time to prepare your favorite meal.

Hopefully you won’t get burnout during your NaNoWriMo adventure. If you do, hopefully it won’t last long. Do you have any other ways of preventing or treating this terrible creativity stopper? Let me know in the comments.

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