I thought about this email for a long time before I responded to it. I’m not going to paste everything here because it’s personalized to the student, but here’s the gist of my response:
Here’s some stuff I do when this happens to me. Maybe it will work for you, but if not, that’s okay too! Everyone’s writing process is different.
I can’t write without doing things for myself too. This means going to a museum, reading a book I love, going camping for a weekend, etc. Basically, in order to write, I need to do things that may or may not work into my writing thematically or as images/scenes. I sort of look at writing as dumping out a bucket, and I have to fill that bucket up once and a while to be able to keep working.
Sometimes, if that doesn’t work, I change up my focus and work on something completely new, or something I haven’t worked on in a while. I have three rotating projects outside of the manuscripts I’ve already finished, and I’ll spend a few months working diligently on one thing before I burn out and need to switch to something else. When I get tired of writing scenes over and over and need a break, I swap to a poetry manuscript. When I want to pay less attention to meter and more attention to articulating an experience with research, I swap to some memoir work. When all of that is stupid and I want to spend time in a world I created, I switch to fiction. When even that becomes stupid, I definitely walk away to read comics and play video games.
If I didn’t do those things, I’d be so bored. Really, the most important thing for me is that I give myself permission to not write once and a while. That might seem counter-productive for a writer, but imagine if you were an assembly line worker. Wouldn’t you want to take weekends off, or end the workday at a certain time? Being a writer is so tough because for most of us, it’s having a full-time job on top of our other full-time job. Your two jobs right now are writer and student, and just like with any job, if you don’t take breaks, you’ll run yourself ragged.
Don’t worry—that worry will only cause you to stress, which will leave you writing even less. Me
It’s scary to be the person that new writers ask for help. I think of how frantic I was in high school and college, and how much of a pain I must have been to my professors (thank you so much for dealing with me). I didn’t know how to chill out and let things happen with my work. I didn’t write every day, and for some reason I had convinced myself that in order to be a “real writer” I needed to.
I thought that response might be helpful for everyone to see, but most importantly me. I’m burning out a bit myself, so it was nice to decompress and remind myself of these basic things. After work today I’m going to catch up on the X-Men comics I’m behind on.
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