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Writer's burnout: what is it and how to handle it

Since writing papers is essentially something that all university students will face throughout their studies, the risk of ‘burning’ out while writing essays or reports could represent an issue.

In fact, the so-called ‘writer’s burnout’ has the potential to negatively affect students academic performance and, as such, it is important to understand its nature and learn how to properly deal with it in case it comes across your path. Hence why I would like to use this blog to talk about this not so rare phenomenon and provide some useful tips to eventually overcome it.

In its broadest terms, writer’s burnout refers to a state of mental and physical exhaustion that is experienced whenever writing something. You might have great ideas but you feel unmotivated to sit down and translate them into words. And if you manage to do so, you will end up questioning the value of your results, becoming unhappy about your own writing abilities too. Simply, you do’t find the energy and enthusiasm to write. As a consequence, procrastination becomes a handy solution and the amount of workload starts to accumulate, skyrocketing your levels of stress. Something to avoid, considering the fact that stressing over deadlines and related over-thinking are the two main causes of writer’s burnout in the first place.

Similarly, other causes of writer’s burnout include: setting unachievable objectives, consistently working too many hours, little to no downtime, comparison with other students, and a chaotic working environment. Based on these, here follow some tips that could be helpful in finding the right working discipline and avoid over-thinking.

First of all, set ‘SMART’ goals. Make a plan for your work and set daily objectives, such as the number of words or arguments that need to be written down. These should be clear and reachable, based on your level of preparation, writing abilities, and time available. Second, take your time, literally. If you are feeling bored or tired whenever starting to write something down, deal with those emotions. Keeping writing just so you can achieve the set number of words in a day will ultimately affect your productivity and quality of work. In cases like this, do something that helps you relax. Watch an episode of your favourite TV show or learn some cooking skills. Third, do not compare yourself to others. There will always be someone who is in a better situation than you. Instead, focus on what you can do and how to do it. Last but not least, create an efficient working environment. A messy desk could affect your state of mind whereas a clear and tidy desk could help you stay focused on your paper.

A diagram of SMART objectives

A desk with a laptop on

To summarise, university papers are a huge part of students’ university life and so it is important that you are in the perfect mental and emotional conditions when working on them. In case you are experiencing burnout, recognize the problem and face it. Hopefully, this blog gave you an understanding of how to do this.