Writer’s Fatigue

July 9, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , )

I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

Suffering from writer’s fatigue?

You know the sensation. Your fingers are sore, your eyes are stinging, and your shoulders feel like they’ve been locked in place. You have just spent the last three hours sitting and typing, desperately trying to convert the ideas in your head into something coherent, and you know, given another hour or two, you might actually have something brilliant in front of you, but you can’t make it. This is writer’s fatigue. (It applies even if you hand write, only it is your neck that is going to be killing you.)

I used to hit this wall, a lot. It isn’t that I don’t have ideas, it is just that the physical act of trying to write is going to cause me pain. When I stand up, if I stand up, I will probably fall right into bed and have a terrible nights sleep and wake with a neck cramp. It wasn’t until I set myself a strict deadline of a month to write the first draft of a novel that I really worked on getting through writer’s fatigue.

Some simple solutions to increase your staying power with writing:

1. Stand up.

Obvious really. Every half and hour, or scene, or page, or whatever unit of time you set, stand up and pace around the room. I use the time to look out the window, refill my water, or chase the cat away from whatever she is tearing up. Doing this I can spend nearly all day writing and I determine when I take my breaks.

2. Before you write do some sort of gentle exercise.

I like yoga, because it stretches out all the cramps from the previous day and gets my circulation moving, while not causing me to sweat too much. Also I can do it at home. However any relaxing, physical activity, will get your body ready for the day, and work out any of the stress from the previous day.

3. Change what you are writing.

This is odd, but sometimes it isn’t that you are writing, it is that you are writing the same thing that is the problem. When my brain starts feeling stressed and the tension in my shoulders increases, I send a message to a friend, or write a quick short story, or something else, and I can feel myself relaxing as I move away from something my brain is urging me to finish. After you feel relaxed again, return to what you were working on with fresh eyes.

4. Eat.

This is probably bad, but have food with you when you are writing. A lot of the time, the problem is you are burning through fuel because your brain is working really hard, but because there is limited physical movement you don’t get the right signals to tell you to eat. Obviously healthy fruit or nuts are best, or a sandwich. Personally, I go for straight sugar, but eating is essential for getting away from writer’s fatigue.

5. Have a friend drop in.

Usually we like to be left alone while writing, and it is essential that we can focus. Have someone who will drop in on you in a few hours, just to make sure you have taken a short break. They can talk with you, even if the talking is about the writing, and you can recap what you have done, all the while you are rejuvenating and getting ready to write some more.

6. When all else fails, set an alarm.

Set yourself a limit. Know that at this time you are going to… do whatever it is you do. Set an alarm and stick to only hitting the extend on that alarm once. That gives you a ten minute grace period to finish that all important sentence, save your work and leave.

From my own personal experience, I know that when writer’s fatigue is coming on, everything I write needs to be rewritten the next day when I am feeling fresh. Dealing with writer’s fatigue, taking breaks and eating, ensure that there are less errors, and the writing feels more energised.
Leave your own comments on how you deal with writer’s fatigue.

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.



  1. AlexJ said,

    Standing up and moving away from the computer now and then relieves eye strain. I know I can stare at the screen for only so long.

  2. samanthahunter said,

    Good blog — so many people talk about how to keep writing, but not enough talk about when to stop. 😉

    I have found a daily walk early in the day, yoga later in the afternoon, and getting up in between bouts of writing helps avoid most back and body pain, though eyes and hands still suffer on busy days. Part of that is just getting older, and reading glasses have helped for the really tough days on the eyes. But yes, so does getting away from the screen for a few minutes.


  3. Carol Kilgore said,

    Excellent advice. I try to move about once an hour or so. It really does help.

  4. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    Great tips! Yes, being on the computer for a long period of time really messes me up.

  5. Alex Willging said,

    Good advice. Sometimes I find standing up at my desk and jogging in place helps me get back my positive flow. Also, if I get stuck while writing a scene, it’s usually because the scene as it’s being written just isn’t working and needs a new angle entirely.

  6. chris behrens said,

    I agree and do all of teh above!

  7. Agatha82 said,

    Very good advice! Changing what you write is a great idea. I find that coming here to read blogs or to answer a few emails really does help you clear your mind somewhat.

  8. Writer Links – Fatigue, Historical Fiction, and Literary Magazine « Leith Literary said,

    […] ♥ Cassandra Jade tells us what you can do when you suffer writer’s fatigue. […]

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