Dear Rhonda: A Monthly Writer’s Advice Column

Welcome to a brand new monthly feature here on the Resilient Writer’s Blog. 

Each month, I’ll answer the most common questions I get from writers, and you’ll be able to submit your questions for consideration as well. 

This month’s question comes from a First Book Finish member who is feeling creatively burned out due to her day job. 

Q: Dear Rhonda, 

I’m having a hard time focusing on my novel-in-progress because I’m giving all of my creative energy to my day job. At the end of the day, I have nothing left for my own writing. 

How can I maintain my creative writing habit when I write full-time for a living? 

— M.

A: Dear M., 

This is such a common struggle, and most of us who aren’t dedicated to our own writing full-time can relate.

Anyone with a job that requires high creative and cognitive output, such as writing, teaching, or design, knows there’s a price to pay in terms of your creative energy. 

As writers, we may believe we have boundless ideas. But, as humans, we are limited by our physical bodies and mental capacity. 

The truth is, you only have so much creative currency to spend each day.    

If you’re not intentional with your time and energy, you’ll find yourself spending every cent—and even overspending. 

Before you know it, it’s 4:55 p.m., and you have nothing left for your creative practice. So, you binge the latest streaming drama series, instead of writing your own.

The worst part is, if you keep spending all of your creative currency on what everyone else needs, you’ll end up in creative bankruptcy (AKA creative burnout).

That’s especially hard to hear if you’re a driven and productive Type A. But it’s true. 

Things get out of balance when you consistently max out your creative energy stores without enough replenishment—like rest, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, and play.

So, if you can’t quit your day job, what’s a writer to do?

Your personal writing routine needs to become your sanctuary. This is your refuge, your safe, quiet place away from the demands of the world. 

Your writing time is entirely for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 minutes or 60 minutes. What matters is that you show up. 

Treat it as a non-negotiable on your schedule. Honour it as sacred time. Realize it’s a gift you give yourself, regardless of what you're writing. 

Let's say you’re in the middle of a big work project, and you’re feeling creatively drained. Instead of a full writing session, can you give yourself five minutes? You could write a character sketch or jot down a few notes about a scene or a setting. That counts!

You have to protect your sanctuary like a warrior. Get into the headspace of: “No matter what happens around me, I’m showing up for my writing time. I’m saving something for myself.” 

My next piece of advice: Make your writing time enjoyable. 

For example, I have a favourite coffee mug I use when I’m writing. I play music and light a candle. If you write by hand like I do, get a good pen and a nice notebook. 

Make it a complete sensory experience. When you do this, you’re training your body to get into the writing mood and to love the process. 

One more thing—put your writing first. 

If you need to wake up half an hour early to fit in your writing, do it. Write before you turn on any device, look at your phone, or check social media, the news, or email. All of those things will still be there AFTER you write, I promise. 

Don’t be so hard on yourself. You don't have to write every day. Start with two days a week. Work your way up to four. If you write two days during the week, and on the weekend, you can easily finish your entire novel. 

If you’re going through an extremely busy time, or a family crisis, it’s okay to dial down your expectations. You’re only human, after all. 

Love and solidarity, 

--Rhonda xo

Helpful Resources

Listen: How to Fit Finishing A Book Into Your Busy Life

Practice: 90 days of writing prompts to get your creativity flowing

Download: Gift yourself a DIY Writing Retreat with this free kit

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