Ah, this is timely. Australian writer Deborah Biancotti (author of A Book of Endings, etc.) has been asking writers and editors about how they deal with creative burn-out...and getting fascinating answers. Here are some excerpts:
Delia Sherman: "For me, creative energy is like an old-fashioned ground-water well. When the well is dry, it’s dry. I can dig all I like, and all I’ll get for my pains is sore hands, some very bad prose, and maybe (if I’m lucky) a few odd droplets of notes I can actually use. Or not. It’s usually not worth it. After many years, I’ve discovered that it’s better to wait until some ground water seeps back into the well rather than to try and lick up every drop as it emerges."
Sue Isle: "Creative exhaustion is first cousin to writer’s block. First off, I try to accept that when it hits, I am not wasting time, but preparing myself to return to work. I blog more. I do something different, like answering this question. If I can’t force myself to finish a story, then perhaps it was not worth finishing. If I have to push rather than let it flow, it won’t be as good as if I take more time, mess around in the garden and try to shove the guilt deep into the compost pile. I am still a writer so long as I am thinking!"
Lucy Sussex: "To have output you must have input. It helps to go on a period of creative nourishment, or dolce far niente, clearing the brain. Go to bed with the cat, some flouffy pillows, tea and a book which could not in any sense be called improving. Read for fun for a change: superior Chicklit is good, or children’s classics. You are not allowed to try and analyse what the author is doing. After a good sleep, go and do something new, or that you haven’t done for a while...."
Rosaleen Love: "I think ‘slow writing’ is the answer when the feeling of burn out threatens, something akin to the ‘slow food’ movement. Anxiety and panic are counterproductive to the creative process."
Andrew Macrae: "This is what works for me: I practise crop rotation with my creative endeavours. I’ve found that when the nitrogen runs out in the soil in one field, it’s best to leave it fallow for a while and cultivate another. "
There are lots and lots more answers, and they're all interesting...and useful. Go have a look on Deborah's LJ page, here.
The art in this post comes from two village neighbors: above, a fairy scribe by Alan Lee; below, a tree creature by Brian Froud. (I, umm, posed for Brian's gnarly, rooty girl. Many moons ago. That link, by the way, goes to Brian & Wendy's weekly blog, written by Wendy and featuring art by both.)