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How to beat writer’s block

So you can’t write. You’re empty, tired, and unfocused. You’ve tried exercise, meditation, caffeine, binge sleeping, and a dozen other cures–but nothing comes out. And when you do happen to squeeze out a few paragraphs, you stall, spiralling further into your uninspired daze. You are burnt out.

Writer’s block and burnout are the same problem: undue mental exhaustion brought on by overuse, misuse, and other stress. It’s important to understand that you cause your own burnout, either directly through your actions, or indirectly through your lack of action. It’s your choice.

While it isn’t just writing that’s affected by burnout, writing is one of the fundamental skills subdued by mental exhaustion. If you can’t write, you can’t design, create, express, or inspire. For me, writing is the real measure of my creative mojo.

It’s a sticky problem

Don’t worry about the root cause of your exhaustion. Your job and your life have very little to do with how you react to stress. Your reaction to stress might feed your exhaustion, but learning to dodge them are only a temporary measure. The real problem is that you’re stagnant, stuck in a place where you allow these natural forces to erode your being. While the erosion might cause the burnout, allowing it at all is the real problem.

Your goal is to get unstuck. Ignore the bullshit of addressing stress and the remedies that promise to manage it. The stress doesn’t matter. Your balance isn’t important. You need to get unstuck. You need to strengthen. You need to create.

Don’t try to find balance. Balance isn’t something you can concentrate on; it’s what happens when you become stronger, when you create things, when you polish them, and when you enjoy the result. If you focus on balance, you’ll find it impossible to stay balanced at all. Let balance happen.

Don’t try to focus. It’s not something you can do directly, rather it’s what happens when you do. Build something. Learn to perform each step well. Train yourself to understand the history and science behind each concept. Enjoy polishing each piece until you’re proud of it. Just do it. The burnout melts away.

Skills are fundamental. Skills are required to do, even if secondary to the doing. Learn, practice, and play regularly in the domains that matter to you. This is a form of doing that precedes and complements the act of creating things.

You need to learn to develop your skills as part of your regular regimen. You should include it in your project work, when things you’re building require better understanding. You should also include it in those times where it’s not practical (or possible) to create. Between projects, when especially demotivated, and when the opportunity encourages it.

Doing is all that matters

Burnout is the result of becoming stagnant and the natural erosion that results. You can’t cure burnout by coping with the erosion, you transcend it when you make the erosion irrelevant. Grow, practice, and do.

Just do it. Do it well. Do it now, and repeatedly, and with passion. Throw yourself at making things and understanding every part, until you breathe their essence. Enjoy the process of practice, in a way that complements your work. Everything else ceases to exist as you grow stronger and do more.