Burnout vs Writer’s Block and the Difference Between Them

Not all problems are alike in scale and magnitude. The same goes for the creativity strangling, joy stealing issues faced by novice and experienced writers alike. Writer’s block and burnout have similarities but are different to one another.

Writer’s Block

This is the milder problem of the two. It can linger for hours, days or even longer, leaving those struck by it increasingly frustrated. It’s also very common, and some might say, a normal part of the process. Most writers, if not all, will experience writer’s block from time to time. Essentially, writer’s block is characterised by being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing. Those affected by writers block may experience:

  • Difficulty inventing ideas for stories, plots, characters etc.
  • Trouble finding the right words to express ideas.
  • Indecisiveness choosing between a choice of ideas.
  • Feeling paralysed due to loss of direction in plot.
  • Lack of confidence about the merit of expressing ideas.

A change of perspective can help us see this less as some devastating hurdle but our mind’s way of letting us know we need to recharge our creative energies.


Burnout occurs when someone is stressed or overworked for too long. As such, it may come after a long period of prolific writing. It tends to last longer than writer’s block and is harder to over. An important distinction is the way it can change the way people feel about writing. It’s possible to have writer’s block and have a strong desire to write. The frustration stems from the individual’s inability to do so despite it. With burnout, writing becomes a chore and those affected may experience:

  • Loss of enjoyment in writing. It becomes a chore and something to be avoided. These feelings can become so strong the individual feels as though they never want to write again.
  • Significant self-doubt about one’s own writing abilities and identity as a writer.
  • Feeling exhausted and lacking motivation.
  • Cognitive impairment (E.g. forgetfulness, lack of concentration)
  • Reduced quality of work, which inevitably feeds into the cycle of negative feelings. Individuals heap more pressure on themselves because they feel they’re not achieving their full potential. This in turn feeds the burnout.

Knowing the difference between writer’s block and burnout allows individuals to recognise the issue and take the appropriate steps to resolving it. Though it can be isolating and make those afflicted with writer’s block or burnout feel alone, don’t despair. There are lots of ways of approaching the issue, and that is what my next article is going to look into more deeply.

Have you ever experienced writer’s block or burn out? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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