As a writer, I sometimes have trouble seeing a project to the end. Sometimes it is because I reach an impasse. Sometimes it is because I choose to scrap it for whatever personal reason. And sometimes I get burned out.

Part of the creative process, for me, is having a compulsory passion to create something that came to my mind. And oh man when that hits I am full of passionate intensity. I often end up immersing myself pretty deep into my world and often lose sleep to work on it.

Even as I write this question I see the lack of sleep being a big part of the problem, but I have so little time I feel like sleep is the only thing I have left to sacrifice. Sleepless nights have long been associated, for me, with my most productive output. By far.

And then there is the fact that it is self-perpetuating.

Which leads to burnout. Which often leads to an unfinished project never being touched again. Are there any others out there who have a similar problem who have found a way to manage it? Are there some steps or rigor that you go through to help curb the intensity of the process so it doesn't get to be too much?


1 Answer 1


As a software developer and hobby writer / game designer I have encountered this already a few times - with the same temporary solution of reducing the amount of time I sleep. Especially when there are a few very important things in the "normal" day-to-day life that need to be taken care of this becomes... difficult to say the least. For example when writing a thesis, having a few birthday parties of friends that need to be planned and having the absolute perfect idea for an incredibly fun little short-story at 3 AM!!

In the end I found that sleep is a bad thing to miss out in the long run. Sure, I still do this from time to time for a couple of days when there is a big project coming up and I still don't want to miss out on writing down a few ideas for stories I have in the middle of the night, but it's nothing you can keep up for a prolonged time. As you noticed yourself, that leads to burnout and to projects that are nearly done - I just need to find the time and motivation to start this thing that I associate with a bad near-breakdown experience again for a couple of days...

I love when things go according to a plan. That was my way to get more sleep again. Tell yourself that you need x hours of sleep per day. It's a fixed amount that is the same as the amount of time you need to go to work. You can't change it. That's the menality you need for sleeping, because in the long run you will get exhausted, stop your precious projects and not get anything done, even if you are more productive in the short run because your day seemingly has a couple "more hours".

You need to find other things you can cut down. Really, it won't do you any good to keep this up, trust me.

I had a problem of not getting up in the morning because of the lack of sleep. I needed to hit snooze at least twice, which is time that I could have spent writing, coding, doing sports, ... Not much time, but it's something. A similar problem was falling asleep. I couldn't stop thinking about that super cool new framework I want to test and it kept me up. Which reduced my sleep. Which reduced my productivity. Which lead to me not testing that super cool framework... A bit of meditating and a rigorous plan that "My bed is for sleeping, not reading, watching TV, checking my social media on my phone, reading up on new IT news, ...." made it easier to fall asleep and gave me more time. Those two things combined already were good for me in the long run.

You probably have a couple such things, too. I don't know you, but maybe you are a smoker. Do you take smoking breaks? How many? How much time do you waste standing somewhere in the cold smoking instead of doing cool creative things? The same obviously applies to a lot of other things. Maybe it does server a purpose, like talking with colleagues, calming down a bit during stressful times, ... But maybe you can find something that is healthier and doesn't take as much time over the course of a couple of days or a week that has the same effect. Some family members traded cigarettes for brewing tea and achieved the same kind of talking and having a break, which were the important things for them, while being healthier and not taking as much time.

If you think about it maybe you will find some things like that for yourself. What it is specifically nobody here can tell you. I can just tell you that sleep is not the thing you want to miss out on in the long run.

If there is absolutely nothing maybe you could turn down the creative rush, for example by carrying some notebook with you all the time for when creativity hits you hard. Then you note it down and when you have time, for example on the weekend, you dedicate some hours to the creativity and get out your notebook. Everything that still makes sense after some days of being carried around likely is important and useful. Everything that read like 3 AM garbage can likely be crossed out without a big effect on the end result of your creative work, while also not being such a problem for your day-to-day-life.

All in all you ideally want to try to find a way to vent your creativity in a productive way. Giving in to it whenever it hits you will impact your normal life. Cutting it down and ignoring it will stifle your creativity. Finding a balance is hard, but will do you good in the long run. Easy things are often only easy for a short amount of time and will result in lots of problems in the long run. Ever heard of Technical Debt? ;)

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