How to Write When … You Feel Drained by the Demands of Daily Life

13 Jun 2024 | Motivation

Title image: How to Write When … You Feel Drained by the Demands of Daily Life

This post is part of my ongoing “How to Write When …” series.

Many writers struggle with finding time to write. But it’s often not just about having the time …. it’s also about having the energy levels you need to focus or even to feel like sitting down to write in the first place.

Your energy might be physically low, perhaps if you work long hours, you’ve got young children, or you’re struggling with a chronic health condition.

But you might also be running very low on mental energy – and that’s what I want to look at here.

In some seasons of life, simply getting through the day can be very draining. 

Every Aliventures reader will have some challenges. But at some points, the challenges of daily life may seem almost overwhelming.

For instance, perhaps you’re caring for a loved one – a parent, or a partner, or another relative you’re close to – who’s seriously unwell. There may be no prospect of them ever getting better.

I’ve not experienced this. But I’ve seen both my mum and my husband’s aunt each take (wonderful) care of an aging parent, and I have some small inkling of how draining it must be. Not just all the tasks that need to be carried out, but also the heavy emotional load, and the sense of never being able to switch off, because you never know when an urgent phone call might come.

You might be going through a different kind of challenge that’s leaving you feeling drained. It could be your job. A difficult situation with your kids. An unhappy relationship. A break up. A health condition. Financial struggles. Whatever exactly you’re facing, it can be so very hard to keep writing.

So what can you do?

Honestly, there might be no good solution. Sometimes, the very best you can do is what you’re already doing: carrying on, one day at a time.

But a few small things that may help, even just a little, are to:

#1: Look for Ways to Make Writing a More Rejuvenating Time

When life itself is draining, finding the energy you need to sit down and write can seem impossible.

But if you can turn writing into something that’s more rejuvenating – not just another task on your to-do list – you might find it’s a valuable way to feel a bit less stressed and a bit more like yourself.

Even if that feels out of reach, you might at least be able to make writing feel more neutral and less exhausting.

Some things you might try are to:

  • Brainstorming or taking notes about a project, rather than drafting/editing. You might find this kind of creative, exploratory work helps you feel engaged and inspired.
  • Sticking to projects you truly love. A draining season of life probably isn’t the time to work on that thing you feel you “should” write. Pick a genre or type of writing you really want to write.
  • Finding a time of day when you can relax into your writing – at least a little bit. That might mean writing when you’re least likely to be interrupted (often first thing in the morning or last thing at night).
  • Making writing time feel like a treat and a break from the demands of life. Perhaps you’ll have your favourite hot drink in your favourite mug, eat chocolate, play gentle music, or even write notes while you’re in the bath.

#2: Write for a Shorter Period of Time Than Usual

You might have had a good writing schedule or routine that worked for you well in the past … but it may seem impossible now.

Maybe you used to write for an hour every morning before work, but your new job means you have to set out much earlier on your commute.

Perhaps you once wrote for three hours on Saturday mornings, but now you have a baby and a toddler, arranging this is so stressful that you’d rather not write at all.

Try shorter writing sessions. You can get a lot done in just 15 minutes … and it’s often easier to stay focused during a short session.

By all means, fit in some longer writing sessions if you can (especially if it helps you enjoy your writing more!) but don’t feel at all guilty if what works right now is writing for just a few minutes at a time.

#3: Do What You Can to Boost Your Physical and Mental Energy

(I’m not a medical expert of any kind – if you’re having unusual-for-you difficulties with your mood or energy levels, I’d recommend consulting your doctor.)

Most of us have a reasonable idea of the things that help us to feel more physically energetic and mentally alert. When life is feeling difficult already, though, I know I find it hard to remember some of these.

Simple things you may want to try are:

  • Drinking more water. Basic, but it’s sometimes an easy one to miss! The NHS has good, practical information on staying well hydrated.
  • Caffeine. Personally, I now avoid caffeinated drinks, but back in my 20s when I did have caffeine, I definitely found it helped boost my focus for a short period of time.
  • Meditating. When I’m struggling to focus, I sometimes set a 3 minute timer and listen to some really calming music while focusing on my breathing.
  • Exercise. I find that regular exercise helps regulate my mood and can also make me feel more energised. (You don’t need to do a lot! I aim for 20 minutes on my elliptical machine, 3 times a week, but even just a 10 minute walk will help.)
  • More sleep. Not always easy, I know – especially if you have children. But trying to get even an extra 15-30 minutes of sleep could make you feel more alert and motivated to write. Check out Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep for lots of research-backed details on the importance of sleep.

Also, keep an eye on things that seem to affect your energy level (and avoid those in advance of a planned writing session). Too much sugar definitely leaves me wanting more sugar and seems to make me unfocused and sluggish. 

Longer-Term, Look at Ways to Make Life Easier and Less Draining

I know this may seem impossible, but is there anything you could do in the slightly longer term to make life a little easier and less draining for you?

When you look at the next week or month, it may seem that there’s simply nothing you can do but get through it. But if you look further ahead – perhaps at the next 3–6 months – there might be practical things you can do.

For instance, you might aim to reduce or end your involvement with a volunteer group, if you’re finding that a big drain on your energy. You could block out time in your calendar to get away for a day or even just an afternoon: if you arrange it far enough ahead, you could rope in a relative to mind your kids or take over your caring responsibilities.

Probably, there are no easy solutions. If there were, you’d have put them in place already. But even if you can make things just a tiny bit better, you may find that frees up a little bit more energy for writing.

If you’re going through a draining season of life right now, please do share your own suggestions and ideas in the comments (or simply leave a comment to get some support from others).

About

I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.

Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

1 Comment

  1. Minerva

    Thanks. So much. For over the years of encouragement… Means a lot…

    Reply

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