Writers’ Burnout Quiz: Do You Need a Break?

When I last posted, I was deep in rewrite-mode, the write-until-your-eyes-blur-and-then-get-up-early-and-do-it-again sort of rewrite. I was trying to meet a deadline and, due to a family crisis or three (don’t those always happen at the most inopportune moments?), operating on a limited time schedule.

I met my deadline (yay!).

And then left on vacation—in Cozumel (double yay!) where, unlike my lovely friend Charissa, I did not even attempt to blog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn fact, I barely wrote at all. Not even on my shiny-new-can’t-wait-to-work-on-it work-in-progress which, if you’ve followed me for long, you know is a little weird. I’m all about writing everywhere, practicing writing in all sorts of situations, finding inspiration in (and taking notes on) new settings, experiences, and people.*

And those things are important, but sometimes your muse doesn’t need to work harder or try harder. Sometimes your muse needs time to refresh, recharge, and rejuvenate.

Try this handy-dandy quiz** to rate your need for a break vs a self-administered kick in the butt. 

1. When you pick up your work-in-progress, you…
   A: get right to work! You have so many great ideas, it’s hard for your fingers to keep up with your brain.
   B: remember that you meant to post those pictures on Facebook. You take care of that, answer a few emails, check Twitter, grab a snack, and…wow, is it lunch time already?
   C: have to check the clock because you can’t remember if you’re starting or ending a work session.

2. A friend invites you out for coffee, so you…
   A: check your word count and schedule to see if you have time to indulge.
   B: grab your keys and ask where she want to meet.
   C: let her call go to voicemail again. You’ll call her back when you’ve met your deadline.

3. The last time you read a book…
   A: you took notes on plot structure and character arcs. Oh, and the author did a great job with world-building!
   B: you stayed up all night to read the next two in the series as well. You love finding a new author!
   C: read a book? You can’t remember. You love to read, but the past few weeks are a blur of writing and…well, writing.

4. When your kids ask what’s for dinner, you…
   A: tell them dinner is in the crock pot and will be ready at 6:30, just like it always is.
   B: shut your laptop and suggest you go out for ice cream.
   C: ask what they’re doing home from school already. It can’t really be dinner time already, can it? Maybe you can scrounge up a frozen pizza.

5. When it comes to exercise, you…
   A: are up and moving early each morning. It helps you feel energized and more productive.
   B: can usually find something better to do.
   C: know it’s important, but you’ve been too exhausted lately to do anything but fall into bed at the end of the day. Besides, your back hurts, probably from those long hours in front of the compute screen.

How did you do?

Mostly A’s: You’re a hard worker with admirable focus on your writing—but you need to be careful that writing doesn’t edge out fun, family, and friends in your life. Use your planning skills to fit some downtime into your schedule.

Mostly B’s: You’re a spontaneous and fun-loving writer who knows how to spend time on the important things—but make sure that your writing doesn’t always come last on your to-do list. You may need to eliminate distractions in order to get any writing done.

Mostly C’s: You’re a writer working toward a goal with single-minded focus—which may make you super-productive in the short term, but eventually leads to burnout. And you’re definitely showing the signs! Find ways to cut back on your workload so you can get some much-needed rest and restoration.

What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to productivity? Do you tend to work too hard or too little—or have you found a happy medium?

:-) Cheryl

*Okay, I confess I took a *few* notes. I do write about oceans and wildlife, and I *was* surrounded by both.

**Note: this quiz is extremely scientific and accurate, based on a sample size of…one. No, two. Two extremely excellent and relevant samples :).

The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. M.C. says

    Cool Quiz, I ended up as a mostly A. I swing between overwhelmed and balanced.

  2. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Mandy, and thanks! I'm with you–I swing between overwhelmed and balanced. I definitely landed in overwhelm the end of last month, but breaks do wonders….

  3. Laura says

    Excellent quiz, Cheryl! I'm mostly A's and B'–clearly not working as hard as you've been! Where do I fit if I'm the one calling to go for coffee, but then I don't check my messages for your reply until after I've met my word count?

  4. Jacqvern says

    Nice quiz. But it should also have "none of the above" or an alternative. For example, I don't have kids. :)

  5. Julie Musil says

    OMG this is awesome! I got a kick out of reading those possible answers, most of which I can relate to at one point or another.

    I'd say my motivation depends on the difficulty of the task. The more difficult, the more I procrastinate.

    I hope you had an awesome, relaxing vacation!

  6. Jemi Fraser says

    Like Julie, I could answer them all – depends on the day! Great quiz :)

  7. Kenda Turner says

    A tie between A's and B's, knowing that I waste lots of time piddling and straightening my desk, better served either writing or spending time with family. Great quiz! Helped me get perspective on silliness vs. real writing vs. need for recharging…! Thanks.

  8. Ebony McKenna. says

    I find this quiz to be incredibly, scientifically valid!

    Yesterday I finished revisions for my agent, and today I am burnt out! This is the 10th manuscript and with any luck will be the third novel published if things go my way.

    I need to take some time out and refresh the noggin before I even look at the draft of manuscript 11. And eat skittles.

    #I do not work for the Skittles company, but if they see this, I don't mind if they want to send me a box. You know, for science!

  9. Cheryl Reif says

    Hey Laura–I think that counts as "A" , hard work nicely balanced by time with friends.

    Jacquvern–you're right! I should have said "children/pet/significant other" or some such. I'll remember that for next time :)

  10. Cheryl Reif says

    Julie–oh yeah, tough projects bring out my inner procrastinator. I think I'm more likely to lose my motivation when I face a project that's boring than when I face one that's just difficult. A challenge can be fun, but filing *shudder* defeats me 9 times out of 10.

    Hi Jemi, thanks for stopping by! Hmm, if different answers apply to you on different days, does that reflect your "natural work rhythm" or does it mean that you tend to overdo it some of the time and then cut back later, so you can catch your breath? Or both? (Now I'm wondering the same thing about myself….)

    Kenda: you put it perfectly–we need to find perspective on silliness vs real writing vs the need for recharging!! For me, sometimes that's easiest to do by poking fun 😛

  11. Cheryl Reif says

    Ebony, yay! You've taken my sample size up to three. You definitely need to pursue the science of Skittles.

    Good luck on your book–hopefully you won't need to do *too* much in the way of rewrites in the next go-round. I bet it feels good to have it off your desk!

  12. Sarah Pearson says

    Ouch, I'm mostly C (although I think it's more because I hate cooking and exercising than anything writing-related!)

  13. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Sarah–no, you definitely get to attribute "C's" to your writerly dedication and creative flow :)!


    Happy writing!

  14. Mel Fowler says

    Fellow campaigner here, it's good to meet you :)

    I am also re-writing my story, it's a lot of work! Good job meeting your deadline!

  15. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Mel! Good to meet you, too…and I'm so happy because I thought that when I tried to sign up for the campaign, it didn't work. Now I know I'm on! Yay!

    Good luck on that rewrite. They always seem to take longer than expected….