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Blog Briefs: On Burnout, with Kirstyn McDermott

In which a bunch of authors & editors are invited to answer the question: How do you deal with creative exhaustion?

Author Kirstyn McDermott has a breath-taking thirst for life. Here, she creates exactly the kind of catch-phrase I want on a t-shirt.


Just stop it. That thing you do, that thing that keeps you churning over plot holes and character flaws and unresolved resolutions well into the darkest hours of night and soul, that thing that turns your keyboard into a smug and sneering tar pit of wordlessness. Just stop it. Put it aside, put it away; the well has run dry, and you with it. It’s time for a refill, baby, and the whole world is out there waiting to pour into you. Read books you might not normally pick up, nonfiction and fiction alike. Watch film and television, or go to the theatre. Listen to new music, wander through art galleries (real world or online). Go places you have never been. Talk to strangers – eavesdrop on strangers. Surround yourself with creativity and art in all its forms. Surround yourself with life. Look, listen, absorb. Do not critique, do not comment, do not write except, perhaps, to make note of your travels. Do not try to create anything. Let it simply wash over you, pour into you. Refill the well. Remember: what goes in is as important as what comes out. And when you are full, when you are brimming and brimming over, then they will come. Those ideas, those words, like salmon beating their bodies to pulp against the rock-strewn currents – you shall have your pick of them. But that will be then. For now, for right now: rest, breathe, refill. And just stop it.

Kirstyn McDermott is a Melbourne author who has just finished writing her Difficult Second Novel. Creative burnout, she knows it.