H is for Hangover (From Writing)

H is for Hangover

H is for Hangover

It’s taken me a while to learn this about myself, but I am apparently just not one of those writers that can sit down and pour out a story onto paper until it’s done. Some people can, and that’s awesome. I, however, am just never going to be one of those people.

You see, I can write about 1,000-1,500 words with no problem. A couple of fits and false starts, sure, but eventually my writing will smooth out and I’ll get into the groove of it.

However, invariably, as I pass the 2,000 mark, things start to go a little awry. I’ll start to get physically tired. My mind starts losing focus, wanting to go on and work on other things, like catching up on my missed Supernatural episodes. Usually, this is the point where I give in to my distractions, having achieved a healthy word count for the day.

Sometimes though, (like during NaNoWriMo), I’ll push through. I’ll make myself write another 2,000 words. Or another 3,000 or 4,000. I can push myself up into a 7,000 word count day, and most of those words are good, usable.

The next day? I am nearly physically ill. I’m exhausted. I’m cranky. I don’t even want to hear the word “writing.” If I try to write, I get out 100, maybe 200 words, tops. And a lot of the time, those words are crap and all need to be cut out later.

It finally dawned on me–you can get a writing hangover.

Because I pushed myself so much in one day, trying to crank out word after word, the next day left my creative coffers nearly empty. My muse was dehydrated and craving electrolytes, as it were. I had a hangover from writing.

And just like binge drinking will cause a massive, day-ruining hangover, I’ve learned that binge writing can, too. And frankly, neither kind of hangover is very fun.

So I’ve learned I’m just not built to be the kind of writer that can sit and write 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 words until the story is done. Not without a major price to pay the next morning. I’ve learned to pace myself, and be okay with my 1,500 words days.

So what about you? Have you ever experienced a hangover from writing too much?

– Eris



28 thoughts on “H is for Hangover (From Writing)

  1. I have never thought about a hangover from something other than a substance. I have not had a writing hangover, but now that you have put this into my brain, I have had work related hangovers. Generally, that I have put so much into my patients, coworkers, charts, etc. that I am emotionally and physically fried. I try not to be crabby and take it out on others, but I have found when I have had an overly harsh day at work, it is not as good the next day, then translate that into 3-4 weeks of not good and I wrung out. If I don’t take a day off to sit in bed or on the couch and do nothing other than play on the computer and read, I can’t function. My body finally shuts down. My husband (he is absolutely amazing) instinctively knows, usually before I do, and suddenly food and beverage arrives and he is just there to be my support. No nagging to do something around the house, no questions about anything, just unlimited support. I think everyone needs someone in their life like him!

    • It’s good that you have such a good support system! Not all of us are so lucky. But each of us can find little ways to cope–even if it’s allowing ourselves to indulge with a fancy meal or a good desert, or watching hours of mindless television (this one works really well for my hangovers–writing OR alcohol induced).

      I think the major thing is to be able to realize why you feel so drained, and then working to balance out that problem before you hit that hangover mark.

      Or just, you know, recognize that your night of excess is going to result in a major hangover the next morning. Whichever. 😛 (Let’s face it, I think I’m always going to binge at least ONCE in a while.)

    • It certainly sounds more official than… I don’t know. Grumpy? Burnt out? (which isn’t entirely accurate).

      Also, like most hangovers, it can be cured with rest, hydration, and food. And maybe some mindless entertainment. 🙂

  2. I absolutely LOVE THIS and it is so very, very true. I’ve never had a writing hangover as badly as you describe, but I HAVE had them for sure. And if I’m not careful I can break myself for several days and not just one. Further proof that every writer must find their own stride and that no one formula, no matter how famous or successful the author, will fit everyone!

    • Exactly! We all want to be like famous so-and-so, but that doesn’t mean that their methods are going to work for all of us. It took me a long time to figure that out.

      Find what works for you, and just go with it! Learn your own ups and downs. In the end, it doesn’t matter HOW it got written, only that it’s done, right?

  3. You’re definitely not alone on this one. My upper limit is a bit higher…probably about 5000 words or so, but during times like NaNo, or when I’ve gotten REALLY behind on something important and have to go insane to catch up, I always feel like crap afterwords and can’t think at all. It makes sense…we’re overreaching our mental capabilities after all. ^_~

    • Yes! And that’s a pretty high limit–good for you! I think it’s probably possibly to slowly increase your “top” word count (you know, before you hit danger levels) with training–like someone training for a marathon. But I haven’t experimented much with it. I probably ought to.

      But that’s a post for another day! 🙂

      • Come to think of it, I’ve probably reached that upper limit as a result of several years of NaNo’s and self-imposed goals. Just a few years ago I would probably be lucky to write 500 words before my brain completely shut off on me. lol

        I often wish I could go back to the days when I was in grade school and would just sit with a notebook and write and write and write until my arm just about fell off! 😀

    • Is it a fight or flight reaction? Every time I had a fight or flight reaction, it’s been more anxiety-based. That stressed out feeling of everything falling apart, where you only want to do two things: punch your paperwork in the face or pack up and move to Canada…

      The hangover thing feels just like that. An achy, drained, “I think I might vomit if I move too quickly and will someone PLEASE TURN OFF THE SUN” feeling. I don’t want to do anything at all when I feel like that.

    • I feel you! I’m doing Camp NaNo, contributing to this blog, and trying to keep up with my personal blog–it’s nearly wearing me out!

      And at work, my boss wants me to draft content for his website, and I’m just like “uuuughhhhh okay.” (Ugh is totally a word. *nods sagely*)

      Here’s to staying hydrated and warding off the dreaded hangovers! Good luck! We can do it!

  4. I’ve had writing hangovers hit (thanks for giving me a word for them!), but usually during NaNo and it’s always been the day after my 7k days. I can do 3k-4k per day and be fine (at least for the month; when December rolls around I will inevitably collapse somewhere and do nothing but read for the next 14 days). However, once I get over about 5k, I crash pretty hard the day after.

    I guess it’s just a matter of finding the balance of what works for you and knowing “Okay, I CAN keep going now, but I’m going to need to take a break to recharge tomorrow.” (This is something I need to tell myself a little more often. :-))

    • Yup yup. And especially during Nano, you can plan accordingly. If think you can get caught up by pushing it and churning out 5 or 6k, knowing that you probably won’t have time to think about writing the next day, it’s sometimes worth it. Or like, the last day of NaNo, when you know you’re going to take the day off anyway.

      Other times… you really need to think about the consequences of pushing yourself. 😛 I’ve learned that the hard way. On several occasions. (Apparently I learn slowly.)

    • It’s hard to get back into the groove–especially after two months! I know the feeling. That’s why I still try to write every day (okay, every other day) so I don’t fall out of the habit. When I’m in my “hangover” state, I give myself a 50 word day count instead of my usual 1000. Because really, that’s all that I can manage.

      …Even then, I often skip it. 😛 I’m still learning how to get my butt in the chair and write every day. We’ll get there! Good luck!

  5. “If I try to write, I get out 100, maybe 200 words, tops. And a lot of the time, those words are crap and all need to be cut out later.”

    This is why the “Write every single day no matter what” thing that some people tell us is sometimes BAD advice. Why waste the effort writing something that won’t be useful, or even useful practice? As the saying goes, “Practice doesn’t make perfect — PERFECT practice makes perfect.” Not that we have to be truly perfect when we write, but writing something that we know is crap even while we’re writing it because we’re too tired or in too much pain to even think straight… That makes no sense to me.

    • The problem with this thinking, however, is that you run the risk of thinking that NONE of your words are perfect, and stop writing entirely. I find it is better to put down the wrong word than no words at all. Also, sometimes it takes 200 or even 2000 bad words before I figure that I am pushing the story down the wrong tangent anyway and realize where the story ought to go. However, not writing those words at all–bad or not–would gain me no forward momentum in the plot.

      I tend to be a write every day sort of person, even with a writing hangover. I just know that on those days, the words are going to need to be cut out later–but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad for the story as a whole.

  6. I love the title of your blog, it’s very intriguing, you think what on earth can that blog be about i have to take a look. I like the idea of overkill on writing being like hangover, you are right, heh. I think its fabulous you have worked out what your limit is, where your strengths lie etc, you have to do it how it works for you because it is creative, artistic and these things cant be forced, the fact you have worked it out has pushed you far ahead of others still trying to work that out like me, hehe. I find i have so much to write, but it’s in my head, as soon as i try to get it out in type, my mind blurs, i think i need a dictaphone, its normally whilst i am lying in bed i get my stories, perhaps I should just mumble them half asleep in to a dictaphone x PS hello from another a-z blogger x

  7. I have definitely had writing hangovers – they’re more likely to happen in November, like Michelle said, too, and they’re also usually when I’m already feeling emotionally drained to start with but have to write through it anyway.

    I always feel fantastic the next day about how much writing I achieved the day before, but the thought of putting my hands to pen & paper, or keyboard, will make me want to scream.

    Usually copious amounts of napping and reading are required.

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