Thursday, June 16, 2016

TBT: On Burn Out

In some circles burn out can been a dirty word. Or a dirty secrete at lest. But burn out happens everywhere: in relationships, in hobbies, and even in your deepest passions (be it writing, reading, or running).

Don't be ashamed of burn out. It happens to the best of us. I wrote this post after struggling with some pretty serious burn out for a few months. I hope my experiences help you through the frustration of burn out.



I mentioned my burn out in my May recap.

It’s been tough. A lot of times I can sense burn out coming. And sometimes I can take steps to stop burnout in it's tracks. But in May I was blindsided by burn out. I was riding the sugar high of just finishing a rewrite. My energy was good and I rolled that into outlining not one – but TWO – potential WIPs.

In April I was reading a ton as well. But I burned out there, too. In May I started a lot of books and put them down right away. I just wasn’t connecting with anything.

And I think I know why –

I’m going to law school in the fall. I start in August. It’s fantastic, terrific, thrilling news. I’m ecstatic be going. I love the law and I love learning. I’ve wanted to go to law school for more than ten years so getting in and actually making this dream a reality is amazing….and also not amazing. Because there’s this nagging guilt that seeps into my daily thoughts, whispering “you’ve given up, haven’t you? You’ve given up on your dream of becoming a writer.” Ugh…hate that feeling.

And that feeling is total bull because it doesn’t have to be that way. My rational mind knows that I don’t have to be one dimensional.

Yes, being a published author and writing full time is a goal of mine. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. But I need a Day Job for the time being and I don’t see why I shouldn’t work a Day Job in a field I am passionate about: law. So why does it feel like I tied my writing dream to a chair in the basement?

Why can’t I have both? Why can’t I be both?

I think I can. I see men and women all the time who work as husbands/wives/mothers AND as writers, AND some other job (be it part time or full time). Not to mention all those folks likely have hobbies, and friends, and other commitments or obligations (some fun and some not so fun). People are not one thing.

So being a law student, an employee, a wife/sister/daughter/friend, AND a writer shouldn’t feel impossible. It can be done. A singular passion does not define me….so why do I feel all this guilt?

I think I’ve imposed an arbitrary dedication meter to my passion. If I am not writing 1000 words a day or 3 hours a day while braiding the mane of a unicorn I’m no longer a serious writer. I doubt I’m alone in this belief but it’s arbitrary. And if this dedication meter is helping me to be more disciplined then great! But if this arbitrary dedication meter is making me feel terrible then it’s no longer useful and it needs to go.

Because the reality of writing as work is this: sometimes you must to step back. Sometimes you must take a break. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about resting but we do. At least a lot of us do anyway. Ugh. It’s the worst.

I don’t know what my life will look like after I start school. I know this new path means I will need to make a lot of changes in my life. And change is uncomfortable. Waiting and anticipating this change is uncomfortable. It’s a lot like riding home from the beach with sand in your shorts.

I don’t know what my new normal will look like. But I do know that in the new normal there will be writing. Not just writing for school but writing for me. Fiction. My stories. The plots and characters I love. It’s important to me and that won’t change. But what and how much I write is still a mystery at this point.

That should be okay with me. But it’s not. It’s uncomfortable.

This anxiety and uncertainty contributed to my burn out. Here's a glimpse inside my brain over the past few weeks.

Should I start this project? Probably not because you’ll just have to put it down in Aug and you may not be able to pick it back up for a while.

Should I read this book? No, it’s part of a series and you won’t be able to finish the entire series before Aug so don’t bother starting it now.

Should I revise this project? No, there might not be time to finish it all before Aug.

Should I continue to query this project? No, because if it gets picked up by an agent they will want you to revise and you may not have time to revise it before Aug….

These are actual thought’s I’ve had. These are self limiting and self defeating thoughts. And there is a lot of fear there. A lot of fear masquerading as practicality. I am scared. I’m scared I won’t have enough time.

So I need to evaluate this further. Maybe I don’t send queries for a while. Maybe I don’t revise that WIP right now. Maybe I don’t do anything for the next three months….But if that’s the case I want the decision to be evaluated on more than just fear. I want to get passed the fear so I can understand this anxiety.

I don’t have an answer for this burn out yet. I plan on going through some of the burnout-fighting steps that worked for me in the past. And in addition, I plan to really get to the bottom of this fear.

Until then, I’m just going to take things one day at a time. Maybe I blog, maybe I don’t. Maybe I draft, maybe I don’t. Maybe I read, maybe I don’t.

This doesn’t mean I’m a failure or lazy or undisciplined. It just means I’m still working things out. As uncomfortable as that is….it’s okay.

Want more on book and/or writing related burn out?

Check out this awesome post by Jenny Kaczorowski on why rest does not equal failure.

Or my post on managing book burn out and contest fatigue.

And if your book burn out is actually writer burn out (as in I can't write another book) check out this post by the lovelies at Writer Unboxed
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