Last week I announced that my annual Blogiversary contest is now open for entries. Come July 12th, I’ll have been blogging for seven years. I have over 700 posts available here on my blog.
Not surprisingly, I’ve struggled with various forms of writing burnout over the years. Sometimes, post-NaNoWriMo, I need a fiction-writing break. Other times, when my story has ground to a halt, I need a break from that story while my subconscious/muse works through the block.
And yes, sometimes I’m burned out on blogging.
I’ve mentioned before that my publication schedule in 2015 led to an overall burnout at the start of 2016. Then the physical issues (some of which had been ignored during the previous year) piled on, adding even more to a sense of burnout.
Now, here I am, halfway through 2017, and not a single one of those health issues has been solved yet, and I have several other big projects going on, taking up way more time than I’d planned, and writer’s block has been plaguing my exhausted brain, etc., etc.
In other words, health issues have drained my energy and caused oodles of frustration, neither of which is good for my creative side—which leads to writing frustration. Add in the problem of too much to do and not enough time (more frustration), and it all leads to one thing:
Major, long-term burnout… *sigh*
I’m sure many of you can relate. We all probably have some amount of too-much-to-do going on. But this is the first time I’ve dealt with such a long-term burnout, and honestly, I’m struggling with how to deal with it.
Recovering from Burnout: The Usual Advice
I’ve written before about burnout and how the usual techniques to avoid burnout (getting enough sleep, saying no to deadlines, not taking on too much) aren’t always compatible with a writing career. Sometimes overdoing it is just a fact of life for us.
In that post, I shared 12 ways we can recover from burnout, as that issue often is a given for us. I want to take a fresh look at them today to see what might be helpful. (Yes, I often look back at my old posts to help me too. *grin*)
These suggestions from that old post are roughly in order of light to deep recovery strategies:
- Sleep: Deep sleep is most helpful.
- Relaxing/Socializing: In my case, this often translates to playing on Twitter. *smile*
- Replenish the Words: Do activities that fill us up again and give our muse new ideas, such as reading for pleasure, watching TV/movies, or listening to music.
- Exercise: Get the blood moving.
- Explore Other Creative Outlets: Gardening, painting, etc.
- Be Mindless: Wash dishes, do laundry, vacuum, etc.
- Change the Scenery: Try writing in a different location: at a cafe, in a park, etc.
- Rediscover the Passion: Remind ourselves why we want this career, such as by rereading the story that first made us want to be a writer or by reading one of our own stories for pleasure.
- Resolve to Cut Back: Sometimes our dread of upcoming stresses makes us feel burned out before we even start. Try eliminating some of those stresses.
- Take a Vacation: Ditch the kids at the grandparents for a weekend for a stay-cation or get away and have new experiences.
- Identify Our Blocks: If we’re feeling negative about doing writing of any sort, there’s usually an underlying reason (resentment, self-doubt, depression, etc.).
- Evaluate Priorities: Are we happy with our current path, or do we need to change our approach? Are our deadlines the career equivalent of busywork, or will they help us achieve our goals?
Chronic Problems Can Cause Long-Term Burnout
One thing I’ve learned with this year-and-a-half-long sense of burnout is that it’s virtually impossible to “get over” something when it’s still going on. *head slap* Duh.
I’ve tried many of those techniques over the past 18-ish months, and they’re helpful for a few hours or days. But when the problems causing the burnout still exist, nothing is going to “cure” us.
Chronic problems need to be dealt with differently. And yes, chronic problems can lead to long-term, not-easily-fixed-by-the-usual-methods burnout.
Living with Chronic Issues
When our burnout is caused by chronic problems, we can look at the item in the above bullet list “Identify Our Blocks” and see that our writing issues are caused by something.
Problems such as chronic pain or exhaustion (or even things like depression or poverty) interfere with many aspects of our writing life. Because the problem is ongoing, we can feel drained before we even start—simply because there is no end in sight.
By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve probably all overcome several problems and can use that knowledge for reassurance: bad times will end, this season of difficulties shall pass, etc. But chronic problems can test us on every level because those truisms don’t necessarily apply.
I’ve had so many setbacks that I’m not sure I even look forward anymore to the day that I won’t have these issues. Maybe I’ve gotten sick of being disappointed.
The tips above that I haven’t tried are irrelevant to me because I can’t do them. When I struggle to stand for more than a few minutes at a time, exercise is out of the question. When I can barely walk across a parking lot, all our family plans for vacations need to be canceled or re-thought.
The spoon theory has become far too relevant to my life lately. And I know I’m not the only one.
Dealing with Long-Term Burnout
So what can we do? As I said above, I’m struggling with this myself, but maybe my thoughts can help.
When many aspects of our life are difficult, we need to do as much as we can to take care of ourselves. That means that even though things like getting enough sleep won’t help for long, they can prevent our situation from getting worse.
At the same time, activities that remind us of our passion—whether that’s the many kind comments on last week’s blogiversary post here (Thank you!) or spending time brainstorming fun ideas for our stories—can help combat the burnout as well.
The biggest thing we can do, however, is in some ways the hardest. When dealing with long-term problems, we need long-term solutions. For that, we might need to make permanent or semi-permanent changes to our schedule based on our priorities.
Personally, I’ve been trying to figure out how I can reduce the amount of time that this blog takes from me. I don’t have answers yet, but I’ve considered focusing on one post a week and scheduling reruns or guest posts on the the other day.
For my writing, I’ve already scaled back my expectations of what I can accomplish and what my release schedule should look like. But depending on how this writing block borne of frustration works out, I might have to change my plans even more.
As a perfectionist, I try to do All. The. Things, so believe me when I say that I understand how hard burnout can be. Too many of my days are a mix of too many things to do and zero energy or interest to do a single one. Of course, that leads to even more frustration, so it’s a hard sinkhole to escape.
I also talk a lot about knowing our goals and what will make us happy. Yet at the same time, sometimes life gets in the way of what we know will make us happy. Quite frankly, it often sucks.
Scaling back our happiness goals to match the reality of what we can do without burnout is hard. That’s why it’s so important to take care of ourselves—every day.
We have to try even harder to find our happiness wherever we can. We’ve heard that happiness is a choice, and that’s never a harder choice than when we feel like we’re being held back by reality. All we can do is try to make that choice whenever we can.
But if you’re struggling with burnout or chronic issues, know that you’re not alone. And please let me know in the comments if you have any other thoughts or suggestions (or want to help out with a guest post). *smile*
P.S. And don’t forget to enter my annual Blogiversary contest! *grin*
P.P.S. Thank you to everyone for the heartfelt comments! I haven’t had the time/energy/spoons to reply with the depth your comments deserve, but I’ve definitely been reading and appreciating every one. *hugs*
Have you ever suffered from writing burnout? What caused your burnout? How did you overcome it? Have chronic problems complicated your ability to overcome burnout? Do you have advice to help others in that situation?Pin It