Monday I listed some clues to help you discern if you have Writer’s Burnout. Please refer to that post (or to your psychologist) if you have doubts.
Writing is a hard job. (Isn’t everything a hard job? Well, except for maybe ice cream tasting. Or fry maker. But then you’d get tired of fries and ice cream, and that’s a horrible burden to put on any individual.)
Writing back-to-back-to-back-to-back books can wear on a person, no matter how much they love writing, how much they adore their readers, or how much Xanax they mixed in with their Fruity Pebbles. I have just recently started writing after a year-and-a-half off from composing any original material. It’s allowed me time to get some clarity, rest up a bit, and accumulate some tips on dealing with Writing Fatigue. I thought I would share a few of the things I’ve learned along the way. (This post works best when read aloud over the strains of the “Chariots of Fire” theme song.)
1. Take time off. I know some people can’t afford this, but let’s go with the premise you can. There are risks in a break: lose readers, lose momentum, possibly lose publisher confidence. For me, I decided I didn’t care. I really felt like God had been saying for quite a while “REST.” I ignored this until I finally couldn’t. It jacked with pretty much every area of my life. And yet. I believe the best is yet to come. I think it’s like running–for many of us; it’s hell while we’re doing it, but the payoff is larger than the loss. I believe God is going to make up for anything I gave up or missed out on. I haven’t regretted my hiatus for a second. Had I stayed in the game, I would’ve been grouchily writing crappy books I didn’t have the energy to care about.
Taking time off gets you out of your rut and routine. Writing is a rare blessing, don’t get me wrong. But once your writing becomes a business and not a past-time, things drastically change. For me, taking time off gave me moments with my family I wouldn’t have had, time to watch TV again (crazy, but this has been majorly therapeutic and creativity-jolting), time to read (did you know there’s this whole series about this boy wizard?), time to hang out with friends, travel, stay up late, not sit down for hours at a time, read magazines, learn something new, and be present in a moment. I’m not a good balancer. So when I get back to writing full-time, I will be energized because I took some time to live. And it will hopefully be fresh on my brain, so if I get too far away from it, I’ll know I’m out of sync and need to regroup.
2. Do/Read/See something that’s not “you.” This will not only work your brain, but maybe inspire new ideas. Somehow I got a subscription to the Smithsonian magazine. Justin Timberlake and Lindsey Lohan have yet to make an appearance, so not really my sort of thing. But I’ve yet to flip through it that I didn’t get sucked right in and find all sorts of ideas. (Ideas for other people, but still. Ideas.) Order something different off the menu. Put some color in your wardrobe. Buy some funky, frivolous shoes. Visit your local performing arts center. (When there’s a show. Not like when it’s 2 am and you’re there with a spotlight and a crowbar.) Attend a public school theater, choir, or band performance. Rent season one of that show everyone’s been talking about. Have a picnic. Watch some TLC. (The channel. Not these ladies…)
Do something to break the monotony and help yourself get out of your rut. Writing is about living by quite a few rules. Retrain your brain that the rules don’t apply to all of your life.
3. Join/Start a book club. My friends Rhonda and Mary started a book club in their town, so I decided to do the same. It’s been fun having to read books I normally wouldn’t, to discuss the good and bads with other people, and to have a reason to get out of the house. This group will never, and I mean never, read my books for the club. It’s a lot of fun to just sit there as a reader, but also inspiring and helpful to hear from the others as readers–what works for them, what doesn’t. Readers don’t deal with spreadsheets, sales figures, and publishing research. The women I talk books with don’t care what the author tweeted that day, what e-reader she pimped out last week, or what lip gloss she’ll be giving out at her signing next Saturday. What they care about is a good story. The things a reader likes or dislikes are fairly simple really. And simple does a heart good, doesn’t it? (Especially when combined with snacks.)
4. Reduce or eliminate your Twitter and Facebook reading. It’s one thing to be informed on the industry and writing info. But stay on social media for more than a few minutes, and you’re quickly neck deep in a tidal wave of negative. From humble-brags to contract announcements of the one who took your place or just pitched the very book you’re writing, to pulling up a blog post that’s nothing more than one photo and two lines of drivel that somehow gets 300 comments, Social Media has to be the easiest arrow in Satan’s arsenal right now. It’s cultivating a culture of comparison and envy. Middle school flashbacks will not heal that Writer’s Burnout. Plus, I happen to be the queen of seeing Tweets that shouldn’t see the light of day, but somehow do, before they’re deleted from the Twitterverse stream. Just last week I saw one that made me think, “Does Publisher X know this employee just put that information out there and now their whole list of authors are on fire talking about this?” I doubt it. Either way, it was a waste of my energy to go to that negative place to even worry about it. The solution? I needed to log off.
5. People watch. (Enough said.)
Well, that’s it for today. Stay tuned for the final in a series I didn’t know I was writing, cleverly titled with oh-so-much originality “Lose That Lovin’ Feeling? (Part Tres). We’ll talk techie gadgets, prayer, and shutting out “the voices.”
See you then.