This week we’re talking about burnout. Of the writing variety.
I don’t usually weigh in with advice, but so far it’s going well enough I might try it again.
So join me next week when I discuss how to disarm a dirty bomb, make a perfect baked Alaska, and how to get out of a speeding ticket without resorting to tears and cleavage.
Let us lift up our tea cups, raise our pinkies, take one Countess Grantham slurp of Earl Grey, and begin.
6. Tip number six is to consider getting an AlphaSmart. This practical tidbit was one I’ve heard for YEARS and YEARS. I ignored it. Until a few months ago when author Kristin Billerbeck said she wrote her Ashley Stockingdale series on it and was dusting it off once again. The AlphaSmart is basically a word processor. It’s incredibly light (2 lbs), operates for 700 HUNDRED hours on 3 AA batteries, and they’re cheap. (Order from manuf and it’s about 140 dollars. I got mine on ebay for 40 plus s/h.) When I finally broke down and ordered mine, I thought, “Here’s another tech toy for the junk collection.” So far…I’ve been wrong. I have a desktop and a laptop, so it was really hard to justify this gadget. But for the model I bought, there are two advantages that have me writing again:
a. Tiny screen that only shows you a few lines. Initially this was a huge drawback to me when I first heard of the AlphaSmart years ago. But now it’s the best thing that could’ve happened. For most of my books, I’ve written a clean first draft. (Anne Lamott would not approve…) But that’s because I can stew over a sentence for hours. I’ll read and reread my own chapter 20 times before moving on to the next. And while I like that it gives me a good finished product, it makes the writing journey about as much fun as running through quick sand. So for the project I’m working on now, I’m totally doing the Bird by Bird Sloppy Copy. It’s way too much trouble to scroll up to previous parts of my chapter (no mouse on this thing, just good old up and down arrows), so I don’t. I just keep going. Sometimes I’ll type in some notes to myself in all caps. Like INSERT SETTING DETAILS HERE. Or ADD CHARACTER DESCRIPTION BY THIS POINT!
Side story, I often get the pleasure of reading Christa Allan’s manuscripts before they go to her publisher. It always makes me laugh when I’ll be reading along and see:
BLAH BLAH BLAH
SOME CRAP GOES HERE
But that’s exactly what you do with this AlphaSmart. It feels really good to just get that chapter down, no matter what it looks like. And there’s something intimidating about an entire blank screen on that laptop. But a two inch box? I can fill that.
b. Final thing I love about the model of the Alpha that I have (it’s a NEO)–no internet. I think you can now get them where they wirelessly download your files to your computer, but mine is old school and requires a USB. And I love that. The internet is a big trap for me, and it breaks my concentration like the wafting scent of my neighbor’s chocolate chip cookies. There is no stopping your writing to see if Britney Spears wore her underpants on that day (she did not) or if Kim Kardashian made another million this week simply by breathing (she did).
For 40 bucks and change, you really can’t go wrong. But I recommend this machine for when you are coming out of the burnout. It won’t heal a thing in your writing-tired heart. (Though for what it’s worth, I got mine before I was done Being Tired. It made me feel pro-active that I had purchased something for writing. It was an act of faith. Or desperation. (Tomato, tomah-toh))
7. Listen to your body, mind, spirit. While on my hiatus, I had lovely, well-meaning friends, family, and readers occasionally email me to do what I call a Crazy Check. “You still not writing? You just need to get back to it.”
I wanted to be able to say, “I will! Tomorrow! You’re so right!” But I couldn’t. Because I knew better. I wanted to WANT to write, but I also knew that I wasn’t supposed to. Is there anything harder in life than to just wait? Nope. Waiting rarely makes sense until it’s over. I couldn’t make it through this career without the support of friends and family, and there’s no dollar amount I could put on the value of having folks care enough to check on me, but only you can know when you’re truly ready to get back on the horse. If you jump back in too early, I think the next round of burnout will just come even sooner. Have the guts to take care of yourself and stay out for as long as it takes. As someone who’s just now coming out the other side, you’ll know when you’re meant to get back out there.
8. Give it to God. If He’s the one orchestrating this, it’s really beneficial to keep him in the loop.
My constant verse to claim was Romans 4:17. I would say aloud or write on my bathroom mirror: I believe in the God who raises the dead, the God who brings things into existence that did not exist before. If that Writing (or insert your issue here) Loving Feeling is dead, God can resurrect it, just like he can resurrect your creativity, your ideas, and your passion for the work (or whatever). On His timeline. The trick is to believe in it and wait for it. And if He doesn’t bring it back, then He’ll provide something else to fill that void. Give you a new dream. I think it helped me to be open to whatever my finale was. Despite the many whiny days I wondered if I was a total, raving mostly calm, TV-watching idiot.
Obviously I could get more specific about my story, my two year process. But it’s not really important. I get sweet emails from readers asking when the next book is out. (A Charmed Life collection with it’s spanky new cover is out May 1.) I’m currently working on a project that isn’t really mine, and when I finish that, I might start working on this glimmer of an idea I have. But I don’t know when my next NEXT (all mine) book will be out. Right now it’s just a tiny Mike & Ike in my limited brain. And I’m okay with that.
So this is what I know today.
Tomorrow I might be pulling out that file of research I have titled “Return to Grad School.”
Today I’ve got that lovin’ feeling.