Tag: burnout

Are You Headed for Burnout?

Like so many other people, I was certain burnout would never happen to me. I loved writing. It was my calling and purpose to write these books, and burnout wouldn’t happen to someone who was doing God’s will.

Right?

Wrong.

Or else writing and independently publishing that series of biblical fictionalizations wasn’t God’s will for my life.

Because in the final weeks of editing the second book of the series, panic set in. You can read more about my request for extensions and my decision to forgo writing the fourth book in these other posts.

I persevered because I had to but the joy was gone.

And thanks to an insightful book by fellow author and writing coach Becca Syme, I might get off the slide before ending up in the pit.

As someone who’s been in the pit of depression, I tend to get claustrophobic even thinking about such a place of despair.

What is burnout?

There’s probably a definition for this somewhere. To me, it boils down to this:

Being emptied of the passion that once fueled creative endeavors

It probably looks different to a lawyer or businessperson who gets burned out. And I know it happens to pastors and doctors, not just people in the publishing industry.

Maybe it’s happening to you right now.

According to Becca Syme’s book, it happens when you use up all your energy stores.

Energy isn’t inexhaustible. We create a certain amount of energy to fuel our body every day. In fact, you eat food because your cells need energy, and conversely your brain activities and emotional functions feed on energy too.

If you consistently burn more energy than you have on hand, you’ll dip into your energy reserves. This is energy you stored on your last vacation, or when you took a nap every Saturday while the sun was shining.

Keep using more than you produce for weeks on end? If you aren’t taking time to replenish the stores, you’ll use them up. And when you do?

Burnout

Who gets burned out?

Anyone can get burned out. This isn’t something only professionals or artists are susceptible to.

As Syme explains in her book, every person has a “plate” that they can fill with daily activities. And all people are NOT created equal when it comes to plate size.

She’s a CliftonStrengths coach, and she says a person’s strengths determine their plate size. Sizes range from one to ten, with most people having plates in the three to eight range.

You know that person who can do ninety different things with a smile on their face without ever seeming to get tired? They probably have a size nine plate.

Syme warns that once you suffer burnout, your plate size will be diminished for a while. It might even be permanently reduced.

That’s something a Type A person like myself doesn’t want to hear!

What? You mean I might have to slow down? Not do everything? But, no, that’s not possible. I must do all the things.

Except when I use up my energy stores. And emotional tolls make more impact on your energy stores than doing all the things.

Yes, I was on the slide and headed for burnout.

How to combat it

Have you ever tried to get off a slide once you started down it?

I haven’t. I mean, I might have considered it, but momentum took over and the next thing I knew, boom! I was at the bottom.

The slide into burnout is the same. Once you hit the point of no return. That moment when illness strikes or something big hits and zaps the remainder of your energy reserves.

Fortunately, I pulled back and started seeking information before that happened. Syme gives five areas to consider and reconfigure about the way we expend energy in order to “slow” the slope into the pit of burnout.

I’m hoping I might avoid the pit entirely. That’s why rather than working on rewrites and sending out my romance manuscript for beta input, I’m reading her book. And I’m brainstorming about:

  • What is my Why?
  • How do I define success?
  • How can I measure success according to that definition?
  • What do I need to quit?

And a multitude of other questions recommended in her book Dear Writer, Are You in Burn Out? If you think you might be on the slide, grab the book. Quick!

Syme is quick to recommend therapy, counseling and coaching for writers who pick up her book. I’m one of those people who tends to exhaust all avenues before seeking professional help.

Is that good or bad? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m seeing a glimmer of sunlight behind the thundercloud that’s been shrouding my creative spirit for several months.

Thanks, Becca. Your insight saved me from the pit.

What’s your plate size? Are you pushing past your energy limits on a consistent basis? Be careful, friend. Burnout CAN happen to you.

When the Passion is Gone

Passion is the stuff of romance and marriage, right? It’s also the heart of great creative endeavors. So what do you do once the passion jumps a train and head south?

I know it sounds like this could be the title to a bad movie. Or maybe another Bridges of Madison County story line.

But this is the tale of the life I’ve been living for the past five months. And I’m beginning to wonder if it has a happy ending. Or if the only way out is to quit being an author.

Notice I didn’t say quit writing. Although I don’t get much joy from it these days, I know I’ll always spill my innermost thoughts onto the page. That’s the way the good Lord made me to process things.

What is Passion?

Passion is not just for love, romance and sex scenes. If you’ve got a gift, passion should be part of your daily life.

In this case, I’m referring to dictionary.com‘s sixth definition of passion: a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.

In my case, the passion is for creating stories. Writing words into a string of compelling sentences that form paragraphs and chapters the evolve into a story.

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been working on a series of biblical fictionalizations for the past year or more. These stories are finished and will be rolling out on Amazon and other major sites over the next few weeks.

I mistakenly thought I would be able to begin a new project. The final phases of rewriting and polishing the two new stories in the series sucked all the passion for writing from my heart, mind and soul.

Where did it Go?

Did the passion dissipate into thin air? Did it get captured within the pages of those books I struggled to finish?

I hope it didn’t vanish. I pray some spark infused the words of those books. Otherwise, all the slogging through hard days and making myself finish will have been for nothing.

I do think artists (and I rarely consider myself one) can complete works without passion. But I do think it shows through.

I pray that I prayed enough while hammering out those last edits, making those final rewrites and polishing those four hundred printed pages. Because my prayer was the God’s grace would shine through, not my passion for the subject. I prayed that God would receive glory for every jot and tittle on the pages.

Mostly because I didn’t have any passion left.  But also because He called me to that project. He gave me the seeds for those stories.

I think the passion dried up. I did so much of the work in my own power, rather than relying on God’s strength, that I ran my creative well dry. I don’t think it’s God’s fault, either. He was hanging around at the edges of my furious activity, offering to partner with me, to grant me everything I needed for each day’s work.

Truthfully? Writing romance has become so easy that I don’t really rely on the grace of God for it.

But this wasn’t romance. And there was no writing these projects without God’s empowerment.

Can I Get it Back?

Some days – like the day I’m writing this – I want to say: “Nope.”

But that would be giving myself more power than the One who created, called and gifted me to create stories.

Instead, I’ll take a page out of the Apostle Paul’s manifesto. “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

If you’re not familiar with the context of this quote, here it is. Paul had some affliction (much debate about what it was, but I’m inclined to believe it was his poor eyesight since they didn’t have the technology we do to improve such things) and Paul asked God to remove it. In fact, he asked the Lord three times to remove it.

Finally God said, “Paul, I’m not going to take that away because my grace is sufficient to help you overcome the limitations it causes” (2 Corinthians 12:9a – my rendering).

God’s grace got me through this hard project. God’s grace is sufficient to refill the well of my creativity.

But God works in His own time. There’s no rushing Him or putting deadlines to His plans. So, while I’m waiting for the rush of passion in my soul’s creative well, I’m doing being proactive, too.

I’m starting a book about writer’s burnout today, and I’ve chosen the word “Rest” for 2020 because I know I need to refill my well. But that doesn’t fulfill the contracts I already have.

I’ve pulled back from submitting a new proposal to my publisher because I honestly don’t know if I could write three books for her this year. But I have a novella in revisions. I wrote it in 2018 during National Novel Writing Month, and it’s got a few dozen holes. This means I need about six to eight new scenes to fill them, and I’ve been shying away from that.

Not because I don’t have ideas. But because the very idea of creating sucks all the energy from me. I know I’ll need to take it slow, write one scene per day.

I keep hoping the joy for writing will flood back to me. But so far? Nothing. When the passion is gone, it’s gone.

Have you ever lost your passion for something you knew was your calling? How did you get it back?

Three Reasons Indie Publishing’s Not for Me and What It Taught Me

Back in January, I admitted this would be a year of “building” for my brand, but I had no idea how much being an indie author would tax my creative soul.  The reality of “indie publishing” measures up differently than the perception. At least for me.

Isn’t that true of many things? Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” until you’re over budget for your gifts, over-booked for  events, and over-eating to cope.

Or maybe I’m the only one who struggles with keeping the joy of the season present while juggling all the things.

That’s exactly what this year of indie publishing has been for me: a struggle. Sadly, the joy of writing is gone and although it’s only been a couple of weeks since I released the first of three indie books, I’m not seeing the positive “gains” so many authors claim motivate them to take this path.

That’s the biggest reason this path isn’t for me. The next reason is that I’m NOT a fan of doing it all. I want to focus on what I’m good at, not try to learn how to be the boss of it all. And I HATE missing deadlines!

Doing it All

Some people love to do all the things that producing a book involves. What are these things?

  • Writing the manuscript
  • Hiring editor and proofreader
  • Cover design
  • Marketing Plan
  • Formatting interiors for different versions
  • Uploading files
  • Creating ad campaigns
  • Getting the word out

And there’s more. Obviously, writing is the holy grail of being an author. I haven’t written anything too creative since August. That’s when I finished the first draft of the third book in this indie series.

That’s also about the time I realized I didn’t have a story for book four. I had a couple of scenes. But I’d just spent weeks (and I do mean literal WEEKS) getting the perfect cover designed. I had to write this story. Didn’t I?

After all, I’d negotiated a three-book editing contract with my first-choice editor. I owed her a third manuscript in November. But I didn’t even have the first manuscript ready for my September deadline.

So far, this “doing it all” thing wasn’t working for me.

Missing Deadlines

I am the person who is always early. I never wait to the last minute to do anything. The more a deadline looms over me, the more panic sets in and my ability to create and work flees into deep hiding.

So, I swallowed my pride and asked for an extension.

And my gracious editor granted it. Twice. Yep. She’s amazing. If you need an editor, I can’t recommend her highly enough.

“I’ve had authors wait until the night before their manuscript is due before asking for an extension.” What? That’s just plain rude. Especially since I was nowhere NEAR finished with the story that was due in a few weeks.

Two-month extension? She granted that for book three of the series (and book two of the contract). Then she agreed to substitute a Christian romance from my Sweet Grove Romance series (she edited book one of what has grown to five stories) for the “story that wasn’t.”

Recently, I had to push that date back again because in working through the revisions for the romance, I realized I’d short-changed my hero and needed to rework and rewrite (in a big way) his half of the story.

Facing Disappointment

I was thrilled to have a book with my name alone on the cover, wasn’t I? This was the dream I’d been writing toward for six years.

That’s why I listened to other indie authors and booked a coffee cafe for a book release party. I’d have two new paperbacks to offer for sale (not to mention a box-load of anthologies I’d ordered from my publishers because I KNEW I’d sell them – HA!) and there’d be cute cupcakes.

They were cute and delicious but ONLY one got eaten at the event.

I wrote press releases and sent them to the local papers. The papers ran the stories. I posted announcements in the local post office, at area businesses and all over social media.  But the Google form I created for RSVPs didn’t fill up as I expected.

The best decision I made: not to order 100 books like one author suggested.

No sense rehashing the poor turnout. Maybe I’d picked a bad night. Or maybe the place was off-putting.

It’s my nature to second-guess everything, over-analyze my part in it.

Eventually, I let myself FEEL the loss.

This was not what I pictured for my first book release. And after the pain lessened, the lesson reminded me that I’m not a PR guru, and I WANT a traditional publisher who knows how to handle all this for me.

Learning from it All

Time to move on from that. I still have two more books to release in this series. There won’t be any more public appearances unless someone asks me to come to the library or bookstore. My creative soul prefers to hibernate in my office anyway.

Here are the important lessons I’ve taken away from this project:

  • I don’t want to be an indie author. I need to pursue a traditional publisher for all future projects.
  • Release events are meant to be fan-inspired not author-driven
  • Biblical fiction is not my genre
  • Nonfiction is not my genre
  • A speaking platform is not where my career is headed
  • My joy in writing regular romance is waning
  • I need to create new stories to feel joy
  • Planning is a strong suit but not joy-inducing
  • Too much revision and editing is like a knife in the back to my creative self

As I write this, my passion for a new project of any sort hasn’t returned, although I have written a couple chapters of a new sweet romance for a proposal. I’m still wondering what I’ll write next if this proposal is rejected.

Maybe I need a sabbatical from writing. I never thought such a thing would happen.

What I’ll take is a sabbatical from writing for publication. As soon as I finish these two projects, I’ll write whatever comes. Somewhere, I’ll rediscover the joy and passion that fueled me for the past six years.

Six years without a true “break” from a schedule of projects. I guess it’s time.

What would you like to read from me? What is your favorite genre?

When You Need a Vacation

I saw this meme on Facebook. Yes, I know, that’s the first line of a TON of rants and blog posts. But it’s true. Here’s the meme:

This wasn’t it, but this is what it SAID

 

Although I agree with the sentiment BEHIND the meme, I disagree with the principle of it.

Leave it to the wordsmith to talk about semantics. You’re welcome.

The Sentiment

I take the meme to mean: “If you love what you do hard enough, you’ll never need a vacation.”

I love writing. I enjoy teaching (most of the time). According to this meme, I should never want or NEED a vacation because I’m passionate about my calling.

Be passionate about your calling. Strive to work within your called “career” and you won’t want a vacation every Friday afternoon.

Trust me. I’ve worked in a place where politics ruled. I’ve been a full-timer in our broken public education system. Those things EXHAUSTED me. Every week was another marathon. I’d chant, “It’s almost Friday. You can make it to Friday.”

Not anymore. Although, with the full-time subbing gig in a freshman social science classroom for three of the four weeks this month, you can bet I’m eager for the long weekend planned for my anniversary. But it isn’t because I’ve lost my passion.

The Principle

The principle of “a vacation” is a time to take a break from your routine. To get a change of scenery or just chance the pace of your days is just plain good for your brain and body.

Plenty of Americans don’t take vacations. And they are burned out. Their bodies run on stress and caffeine instead of food.

Maybe they’re passionate about their work, too, but that’s NOT going to keep their body, mind, spirit and soul from yearning for a break in the rut of routine.

Research shows that people who vacation regularly are BETTER at their jobs. They can focus better and they are all-around more healthy.

I haven’t had the most stress-free year around here. It could be because I’m a month behind my deadlines. It could be because my husband’s parents hit a health snafu that meant he needed to drop everything to care for them.

Or it might be because I’m getting an incredible walk-in shower. Or because I’m a first-time Lolly. I mean, who could be stressed when their granddaughter is an angel?

The reality is, we didn’t put a week-long trip on the calendar. It was supposed to be 10 days in Italy but with the bathroom expense and the extra time off to care for the parents, that wasn’t going to happen. So we had a few long weekend trips planned.

It’s NOT the same, but it will have to do.

What do you think? How often to you vacation from your daily routine? Does a virtual vacation via reading count?