People need fuel to survive, like food and water. There’s also the goop that lets people pursue the work they do with the intensity and love it deserves. What happens when you’re going too hard on projects and seem to neglect the important break time between tasks?
Welcome to Burn Out
Sometimes you’re running low on steam and running out of reasons to continue the work you’re doing. During the early summer, for me, it was having two conferences in a row, planning for vacation, working on planning for vacation, and more that did me in. Recently, it was having an opportunity I wasn’t terribly enthused about and not really having a road map for half my classes. I kind of stopped working and only did the bare minimum, while not getting enough sleep and eating meals that make no sense.
I call it “The Wall.” Just like how during a long run, your body begins refusing to work, so did my brain and soul when it came to having stretched myself too thin. And it’s a little hard to talk about. My parents saw it as laziness, but my support group knew it wasn’t normal to cry just from opening an inbox. Burn out makes other things harder, like justifying leisure time in the evening by catching up on favorite shows. Or even justifying a 30-minute break for fix a scene in a writing project.
What Does It Look Like for Writers?
Rather, for this writer. For me, it started looking like a lot of loathing. I felt guilty over anything. Taking care of myself by sleeping a little longer lead to thoughts of “why aren’t you editing?” Taking time to connect with people I care about lead to “if this doesn’t happen now, it won’t happen.” This writer is really hard on herself when it comes to productivity. If I’m not working, I’m not doing anything at all and it’s difficult for me to reconcile that I really shouldn’t be working on anything other than graduate school right now.
But that’s not me.
What Does One Do?
There’s nothing wrong with stepping away for a bit. What worked for me was taking a step back and really putting my bullet journal to good use to figure out the things I should be working on, the things that need work, the things I can afford to let go, and then plan accordingly. It takes a bit of work, but makes you feel so much better. I also found it helpful to make to-do lists of “basic” things that need to get done, like cleaning, laundry, groceries, and other essentials.
Bottom line: Take care of yourselves, folks.
Until next time,
This was such a needed post, Jo. I can relate, most definitely. I hope you keep this in the forefront of your mind and remember to take care of yourself, both because you deserve that sort of attention and self-respect, but also because you need it to keep being awesome. I believe in you!
Thank you, Nicole, for the support and encouragement. Balancing authorship and graduate school is quite the challenge.
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But you balance it wonderfully, my dear! You’re an inspiration!
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Sometimes, when I really struggle with writer’s guilt, I try to find something fun I can do that might also help my writing in the long term. Granted sometimes I stretch things a little, but sometimes to write a story about being lost in a crowd at a late night party, you need to remind yourself what that’s like, just step back and let the experiences sink into your mental compost.
Thanks, Adam, for the suggestion. This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while and it’s embarrassing how the cycle has repeated.