Thursday, April 25, 2019

Creativity and Burnout

I want to be this cat.
At the end of March, I released the second book in the Heartfriends series. 127 thousand words are a lot of words no matter what genre they're in, and I put in a lot of work to get them. The smart thing to do after all that writing, editing, and proofreading would be to take a break, wouldn't it?

But I didn't. As soon as the book came out, I was on to the next project, looking into next steps for the press, and planning a way to release multiple books this coming calendar year. For my current work in progress, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo with a goal of 30K words. At first, the writing went fine--until it didn't, until nothing I was putting to paper was living up to my own expectations. I realized I didn't have a strong sense of my characters, which is how I like to build stories, and I realized it was because I never gave myself the time to brainstorm. I finally decided that I needed to take a break, a small one to start with. I had a few days off from work recently, so I took those days off from writing, too, in an effort to clear my head a little.

Turns out it's hard to take a break, and even after just four days, I'm chomping at the bit to get writing again when I know I'm not ready to dive in. Taking a break is especially hard in a community that often gives advice, though well-meaning, like, "You have to write every day." Because then when I don't, I start to feel like a loser. And I feel like that even when I make myself try to write because I end up just staring at the screen. If I do manage to get some words down, I know they won't be good. People might say that having something down, even if it's bad, is better than nothing, but sometimes that's just not the case.

The reason those forced words won't be good enough to even revise is because I'm burned out. Maybe creative people are especially prone to burnout anyway, but for indie authors, the pressure to produce is incredibly high and constant. All the advice says the more books we put out, the better they'll sell. The longer our backlist, the better our frontlist does. It's no wonder I want to just go, go, go even when it's clear I'm going nowhere.

This feeling is extra frustrating because I used to have good instincts for where a story should or might go. Now, often, I flounder when it comes to the plot. I don't know how to regain those instincts or what my particular answer to burnout is. But, as with everything in life, we love talking about the good aspects of the job and hiding away the bad. I figure the best way to start finding a solution is to start talking about it. So, fellow writers, do you have preferred methods for dealing with burnout? 

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