Burn Out

Sometimes it’s hard to admit that the best of us burn out.
– Adama, Battlestar Galactica

It’s only in the last few days that I’ve started writing again.

Sometime over the last few months I burned out. Whether because of day job stress or something else, I’m not sure. But it’s only now, after sobbing my eyes out over a particularly dramatic BSG episode, that I’ve started thinking about it.

The truth is I’m afraid to fail.

I start writing and immediately my mind thinks: let’s set targets, goals, deadlines. Let’s measure our progress.

I write two consecutive #fridayflash? My mind decides I should write one EVERY week. I try to rationalise: how about every other week? How about twice a month overall?

You can cheat the system for a little while, but soon the lack of progress wears thin.

For my current WIP, I decided I’d write 60k in six months. I set up a fancy excel to track my progress and expected completion date. I told my friends, who also began to check in on me.

When the words failed, I started copy pasting large chunks from my scribbled notes into the main document, just to make up the numbers. To trick myself into thinking I was being productive.

I want to be a successful author. So many people know of my ambitions that the pressure of their expectations weighs on me. My friends tell me: “So just write. You can do it.”

Yet I’m not writing.

I look at what I’ve produced over the last few years and think: that’s it? One novel. Some short stories. A series of abandoned ideas and a lack of commitment to anything else.

Eventually I tell the emo voice in my head to get lost and set more goals. It only works for so long.

But maybe now I’m at a turning point.

I haven’t failed if I don’t finish the novel by September. I haven’t failed if I don’t apply to agents by end of next year. I haven’t failed if the next book isn’t as well-written as I want it to be. I haven’t failed if I’m not selling short stories to magazines.

I haven’t failed if I never become a famous author.

What matters is that I love writing. What matters is that I’m writing for me.

Even the best of us burn out.

I’m not afraid anymore.

9 thoughts on “Burn Out

  1. I hope it picks up for you from here on in. Define some points of reference for yourself, some small successes. And if you work how HOW to succeed in this world, tell me. I want a step by step plan and a workable timeline. Cheers, I’ll wait for the call. :)

  2. I hear you on the burn out! Think I am burnt out on life at the moment, but trying ever so hard to keep my head up, to get some words on the page, to just, do something, instead of feeling crappy about doing nothing.

    • I’ve just started scribbling Friday flash stories – abd stopped putting pressure on myself for everything else. It’s made me feel a lot more relaxed.

  3. It’s good to hear that you’ve stopped putting pressure on yourself. The trouble with setting goals where writing is concerned, is that if the words don’t come, then it leads to negativity about our writing, and ourselves, and can be quite far reaching.
    While it would be lovely to be a successful author, the truth is that the competition is enormous, and I think there are a great many people out there who have gone through the same pressures that you have felt yourself under.
    Now that you are writing for yourself, for the sheer love of writing, then the payback will be all positive, and if an idea takes on its own life, and leads to a novel, then enjoy the success, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen.
    I write only friday flash, I have no book in the making, and no WIP. There are three things I keep in mind about my writing.
    Not EVERYONE will like what I write.
    Some people won’t like ANYTHING that I like.
    Even the people who DO like what I write, won’t necessarily like EVERYTHING that I write.
    I find that this tends to keep things in perspective, and leaves me free to just enjoy myself with my writing.
    I have only read three of your fiction pieces, and each one has been imaginative, well written, and enjoyable to read.
    Best wishes with any future projects that you undertake, whether they be flash, or novel length, but take pleasure from whatever you write, and enjoy yourself with it, for that is more important than almost anything. :)

    • Thanks Steve.

      Your three things to keep in mind are excellent points. I guess seeing everyone else focus so much on selling etc it makes it easy to rely on that as a measure of success/progress. But it shouldn’t be.

  4. Ugh! Can I second the thing about the pressure of friends’ expectations? Sometimes I wish I never told ANYONE about my writing! Of course, that’s stupid. I’ve made so many friends through writing, and if I didn’t tell people what I was doing it would literally look like I sit home 24/7 and stare at the wall. But people who aren’t writers or trying to be writers often don’t understand just how difficult it is. They think you write a book and it’s on shelves next Summer and then your living in a loft in NYC sipping mimosas on the balcony in between award dinners with Stephen King. It’s difficult to sympathize with the average writer’s work – shoved in between “real jobs”, typed in closet-sized rooms in the cheap part of town. Or whatever. I mean, I love writing so much that I”ll do it anywhere, and I’ll put up with odd hours and cockroaches in the sink and crappy, cheap coffee. But the expectations of friends – even with the best intentions – don’t make it any easier to deal.
    Writing is hard. And *being a writer* is SUPER hard. There should be no shame in the struggle.

  5. Pingback: My Top 9 Writing Posts | A.M. Harte

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