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March 06, 2019

Writer's Burnout Part 6 (One Day at a Time)




NOTE: I am one of Janice Hardy's part-time contributors for the year. I'll be contributing 4 guest posts to Fiction University. My first post is 6 Gadgets to Take to Your Next Book Event.


What is writer’s burnout?

Burnout is very different from writer’s block. It’s worse. Writer’s burnout is something you feel deep down…bone-deep. It’s just like when athletes burnout from working themselves too hard and too much for too long. They can lose their love of the sport, physically and mentally. You can get writer's burnout from doing anything related to being an author.






More Tips to Help You START Reversing Writer’s Burnout: 


One Day at a Time


Yes, I know you’ve heard this one before. Everyone who has ever been in a tough spot has heard the phrase “One day at a time.”

But it’s a good one.

Looking too far ahead can stunt our growth, paralyze us, and prevent us from going forward. Looking too far ahead can be…in one word…daunting.


MY STORY:

I’ve hurt myself by looking beyond the day I am in while in the midst of my burnout. I would think about what I “should” be writing now and how much in order to publish certain projects at specific times. I kept reminding myself that I needed to have the final book of the Disaster Crimes series submitted to my publisher by the summer of last year (2018) in order to have it released early 2019. (I’ve been trying to release one book in my series a year.)

This thought hindered me and contributed to my burnout. I couldn’t begin that book. And reminding myself I had to begin it, and now, stopped me dead in my tracks. No words came on that project. Worse, because I told myself I had other stories I could write and publish instead, that prevented me from going forward on any of those, too.

Thus, my depression strengthened.

Don’t do this to yourself.

I’ve learned my lesson. Take it from me, one day at a time is the trick.

TIP #16: Only look at the day you have.

What can you do TODAY? Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next month. Today and today alone.

What can you do today?

Take a deep breath.

Feed your artistic soul.

Go for a walk.

Surround yourself with nature.

Read. Anything.

Take a nap.

Play with your pets and/or kids (nieces/nephews, grandkids).

Write in a journal.

Go to a writer's meeting.

Write about yourself.

The next day, do it again.

The day after that, repeat. And so on and so on.


TIP #17: Know that personal deadlines can be delayed. Even canceled.

My personal deadline of publishing the last book of the Disaster Crimes series early 2019 inhibited me. It took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to write and submit this book on the original timeline I had set for myself. I could write it and submit it whenever. My readers could wait and would understand if Books 4 and 5 were separated by two years instead of one.

Since I came to this conclusion, I canceled my deadline. And that lifted so much pressure off my shoulders, freeing me to write something else, anything else that I was capable of working on while I reversed my writer’s burnout, which mostly was writing about my childhood.

Give yourself permission to cancel any personal deadlines that are bringing you down and preventing you from writing.

One.

Day.

At.

A.

Time.


Another post for Writer’s Burnout coming soon!


QUESTIONS: Have you tried any of the techniques I've shared for this Writer's Burnout feature? Have any of these tips helped you?


106 comments:

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

We are often so hard on ourselves. Sure, sometimes we need to push, but a lot of the times, we really don't. Let's be kinder to ourselves! :)

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Burn out is real, but I've never felt burnout with writing, only my job. Writing is my relief for EVERYTHING, so I tend to run to it with open arms. So far she's welcomed me. Love your article!!!

nashvillecats2 said...

Enjoyed your post Chrys, I am a firm believer in "One Day At A Time". otherwise I think I would "Give Up Hope".
Have a good day.
Yvonne.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Deadlines either motivate or inhibit. If it's the latter, know when to dump them.

Bish Denham said...

These are so helpful! And, as always, you amaze me with all you do and all get done.

Carrie-Anne said...

I often do my best, most productive work when I save things for the eve of a deadline, knowing it must be done soon, but I see the wisdom in cancelling a deadline (if it's possible). That does wonders for taking the pressure off and freeing the mind to pursue other things while regaining the initial spark and motivation.

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I have often set personal deadlines for myself but never met them, and missing them always made me angry and depressed. If I don't set any kind of deadline though, I never get any work done, so I'm currently trying to reconcile with myself that it's okay to have flexible goals, and not to beat myself up if they don't work out.

Chrys Fey said...

I agree. Let's be kinder to ourselves. <3

Chrys Fey said...

I hope you never experience burnout with writing and that she continues to welcome you. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Keep you hope, Yvonne. One day at a time. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Exactly.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Bish. <3

Chrys Fey said...

Some people work well on deadlines and save things for the last minute on purpose, to motivate them. But other times, and for other people, deadlines can take that spark away. Even self-made ones. Thanks for commenting!

Chrys Fey said...

That's one reason why I always say to set smaller goals and to forgive yourself if you don't meet them. It's not good that we get angry at ourselves for not meeting our personal goals, which tend to be quite lofty.

Liz A. said...

This is a major reason I don't post goals online to hold myself "accountable". If I want to get something done, I will. I don't need the extra added pressure of others looking at that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think I over-cancelled mine.
Cool you are contributing to Fiction University! I have two articles scheduled with Janice this year.

Jemi Fraser said...

I need to do the one day at a time thing. I'm gotten myself into an overwhelmed space right now and I'm struggling to do the next thing. I know I'm struggling because I can see end in sight where I actually put my book out there - and that scares me! I'm working on it - but it's not always easy! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

It's super that you are contributing to Fiction University. Your post '6 Gadgets to Take to Your Next Book Event' will be a great help to me as well as to other writers. I just did a book event last week.

Lisa Thomson said...

Oh, my gosh, this is perfect advice. Thank you from sharing your personal stories, Chrys. You are an amazing woman and inspiration for me. #16 is so powerful and yet we tend to forget. <3

Chrys Fey said...

So true. Posting goals online in a writer's group could possibly motivate you if you have people boosting you along the way, but otherwise, that pressure can stop us cold. And then we feel bad for not completing the goal we announced we wanted to do.

Chrys Fey said...

I had one on her blog last year. :)

I saw your recent post on Fiction University about Twitter pitch fests. Congrats on that!

Chrys Fey said...

No, it's not always easy. One day at a time, one step at a time, and breathe. We are here for you. Hugs!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Rachna!

Liz Hinds said...

Wise advice. I'm currently weighed down by projects I want/need to do. I need to take your advice.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Lisa! <3

Yes, I still tend to forget to only look at the day I have in front of me when I have things looming. It takes focus and a reminder to do that, but it helps a lot.

Chrys Fey said...

I hope you do, Liz. Take care!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

It's easy to follow that one-day-at-a-time plan when you get to be my age, because planning too far into the future can be a bit problematic. Heck, I'm not even sure it's a good idea for me to buy green bananas...!

Seriously, yes, I've had to modify some of my self-imposed deadlines, too. I'd hoped to get book two of my trilogy out this year, but I decided it was more important to do an overhaul of what I'd already written than it was to maintain course and plow ahead. To get information from a woman who'd not only spent time in the girl's reform school that's in my book, but also during the exact time frame, was a real show-stopper. It would've been foolish to worry more about some stupid deadline than about making the necessary changes to get the story "right."

Lisa said...

Yes! One day at a time. It's my motto now. And yes, I love your Bactine posts and read them sometimes more than once for inspiration and reminders.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Focusing only on the day before you, the day you have at hand is very wise advice. It took me a while to figure this out because it felt like I was failing at my goals. But writer burnout happens from life or other stuff that snuffs out our passion. I've recently gone through this and I'm still trying to claw my way back. I've recently decided to do what I can with as much honest effort as I can.

Chrys Fey said...

Oh my gosh. You are too funny. That green bananas bit.

Yeah. I had wanted to have Frozen Crimes published this year, but I haven't even written half of it, so I had to eventually come to accept and be happy with the decision that I'll publish it when I publish it...when it's time.

It is so important to get the story right than to rush to publication. *high five*

Chrys Fey said...

Aw. Thank you for telling me you read them more than once. That really made me feel good that I am helping at least one other writer in that way. Hugs!

James Pailly said...

Writing burnouts are among the scariest things for me. I've never really figured out how to handle them. The best I can do is just give myself permission to take the rest of the day off.

Chrys Fey said...

Doing what you can with as much honest effort as you can muster is key and the best thing you can do. Hang in there! It took me most of last year to get back to a good place because of my burnout. But you can do it.

Tonja Drecker said...

Good to hear that you're contributing to the fictional university. Writing is such a mind game, and it's so easy to block ourselves. I love your tips.

Chrys Fey said...

That permission is important. As much time off as needed to stave off burnout.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Tonja!

Christine Rains said...

Excellent advice. It truly is about taking one day at a time. I've been struggling lately. I have two novels written about a third of the way. I want to have them done by the summer... but it's looking less and less like that might happen. So I've just been doing little things. Writing a short story, submitting short stories to different places, and researching new ideas. (That last one does really help my mood!)

emaginette said...

I'm living this right now. The one-day-at-a-time scenario is my best friend.

Anna from elements of emaginette

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

I have to create personal deadlines sometimes because my life lacks a lot of structure. But if they get in the way (including in the way of doing other fun, non-writing things, I’m afraid), so far I haven’t had any trouble in dumping them :). So far I haven’t had the chance to burn out on writing—for too much of the last 9 years while I’ve been writing, other parts of life have prevented me from doing it as much as I’d like, which creates its own writing problems, but not burnout!

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. We can't control what happens in the future and it's better to focus on the now and what we can control.

Suzanne Furness said...

Aren't we our worst enemies sometimes! I've been in this place and it can be hard to come out of again. I always try to remember why I started writing in the first place (which was for me!) and hang onto that thought when I try and put too much pressure on myself - one day at a time indeed!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I try to live life one day at a time in general. I do have hard days since my husband died and recognizing I'm experiencing a bad day and tomorrow could be a good one can help. Glad it works for you too.

Chrys Fey said...

Doing little things makes all the difference, especially when you can have fun researching new ideas. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Sending you positive thoughts, Anna!

Chrys Fey said...

That;s good. It sounds like you have your priorities straight. Keep it up!

Chrys Fey said...

Hear! Hear!

Chrys Fey said...

We sure can be. It can be really hard to remember why we started writing in the first place and to rewire our minds to get back to that place. I've been attempting to do that, and so far...it is working. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad it's helping you, too. Sending you positive thoughts. <3

Sandra said...

Burnout and writing-related depression just aren't fun and I'm sure we've all dealt with them. My problem was setting myself a financial goal. It became my main focus and overshadowed everything else. I'd still like to reach it, but I've refocused my attention on having fun and enjoying the writing process.
FYI: I've incorporated your scene outline, that you had posted awhile back, in my writing and have found it very helpful.
Have a productive day:)

Chrys Fey said...

A few people have commented that they (luckily) have never been burned out by writing. They are very fortunate, and I hope they never experience writer's burnout.

I'm glad you found the outline helpful. :) All the best to you, Sandra!

M.J. Fifield said...

I've really enjoyed your bactine for writers series. It's always nice to know that I'm not the only writer out there who struggles with these things from time to time. :)

I still have a hard time with the one-day-at-a-time thing, but I'm trying to improve.

Sarah Foster said...

I like the one day at a time idea. Sometimes I think about how far I *should* be and that just gets too depressing, so I end up doing nothing. It's better to think, what can I get done today? And just keep doing that.

Nancy Gideon said...

Great post, Chrys! I can SO relate. Just the kick in the pants I needed today.

Samantha Bryant said...

It's good to remember that it's okay to ask the boss for flexibility . . .even when the boss is you! @mirymom1 from
Balancing Act

Botanist said...

One day at a time is pretty sound advice even when you don't feel burned out. Running a marathon or climbing Everest is achieved one step at a time.

Birgit said...

The big thing is to be able to recognize this dilemma and still rise above it which you have. We all seem to place goals and we are pressured to do this from early on and when we don’t make the goal we beat ourselves up because society has deemed us as losers if we don’t. I hate this way of thinking so if we take this edge off, stop the beating we usually rise above the stress.

Diane Burton said...

You always offer such sensible suggestions. Taking one day at a time is perfect advice.

Heather Erickson said...

Thank you for this encouraging and timely post. I must get better at implementing #17. I'm approaching the A to Z Blogging Challenge so afraid I might not get it done, or do it well enough, or be able to write beyond that. Think only of today..... Okay.

Patsy said...

I had something similar to burn out last year – everything just seemed so hard! Your tips for coping sound very sensible.

Anonymous said...

Well, you know from my blog I'm all ODAT. We have to learn to be gentle with ourselves because sometimes, we're our own worst critic and that can force us to push ourselves too hard for no reason. A healthy drive is great but when it's stressing you out and causing you to set unrealistic expectations, taking a ODAT approach is sage advice. Fantastic post!

Elsie

Chemist Ken said...

Back when I was first learning to write by writing fanfiction, I was pretty relaxed about the whole writing thing. One day at a time was fine for me, because I wasn't in any hurry, but I knew if I just kept chipping away at it, I'd finish my story. Well these days, I'm a bit more concerned about speeding up the pace, and it's hard not to look too far forward or get too worked up about the future. But I see progress, and that's what keeps me going.

I'm sure I'll see you over at Janice's website. Good luck with that!

Pat Hatt said...

Yep, if a deadline is more harm than good, toss the sucker.

sage said...

I often ignore personal deadlines, especially when outside deadlines are looming! Good ideas!

www.thepulpitandthepen.com

Lee Lowery said...

I am loving this series Chrys. The truth is, the world does not come to an end if we move or cancel a deadline. And neither does our writing. We all need a season of rest, sometimes a day or two, sometimes longer. Keeping ourselves whole and healthy is important to the writing part of our lives.

Yvette Carol said...

I am so sorry to hear you're in burnout. I'd never heard of it from a writer's point of view until I read your post. As I've always had to write around raising my kids on my own, I've never sat at a computer for days on end, so I can only imagine.

Elizabeth said...

I have been there before. Being rendered immobile by putting too much pressure on myself. I would put too much on my to do list, and tell myself I should be further along with my writing by now, but end up doing nothing. I'm learning to take things one day at a time. If I only get one thing done, I will be grateful for that accomplishment, however small it might seem.

Juneta key said...

I'm wondering if that and small world snydrome is part of my problem. Great post.

Tamara Narayan said...

I think writing the first draft is always a struggle for me because I edit for so long. After working on a piece for months, or years, the writing level improves to a point that my attempts at a first draft for the next project seem rather worthless. I have to keep reminding myself that it's the first draft.

dolorah said...

Yep, I've had to cancel personal deadlines, and learn to just sit and free write sometimes. My mind gets overwhelmed with all the Have to's and I end up overthinking and then not doing anything. Gotta be careful not to let that "cancelled deadline" become procrastination though.

Nick Wilford said...

Great tips. I think to write well, you need to be in the moment - and worrying about what you need to accomplish over the next months/years can sap your creativity.

Mark said...

Reading and vacation are the best remedies for burnout, in my humble opinion :)

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, MJ! You are far from the only writer who struggles. But you're right. We all need a reminder of that...that it's normal.

Chrys Fey said...

Yes! Exactly. Keep asking what you can do today. Don't worry about tomorrow until tomorrow becomes today. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Nancy!

Chrys Fey said...

We are the worst bosses for ourselves. But always the best, too. lol

Chrys Fey said...

Great point!

Chrys Fey said...

It pains me to see people beat themselves up for not reaching a goal. :(

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Diane! I'm glad you think so. :)

Chrys Fey said...

The A to Z Challenge is sure a big looming challenge. When I used to participate, I'd spend a few months before the challenge creating and scheduling my posts. Then one day at a time for the actual challenge is what helps you to keep on going. Good luck!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Patsy! When you're burned out, sensible steps and techniques are the ones that work the best.

Chrys Fey said...

A healthy drive can also have use working too much, as mine often does. Which, in the end, isn't healthy at all.

Chrys Fey said...

Your writing pace is what it needs to be. Don't rush yourself.

Thanks, Ken!

Chrys Fey said...

Toss it far!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Sage!

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad you are, Lee. :)

Exactly. We think it'll ruin everything, but the only thing it'll change is lowering our stress levels. We can't write or do anything we need/want to do if we are unhealthy and exhausted.

Chrys Fey said...

I was experiencing burnout all last year, but I better now. Much better. I'm sharing what helped me through it. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Being grateful for our small accomplishments is something we all need to do. The small ones lead to the bigger ones. We need them. And we get them by not putting on too much pressure and going one day at a time. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I'm glad you liked my post. Juneta. All the best to you!

Chrys Fey said...

Yes, first drafts are meant to be messy and bad. Difficult even. They always get between with revision.

Chrys Fey said...

Our Have To's are so restrictive and can damage our creativity. I've started a list of Hope To's for the day/week...things I hope to do, but if I don't...it's okay. :)

Chrys Fey said...

So true, Nick.

Chrys Fey said...

Reading helped e a lot. If only I could've gone on a vacation. The odd thing was...a writing vacation made getting back to writing harder. I had tried that early on in my burnout. Then I started to try out the things I share here. :)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I've never had writing burn out, but I do suffer author burn out from time to time. Usually, it comes from comparing myself to other writers and feeling like I should give it up and find another dream. It is imperative to never do those comparisons and remember that writing for the joy of writing is enough.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Great post, Chrys. For me, being able to cancel personal deadlines is the problem. It's why everything else gets done before writing--marking student essays, prepping classes, holding workshops, writing articles, etc--external deadlines always win.

I'm trying to get better at treating my own deadlines just as seriously as the external ones, but so far, I haven't been successful. It is nice to have something you can cancel when you're feeling under pressure. Sadly, I do it far too often. The book I'm working on now was supposed to be finished in January, then February....

Magic Love Crow said...

Thanks for all the great advice! We are all so hard on ourselves! Big Hugs!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Good advice, Chrys. I've done some of the same things. I'was in such a hurry to get this story finished and submitted that I got careless and didn't do my best work. Now, I'm taking it slow and it's going so much better. Today, I also took a nap and played with the kitties. Will play with the dog when the rain stops. That makes them happy, and me too. Thanks for the reminder. My best to you.

Mandy said...

Oh yikes. Writer's burnout is the worst. Being unable to focus is awful especially when you have a looming deadline that you want or need to make. But you are absolutely correct – readers will wait for you. They don't have a choice. And you will be better off, and your writing will be better off, for having given yourself a chance to overcome your burnout. :) Thanks for this post. I definitely needed to see it today.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

You are so right, Chrys. I need to remember this always. One day at a time. My family helps to insure I do keep it real and breathe. Thanks for sharing this insight. You are always in my prayers. Keep well, my friend.

Heather Erickson said...

This is something I really need to take to heart. I have definitely delayed my personal deadlines, but I don't feel very good about it. How is 2019 already 1/4 of the way done?

Chrys Fey said...

That sounds a lot like writer's burnout to me. You don't have to be writing a ton to get writer's burnout. Anything related to writing or being an author can lead to burnout, to not wanting to write and not being able to write.

Chrys Fey said...

I know what you mean. All of my other responsibilities come first, like writing articles and blog posts, marketing, writer's meetings and workshops, etc. That's why I didn't do any writing last month.

Chrys Fey said...

Hugs!

Chrys Fey said...

Taking is slow always works. Naps and playing with cats, too. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Well said. Thank you, Mandy!

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Victoria!

Chrys Fey said...

I am just as amazed as you that we're already nearing April. This year is going too fast. It seems they go faster and faster.