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Johne

Burnout Is Real

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...but it is just a phase.
https://mailchi.mp/xmission/david-farlands-writing-tips-facing-burnout-gbqui6t0na?e=c5aab9d85b

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Many authors don’t believe that there is such a thing as “Writer’s Block.” They will gleefully point out that plumbers don’t have plumber’s block, and doctors don’t have doctor’s block. But the truth is that they do have it, but simply call it by other names. They might call it a “midlife crisis,” “stress,” or “burnout.”  But it is much the same thing.

This past weekend I watched a documentary about the band the Eagles, which followed from their formation to their breakup a few years later from “burnout.” Now, nearly all successful bands break up after a few years due to the stresses of long hours, physical exhaustion, creative differences that arise as the artists begin chasing their own internal artistic visions, and so on. The same can be seen with actors, dancers, and authors.

One of the most damaging things that a writer can face, quite frankly is success! When you’ve made it big, when you’ve got millions of fans and millions of dollars, a number of things happen.

First, if you don’t have a fiscal need to write, if you don’t have a mortgage looming over your head, you may find that you just don’t feel much incentive to do it. After all, why not take the day off? Or the month, or the decade? That’s what the Eagles did, but I’ve seen major authors do it, too.

Very often, as an author works for long years on the craft, he or she will neglect other aspects of their lives. They might for example neglect to exercise, and then find that they suddenly have health complications that need some urgent care, or perhaps they neglect family or friends, and suddenly find that their relationships go to hell. So they realize that they need to back away from their art in order to restore balance.

The job of being a creative never gets easier. Let’s say that you write a good book and win an award or two, or you have a huge hit. Does it suddenly validate your entire existence, or does it simply make you want to work harder, to improve upon what you’ve done? For most of us, it simply inspires us to push ourselves (often realistically) to greater heights.

And what about creative differences? In a band, we often see the players break into fights and then split off in an effort to perfect their own voices. I think that that is healthy.  But guess what? There is always some stress.  If you’re an author and you try to write a different book from what you’ve been doing, your agent and your publisher will both try to pressure you into writing in the same vein that you’ve been doing. Thus, we end up with an endless string of Tarzan stories or Conan novels, which keep coming out long after the author dies.

But as a writer, you most likely will begin to tire of writing the same kind of thing over and over. As we age, our tastes tend to change. The lighthearted stories of wonder that we told when we were young might not become as interesting as other genres, and so many authors will want to explore—much to the dismay of their fans, who will feel disappointed and betrayed.

And so the mounting pressures from fans, publishers, agents, and spouses all combine to a point where the author just says, “Screw all of you!” and has to walk away for a while.

But here is the thing: If you’re an artist, it is not a lifestyle that you can choose. The truth is, those creative fires keep burning within you, and you have to come back. You will be different, will have grown and evolved, but you’re still a creative.

I believe that you will find that your inner joy is still tied to the arts. So the old band gets back together, minus a player or two, with a couple of new faces. Or the painter picks up his brush and begins a new work, or the writer wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t get a dream out of his head until it transforms into a story.

The thing that I want to say is this: In life, we undergo creative highs and lows. At the highest points, we might sit and write for sixteen hours a day and it feels as if the book is merely “writing itself” while all that we do is type. At a low point, we might wonder if we will ever be able to write again.

I think that there are some things that young writers can do to protect themselves from burnout.

First, don’t obsess about your writing. If you don’t give yourself time to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, the truth is that you run a risk of stifling yourself as an artist.

Take care of family and social problems when the fire is still small, and don’t wait for it to consume the house.

If you have creative differences with an editor and an artist, and that person is too immature to handle them gracefully, recognize that it might be time to terminate the relationship as gently as you can.

And if you do burn out, recognize that this, too, is just a phase that you’re going through.

 

 

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As a working editor and part-time writer, it's good to take breaks. And it's good to follow a schedule, Just like going to school. Most writers don't plan for getting millions of dollars. I know a few who did and one was wise and careful while the other burned through it. Writer's block is different from burnout. The block may be gone in days. It really varies.

 

I'm fortunate to be in a position to do this for a living and I know and work with many writers. As far as creative differences, it just requires a good, honest conversation about the issue or issues. I've seen that as well. As long as both parties are civil, things can get worked out. It is understandable in cases where the other party can only see things happening his way that a 'best that can be done' parting of the ways occurs.

Edited by robg213
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Great article.

I have always written. It is part of my DNA but there have been long periods when I have not pick up a pen. The day or family have had to come first and rightly so.

I think I am a better writer for this. Certainly what I am writing now is far better than previous work. 

 

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I don't believe in burnout.  You've just keep to chugging along.  Sure there are ups and downs, but too much is made of writers block and burnout.  It's just part of the game.  No one can avoid it, you've just got to beat it.

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Burnout is usually an emotional state that involves time and pressure. After completing a project, take a break. Plan to do something you like once that book is done. Writer's block can be worked through. I know it. And yes, especially in a constant production setting, you just keep chugging along. There is that long learning curve where everyone goes from better to even better. Some people are too impatient or think certain things can be done quickly. With time and experience, hopefully a happy middle is found between work and rest. Overdoing it, with anything, makes things needlessly harder than it should be.

 

I've seen it with the artists my company works with. Some are faster than others and some are more skilled than others.

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5 hours ago, Johne said:

And so the mounting pressures from fans, publishers, agents, and spouses all combine to a point where the author just says, “Screw all of you!” and has to walk away for a while.

First world problems. 😉 If only. This bit reminds me of when Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof says, "If wealth is a curse, then may the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover!"

 

But seriously, I'm torn between this article and @suspensewriter's view. I've not written enough of my own fiction to experience burnout.

 

However, I abandoned a well-paying freelance copywriting gig because it sucked the joy out of writing. I got sick of coming up with thousands of words of content for which I had no personal connection and even less interest.

 

At first I enjoyed researching and learning about new things, but the endless turnover of words grew exhausting, especially when it felt like some clients were more interested in wordcounts than quality. Often, an article which could be well expressed in 2,000 words had to be padded out to 4,000 or more because that's how much content the client had paid for. I don't know whether that could be defined as a phase because it was terminal and I don't even want to think about copywriting for hire again.

 

So on the one hand, I can see how you can have enough and just want to quit, but sometimes it's what Steven Pressfield calls resistance and you just need to push through, as suspensewriter says.

Edited by EBraten
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I've experienced Writer's Block twice and didn't learn until my second go-round what was causing it. For me, it came down to legit reasons why my mind knew something wasn't right. The first time OSC was right - it was my subconscious mind telling me something was wrong up-stream. When I went back to a place where it was still working and rewrote from there, I was able to bust the block. And the second time it was me trying to add an extended Action scene after I'd already written a perfectly workable climax. Now I know what to look for and how to fix it, ergo, no more Writer's Block.

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As far as breaking away from your set genre, I read that several well known authors, such as Stephen King, wrote books under other pen names.

 

We could always take a cue from Patrick Stewart, Capt. Picard on Star Trek, Next Generation.  He realized actors before him who worked on the Star Trek movies and series became type cast.  So, during hiatus he would do other acting jobs totally unrelated and had a very successful career because of it.

 

I am working on two books that are deep in my blood, but they are about as far away from each other as you can get.  When I'm stuck on one I can go to the other.  If both are successful, they should help me not to be get pigeon-holed into one genre.

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I think burnout is very real - I know that in the last three years I wrote a miniseries for TV (under deadlines) and wrote three or so novels at the same time. Last year I got pneumonia which took me down physically, and then two months later I had a cat pass away, then bad news at work. I've spend months almost not wanting to look at my writings, and only in the last month have I gotten any real work done. I know I started about four novels this year that went nowhere and now I've got four novels just sitting there undone (proof of my long contention that "starting a novel is not winning NaNoWriMo - finishing one is").

 

I got really burned out by December. Too much, too much stress, too much heartache, too much pressure. I'm looking forward to NaNo to prove to myself I can finish a novel again, instead of writing a chapter then puttering out.

 

I don't really believe in writer's block, but burnout is real. Hoping to finish my Gamera movie script this year as well.

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44 minutes ago, Nicholas Reicher said:

I waste too much time reading my own novels.

 

38 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

Wow, that's terrible, Nicholas.

I know!

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1 hour ago, Nicholas Reicher said:

I've spend months almost not wanting to look at my writings, and only in the last month have I gotten any real work done.

 

That's been me for the past 2-3 years. After publishing five novels in four years, my output came to a crashing halt as, well, life issues got in the way. This left me with three novels in various states of writing, as well as a couple of strong concepts in development. I couldn't bring myself to open, or even look at the files. 

 

Within the past month, I chose one novel and started moving it forward. Finally! Not sure how long I'll be able to ride this wave, but I've been the most productive in a long time. 

 

1 hour ago, Nicholas Reicher said:

Hoping to finish my Gamera movie script this year as well.

 

As in this Gamera?

 

  Gamera.jpg.f70825a7fb515e17abd858328b130d7e.jpg

Edited by Accord64
Fix formatting
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Gamera! Yes - well, more the really really aggressive Gamera from "Legion". But yes... that Gamera!

Of course, that scene was shot during the ACT III battle sequence against Gyaoss. Gamera is a little cautious, because he's aware every injury he gets, Stephen Seagal's daughter gets (sorry, can't remember her name).

 

My sequel occurs when the Japanese self defense forces team up with someone from the CIA who need her to regain her link with Gamera. I think it's a really action packed script with lots of character development.

 

Really cool moment when nerdy CIA guy forces her to stand on the beach and promise to stop making her uninterested daughter take the Gamera link.

 

CIA GUY

Say it with me...

 

Asagi

I can't... he doesn't want me... I'm a mother now...

 

CIA GUY

From before the dawn of time... say it

 

Asagi

It's not my place anymore

 

CIA GUY

It was always your place.

 

Asagi

from before the dawn of time...

 

CIA GUY

Go on...

 

ASAGI

Gamera...

 

The waters boil and lift. GAMERA stands, 400 feet tall, towering. He nods to her.

* * * * 

Can you see it?

If you've seen the first two movies (second movie strongly crafted around Christian themes, BTW), you'll see the scene in your head.

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