For those of you in America or from America, I’d like to wish you a very merry Thanksgiving. For the rest of you, I hope you have a great day.
I knew, going into November, that NaNoWriMo might not happen. The first couple days I was going to be a writing convention, I have a massive work deadline coming up in early December, plus, there’s that whole family and holiday thing you might have noticed is happening. But still, I had hope and plans.
However, I’ve had to take a step back and reassess. Here are my:
5 Steps For Avoiding Burn Out
Step 1 – Recognize Your Limits
As my work deadline approaches, my day-job hours have kept growing, eating into my writing time. When Tuesday turned into a 14-hour workday, I just couldn’t handle it. I tossed about 200 words on the page and crashed out hard.
I was too plain exhausted to pull out more words. I now know that 10-12 hours is about all the productivity I have in me during a given day. If work uses it up, then I have to recognize that it’s okay for me to let the writing slip a little.
Step 2 – Reassess Your Goals
This past Monday, I decided to stop worrying about stretching a middle-grade novel to 50,000 words and toss my blog post word count into my NaNoWriMo total. (I’m a rebel!)
I felt disappointed in myself, in my progress, in the fact that I couldn’t stretch myself to make it work. However, looking back on my past NaNoWriMo wins, they happen when life and day job aren’t getting in the way and I admitted at the start of this month that they might.
As the month wears on, I’m contemplating aiming for 1,000 words a day (on average) instead of that NaNo dream of 1,666 words per day. I hate to concede, but at some point, you have to recognize when you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re gonna get burnt out.
Step 3 – Recognize Your Needs
I have a chocolate stash, easy microwave dinners, and a comfy bed. Despite my writer-self telling me it is, getting my word count in is honestly a want, not a need. In order to get words in, I need 3 things:
- Energy – I need to not have used all my energy at work. I need to be reasonably rested. I need to be able to focus on things without my vision blurring over.
- Cope – I need energy and a minimal of top-priority things fighting for my attention. Being able to prioritize and feel like I’m at least treading water, not actively sinking helps a lot.
- Downtime – I used to have a commute to contemplate story ideas. These days? I’ve got a 9-minute commute which is amazing and I love. But doesn’t give me quiet time to think. Maybe I need to start using that elliptical I picked up second hand and spend that time on story contemplation. Or keep watching the new Duck Tales, because my brain needs a break. I cannot keep going from 12 hours at my day job staring at code directly home to write. It’s breaking me.
Step 4 – Give Yourself Credit
You might be disappointed in your output – your word count, your plotting, your writing itself. Your story might be a hot mess. But those experts say that it takes 10,000 hours of something to become an expert. You’re working on writing under pressure, practicing deadlines, and even if you’re missing them?
- A – They give a great breeze when they race by
- B – You’re still closer to the end of your novel than you were before you started. Be it 50 words or 50 pages, you’re making progress.
- C – You likely have a better idea of what you want your novel to look like. Be it “I know how to fix this” or even just “now I know that won’t work”
- D – You likely have a better feel for your characters and their voices. Maybe you’ll have to start over from scratch… but I bet when you look at it again, you might find sections you can use wholesale.
Step 5 – Practice Gratitude
I don’t know what things in your life make you smile, but hopefully, there are many things. And if not? Maybe it’s time to make changes that will get you there.
For me? I’m grateful for many things:
- My friends and family who love and care for me – and have me lined up to attend 3 Thanksgiving celebrations on 3 consecutive days.
- How supportive my friends, family, and writing community are.
- My quiet, comfortable home where I write.
- My day job that stretches my skills, teaches me more, and is full of welcoming and enthusiastic people.
- My creativity and writing skills
- That I learned how to touch type.
- Electricity and the internet. Because my life kinda revolves around them.
- My health (and health insurance).
- Um… I feel like this is when I should say something “and viewers like you”
If you’re starting to feel strung out, look at why. Is it because you’re not used to writing so much and it’s taking an adjustment period? Or is it because your non-writing obligations and life are taking their own toll on you. Only you can decide if you can cut things out of your life, or if your writing needs to be trimmed back a bit.
Have you had to deal with burn out? Did you just take a break or were there other things that helped? Let me know!
Wishing you all a happy and drama-free Thanksgiving.