My Approach to Writer’s Burnout: A Tale of Blood and Fire
I am a man of conflicted passions. On the one hand, I absolutely love doing nothing. On the other, I have a strangely powerful work ethic, most likely inherited and imparted from my father. I don’t like having many commitments, but I feel an overwhelming need to follow through with those few I do make. It’s a horrible disconnect, one that spoils my enjoyment of both leisure activities and work I actually enjoy doing.
In keeping with my interest of being lazy, I rarely let any aspect of my day job interfere with my life when I’m not being paid to let one do so. However, as some of my loyal followers will have realized, this time of year is a full-scale invasion of stupid that boils out of the ground like multi-phasic South American army ants. They come with fire, they come with axes, gnawing biting breaking hacking burning until my parasympathetic nervous system is finally decimated by evil Olympic torch runners.
Given the above (plus some other extracurricular stressors filling in the role of the wild men of the hills), I made a decision earlier this month that, quite honestly, frightened me. Not enough to make me decide against it, but it still flew in the face of my own work ethic as well as one of the widely-adopted cardinal rules of writing.
I stopped working on my book.
Now, the only reason I feel even remotely comfortable with this decision (and yes, the feeling is remote) is because I’m over 80,000 words into it. My primary justification for it is three-fold: protect myself, protect my characters, and protect my prose. For myself, I feared the far-reaching effects of too much stress on my emotional stability and hence my job stability. Now is not the time of year for me to be edgy.
For my characters, I feared an emotional decision born of stress and work-related anger that would either kill someone off or make them suffer unnecessarily. Besides, it would be decidedly out of character for Cora to start shooting her saloon’s patrons without provocation. I can’t let my feelings cloud hers, so I needed a break. For my prose, I simply feared a breakdown of flow and mechanics, increasing my stress levels later when I enter the revision stage. The fewer stupid errors I make now, the less I feel like an idiot later.
My point in all this? Not much of one, I suppose. I’m far too new to the writer blogosphere to feel comfortable dispensing any kind of commandments or platitudes. If anything, I suppose I’m questioning my own post-NaNo admonition to write every day until the draft is finished. Given the time I have until the deadline for this manuscript, I think it’s okay to take a short break (especially since I have another, more immediate deadline looming). Bad advice, maybe, but I’m still learning what does and doesn’t work for me as a writer. I’ll let you know how it goes.