Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Adventures of a Burnt-Out Author by Patty Smith Hall

Last year, I experienced what it is to be completely burnt out for the first time in my life. I should have seen it coming. Always considered a busy bee, my last fifteen months had been particularly industrious with nine novella contracts, a new grandson and another back surgery. Never one to back away from a challenge, I faced it head on, and ended up so exhausted, I contracted the horrible flu that spread throughout the country in 2018. Complications delayed my recover so that by the time I felt well enough to get back to my life, half the year was gone.

Here’s a few of my mistakes that you can learn from:

1) Rest
There’s a reason God took his rest on the seventh day. He never tires, but He wanted to set an example for us. He knew our bodies and minds needed rest in order to carry out all the plans He had designed just for us.

But there are some of us who think rest is for other people. Personally, I’m like Tigger the tiger, always bouncing around with a daily to-do list as long as my arm. But even Tigger gets tired! 

The truth is rest makes you more productive. It clears your head and renews your strength for the daily grind. It’s not just necessary. It’s important to our well-being. God commands us to rest—so obey Him and do it!

2) Read
A few years ago, Danny and I came up with this idea of the dream vacation. We would rent a condo on the beach and spend the days just reading and lounging around. Can you image? Long hours with nothing to do but be engrossed in a book. Three years ago, we finally made it happen. BEST VACATION EVER! I read nine books that week! When we came home, I was pumped to write again. Why? Because while I enjoyed the books, my brain had a chance to soak in the writing. It made me a better writer!

So, read as much as you can! Don’t delegate it to your yearly vacation but read every day. Try another genre instead of the one you write. And don’t get bogged down in critiquing the writing—just savor the experience. Your body and mind (as well as your writing) will thank you!

3) Learn to use the word ‘No.’
Over the years, I’ve preached to several writing friends about the necessity of saying no. It’s a word we should use frequently if we want to get and stay published.

But as I learned the hard way, you don’t have to say yes to every writing opportunity offered to you either. As I mentioned before, I had nine novellas contracted over the period of fifteen months. Think about that for a moment—nine different sets of characters with different motivations and conflicts in nine different time periods.

What was I thinking? Probably that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be published (the checks helped too!) There were others that would jump at the chance to be published so I had to take the contract, right?

I don’t know. By the time I wrote the last contracted novella, I could hardly remember what I wrote. Did my characters have a strong motivation and conflict? Did the story even make sense?

By the grace of God, it did. In fact, my editors stayed in stitches reading it (remember, I was punch-drunk by then.) It became my first historical comedy. Yet, I learned my lesson. I backed out of three more commitments due over the next year, and I’m fine with that.

4) Plan out your day.
I’m big on using planners—I use two planners that are geared to writers (Susan May Warren’s My Brilliant Writing Planner and The Serious Writer Companion.) The one drawback about using a planner is you see all the things you don’t get done. So, if you’re me, you spend your day trying to play catch up or worse still, trying to do two things at one time.

Learn to give yourself a break! Books aren’t written in a day! Don’t fill up your schedule with so many things, you have no hope of completing them. Delegate. Let others help you. They will if you let them.

It took me a few months to get back to writing again, but now, I do it with a renewed sense of purpose. I stopped beating myself up for what I couldn’t accomplish but rather celebrate what I did get done. I’m in a better place, one that honors God and follows His example of rest.

Are you suffering from writing burn-out? Tips to combat it via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #writingtips

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A multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty lives in North Georgia with her husband of 35 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden. 


4 comments:

  1. Very nice Blog, and Very, very good advice! Yes, we need to listen to our bodies more, that is for sure, and we especially need to listen to Gods whispers. God Bless you . You are an amazing lady! <3 :)

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  2. Between social media, accounting, learning the craft and marketing, and all the other little tasks, it's so easy to get burnt out when writing full time. I can't imagine how writers who work another job full time do it. AND, oh my goodness, nine novellas? That's definitely a good/bad situation, Patty. :)

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  3. This is wonderful advice, Patty. I feel myself teetering on the edge, so your words come at a perfect time. I've had that same dream of a vacation with nothing to do but read...sounds blissful.

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  4. I'm in the burn out stage as we speak. It's no fun being here! I agree with everything you just said.
    For me, burning out actually came from the hectic ride my kids have my on right now. But I had to come to grips with the fact that there is only so much of me to go around. Their sports' seasons are short-lived and so is their childhood. I can take a break, keep my sanity, and be there for them now ... then I'll write that book later.

    The thing about pushing when you're drained is that you're not going anywhere anyway. You might as well take a step back and call it an official break instead of feeling disappointment every day when your frazzled brain can no longer form sentences.

    But thank you so much for posting this! As much as I KNOW I needed the time out, I've been struggling to take it. I WANT to get to work. I just can't. But the message keeps coming at me from all angles that the resting period is necessary. It's actually a blessing, not a curse. So thank you for another reminder. I sure needed it!

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