As a traditionally published novelist, I have always had a weird instability in my income and that got only worse during the COVID-19 pandemic when a bunch of factors happened:
- I didn’t have any traditionally published books coming out that year.
- Our main outside source of income (renting our houses) couldn’t happen because COVID.
- We became the only and primary residence of a super cool eleven-year-old with some deep anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, and autism. And because of risk factors she was being remotely schooled for the pandemic and still is.
This meant I had to pivot and pivot hard. Suddenly, I was really the major and only wage owner. I created a couple of classes (You can check them out) on Patreon, self-published a book and a novella of my heart. And began editing and writing coaching a lot.
And when I say ‘a lot,’ I mean I work from 6 or 7 a.m. until 5 or 7 p.m. on other people’s amazing and beautiful and fun stories.
I love it.
But by dinner, I’m tired of being in front of my computer and I long to be outside. I’m an outside person.
And the schedule hasn’t given me as much time as I’m used to writing my own stories.
And I’m super lucky and I know myself pretty well and there’s a few things I have to do in order to not feel burnt out and those things are:
- Be outside and exercise.
- Write my own stories or paint something.
- Sing loudly.
- Dance around the kitchen like a total goofball.
- Help other people.
- Hug on dogs and cats and dream about manatees. I have a thing for manatees.
A long time ago, in the cold hills of Vermont, amazing author and human Rita Williams Garcia warned me about burnout. “It’s going to happen to you,” she said. “It happens to all of us.”
I gasped, horrified. “Not me!”
“Even you.” She smiled.
Back in 2016, the Harvard Business Review had an article by Monique Valcour about beating burnout.
In the summary of her article, she wrote:
Three symptoms characterize burnout: exhaustion; cynicism, or distancing oneself from work; and inefficacy, or feelings of incompetence and lack of achievement. Research has linked burnout to many health problems, including hypertension, sleep disturbances, depression, and substance abuse. Moreover, it can ruin relationships and jeopardize career prospects.
For writers, that feeling of lack of achievement and incompetence is pretty easy to get. It’s a subjective business and other writers’ successes are often right in your face, right? There’s a whole thing called Imposter Syndrome that even super famous and accomplished authors get.
She also writes:
… you can also take steps toward recovery and prevention on your own: Prioritize your health, shift your perspective to determine which aspects of your situation are fixed and which can be changed, reduce exposure to the most stressful activities and relationships, and seek out helpful interpersonal connections.
Bethany Hegedus, my friend and writer and founder of the Writing Barn sent out a newsletter this week where she bravely talked about how she felt burnt out with her self-care, creating checklists almost (or maybe really) of how to take care of herself. Did she exercise? Did she meditate? Did she hydrate?
The self-care list can go on and on, can’t it? It sure can for those of us who are lucky enough to have the time, financial stability and privilege to even have those moments.
Basically, you can burn out trying not to burn out. I know! Totally unfair, right?
Bethany turns to tiny moments of deep rest where she’s hanging out with her husband, resting in his arms, or when she’s reading (sometimes).
In Valcour’s article, she pulls out four things you can do to combat burnout.
- Prioritize self-care.
- Shift your perspective.
- Reduce exposure to job stressors.
- Seek out connections
Easier said than done, right? Tomorrow on the podcast, we’re going to talk about those three things
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