Florida river monsters and it’s not writer’s block. It’s writer’s burnout.

So how do you take care of yourself without burning out on taking care of yourself?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Florida river monsters and it's not writer's block. It's writer's burnout.
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It’s 2021 and people are burnt out. There’s COVID-19. There’s political strife. Systemic bigotries and biases. There’s meanies at the grocery store and there’s that never-ending effort for some of us to pay for food, shelter, and health care, right?

On Carrie’s blog, http://www.carriejonesbooks.blog, she talked about how you can burnout on self care even, but also how writers seem super susceptible to burnout and why she was a bit burnt out for awhile.

First, let’s put some definitions out there.

Writer’s block is when you can’t figure out what to write.

Writer’s burnout is when you are super stressed and completely mentally and physically exhausted. You have zero motivation.

And surprise surprise this pandemic has burnt out a lot of people–not just writers.

What else causes burnout?

  • That damn stress
  • Nobody supporting you
  • Not being valued
  • Working too hard
  • Multitasking like a wild one
  • Chaos


What are the symptoms?

Back in 2016, the Harvard Business Review had an article by Monique Valcour about beating burnout.

Her main three symptoms are

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism
  • Inefficacy

Add to that:

  • Zero motivation
  • Not being interested in things
  • Feeling like a big fail
  • Not feeling attached to anything, especially your work

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.

Valcour

Easier said than done, right?

Over on the blog, TOO MUCH ON HER PLATE, Dr. Melissa writes

Taking care of YOU is not a luxury.

Which makes sense because if you don’t take care of yourself and your basic needs, you die.

But I think she’s talking a bit beyond those basic needs and writes what happens when you don’t take care of yourself! Yes, we’re talking to you!

You have less energy and motivation to follow through on your goals

You are more easily distracted and less focused

Many people tend to turn to “vices” to fill in the gaps that aren’t being filled with in quality ways. Stress eating and other kinds of emotional eating, smoking, drinking too much, wasting time surfing the internet—these are a few things that tend to show up, waste more of your time and energy, distract you, and contribute to a vicious cycle of decreased happiness and less effectiveness.

Stress levels are higher

Sleep is often impaired (or sacrificed)

It’s common to feel deprived, irritable, more easily frustrated, or impatient

Creativity suffers and life usually includes less play and fun

Health is negatively affected

Dr. Melissa

So how do you take care of yourself without burning out on taking care of yourself?

Spoiler: Carrie is burnt out on daily five-minute arm exercise videos.

Spoiler: Shaun is burnt out listening to Carrie do those five-minute arm exercise videos.

Anyway, how do you take care of you? Again, Dr. Melissa has some lovely advice:

Start claiming 10-15 minutes a day for yourself. Use this time to connect with yourself and to pay attention to how you feel and what you need. Journal, walk, meditate, soak in the tub. Try not to save this for the end of the day when you are too tired to move and your brain has stopped working. Pay yourself first or, if necessary, take a break during your day.

Adopt the following mantras: “I’m doing my best,” and “I can’t do it all.” They are true. Put them where you can see them and remind yourself of them frequently.

Create effectiveness in do-able steps. Each evening, identify your top three personal action items for the next day and decide when you will accomplish them. Think do-able. If these daily goals seem overwhelming, make them smaller. A fifteen minute walk that you take is better than the 45 minute one you couldn’t fit in. If possible, knock out your personal priorities early in the day.

Plan for food that fuels you—especially when time is tight. Don’t skip breakfast, have a plan for lunch, and don’t starve yourself before dinner. Make sure you have the groceries that you need. Choose foods that are appealing. No starvation diets.

Cut the multitasking. It stresses us out and makes us less effective. Practice focusing on doing one thing at a time. You won’t get it perfect, but that’s okay, remember step number two.

Take emotional eating seriously. It’s often a signal that life is out of balance and your personal priorities need more attention. Emotional eating happens when our spirit or our life isn’t getting fed the non-food things we need or crave. If you wonder about how to stop emotional eating, it starts with paying attention and developing ways of caring for ourselves instead of turning to food.

Dr. Melissa

All pretty cool stuff, right?

A few years ago, Kellie McGann on The Write Practice blog talked about how to overcome writing burnout specifically. She said she had writer’s burnout because “I started thinking that my words didn’t matter and no one needed to hear what I had to say.”

That feeling is so common especially for pre-published writers or writers who are from oppressed groups and identities.

So how do you deal with it?

How to deal with Writing Burnout according to McGann

Recognize the Problem

Don’t Stop Writing

Find Yourself (again)

Don’t Try to Explain Yourself

Write Consistently

McGann

What does that mean?

It means that you have to keep being persistent and putting words down even when you never want to write again if it’s your job and your dream to be a writer/author/novelist.

It means you’re allowed to be open about being burnt out, but you don’t owe other people explanations about the why of your burnout. But you don’t have to tell anyone why you aren’t putting your words out there. You get to do you.

It means you have to take the time to remember or re-remember, why you’re a writer, who you are, what your message is, what you want to say. You get to go back to the core of who you are, the real you, and your message to the world.

And it does matter. You matter. Your words matter. We need them out there.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Burnout is real. Take care of yourself.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Make your own mantra. Find your joy, don’t worry about that outside validation. Know your purpose and go after it. Sparty’s purpose is food. He goes after it. Even if it’s a bacon crumb under a coffee table, that dog is all in.

You’ve got this. Be like Sparty. Find people that support you and your voice.

Articles we mention in our random thoughts are

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-arapaima-new-invasive-species/

https://shepherdexpress.com/puzzles/news-of-the-weird/news-of-the-weird-april-16-2020/

The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones
The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange habits.

Shaun, the Oreo Thief, Takes Over the Blog

  It’s Shaun, taking over the blog again.

          Oh, writer’s block, why dost thou come to me every Thursday afternoon when I am in desperate need of an idea for this blog?

Even though I start to think about what I am going to write a day or two ahead of Thursday sometimes it seems utterly pointless.

How do you professionals do it I wonder? Carrie never seems to have writer’s block! Of course, she is working on so many different projects at once, hers and others, that I think moving from one project to another gives her not only a respite from any one project but also allows her brain to roam freely about and not be locked into that dead zone of no new ideas.

Me? I just try to think of anything I can that is not related in any way to the subject matter at hand. Get it? At hand … writing, typing, it is a hand joke and in no way meant to be a sexual inuendo.

Even after all of this rambling, I’m still stuck so I’ll take a mental break and see what happens if I just think of the first thing that comes to mind and randomly type what I’m thinking.

So, I was probably somewhere between the ages of two and three, I theorize this because I remember I was very young and I also remember that my mom and dad were already divorced and that happened when I was two. These memories are almost fifty years old, so Mom, if you read this, don’t hold me to it.

My mom will never read this, no worries! I’m more worried about Carrie and the hand joke, honestly.

There I was, an outstanding Saturday morning and son number one, the only son for another ten or eleven years, had arisen early and sat himself on the living room floor to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Remember those? The good ones, the basic ones, the ones which don’t get any attention in the modern world.

Well, son number one decided he was hungry and went to explore the refrigerator. Hmmm, not much in here for an inexperienced chef to prepare, but wait! What was that? In the blue wrapper, the most divine of sweet snacks. Why were they in the refrigerator? Mom, don’t you know that if you refrigerate Oreos if is almost impossible to separate the chocolate wafer from the cream without breaking the wafer. Dammit woman, who does this?

            I was not allowed to eat cookies without permission. Peanut butter and bread, maybe I could have gotten away with that, but who thinks about lowly peanut butter and bread when you have a package of Oreos sitting in front of you?

I was starving and apparently Mother needed her sleep so much that she could not possibly awaken and feed her starving toddler so I had to take matters into my own hands! Besides, she wouldn’t, couldn’t, possibly notice if I only took two or three Oreos and closed up the package exactly as I found it. Problem solved! Let’s take three because it’s harder to recognize an odd number missing than an even number. I thought.

            Let me tell you, there is nothing better than watching the coyote lose at his own game over and over again while munching on Oreos. Little did I know that anvil was soon to be falling on my head.

As I sat on the floor, munching Oreos, I remember thinking that I really wanted to be a part of the excitement taking place on the screen in front of me. I know! I thought. I can just jump through the television screen and I will be magically transported to the world of coyote’s and road runners, Bugs Bunny, and Yosemite Sam!

I stood up, ready to leap. But wait, something was wrong with that theory. I touched the screen of the television, hard glass. No, this couldn’t be right. Glass cut you and I did not want to be cut.

Phew, close call!

 I was brilliant, but all of that thinking had made me hungry again. Mom would not notice if I took just another couple Oreos, I wondered. Would she? Nah, never!

            By my fifth trip back to the refrigerator, I knew that I was just as screwed now as if I had tried to jump through the screen of our television. Why did I have to be such a hungry kid? Why wouldn’t my mother wake up and feed me healthy and nutritious food like a good parent and prevent me from being a thief who is surely going to get caught?

I sat back down in front of the television to watch more cartoons and await my inevitable demise. For some reason the cartoons weren’t as joyous and funny as they had been just a short time ago.

            Finally, Mommy made an appearance and we exchanged our morning pleasantries. Everything seemed fine. Somehow she has not noticed my chocolate wafer lipstick!

She asked if I wanted some breakfast and I immediately answer no and that I was not hungry. I was. I was always hungry, but she couldn’t enter that refrigerator under any circumstances! I heard her piddling around in the kitchen for a while and things were going great. I was going to get away with this.

            I felt a presence behind me and I turned my head to see my mother’s leg, so I looked up. She was scowling.

            My heart exploded into a red, dusty cloud of terror.

She asked the question.

Did I eat any Oreos this morning?

I immediately replied with the most truthful answer I could think of under such tremendous pressure.

No.

I do not remember what happened after that. My mother was a calm and loving mother who would occasionally lose her temper with me but had two huge sticking points when it came to child rearing—lying and losing one’s temper.

I can only assume that was my first taste of my most often suffered punishment. Time in my bedroom, sitting on my bed, alone, to think about my crimes. She was a time tyrant when it came to timeouts and they were always long! I mean, an hour is an eternity to anyone less than ten right?

So, there you go, now I am ready to write a blog and I have a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, I have used up my allotted space in the world of internet writing and it

will have to wait until next week. Hopefully, if you happened to have been stricken by writer’s block when you embarked on this reading journey that it is now gone and long forgotten. Go write something, anything, the good words will come to you.

Peace!

Shaun


Let me tell you all that Shaun still sneaks Oreos. Only now he does it at night when he lets Sparty out into the backyard and he doesn’t get time-out for his crime. I just buy more Oreos and pretend like I haven’t noticed.

xo

Carrie

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 259,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcast is about urban legends. And our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about the B Story and goat voyeurs.

Making Your story believable
Making Your story believable

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On one of my Patreon sites I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD. This is a monthly membership site (Hear the book chapters – $1/month, read them $3-month, plus goodies!). Sometimes I send people art! Art is fun.

On this, my second site, WRITE BETTER NOW, you can do a one-time purchase of a writing class or get two of my books in eBook form or just support our podcast or the dogs. It’s all part of the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

Ways to Battle Writer’s Block

Back in 2008, I had a big writer’s block and I wrote this on my LiveJournal blog And I think Some of you All might relate.


I know. I know!

I am the queen of WRITE NO MATTER WHAT.

I am the princess of WRITE EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO.

But I can’t write. I write two sentences and then I lose it.  

I think I’m one of those people who can only write when they are happy. And I’m not happy. I am so far from happy.  I know I always seem happy, but right now I’m really REALLY unhappy.

Writer people out there do you have advice?

I need advice.


Please?


I initially friends locked this entry back in 2008 because:


1. I liked to pretend I’m not neurotic in case I ever run for office again.
2. I didn’t want my mom to call and ask me what’s wrong.

But, I think maybe it’s better for people to see how all writers can be insecure or have bad days and how some of us can be open about it (not that it’s better to be open about it… it’s fine to be whatever way you are), but more importantly how freaking amazing the Livejournal community was at giving .id

Look at how nice people were. You guys were all so amazing. Crud. Now I’m crying. Bad Carrie, bad.


LiveJournal isn’t a space I hang out anymore, but I still have things archived and it showed me all this great advice and empathy that was out there and that? That makes me happy and have faith even when the world tries to take faith away from me.


Advice #1

 I think today calls for a warm blanket, a comfy couch, and a really good book.

Hoping you feel better soon…..

This counts as “advice I give, and really should take myself, but usually don’t”:

Advice #2


Maybe you can give yourself a set amount of time–15 minutes, half an hour, nothing drastic–and set some kind of timer, and tell yourself that for that time you will write, no matter how awful it comes out. And then at the end of that time, if you still feel awful and it isn’t working, you get to stop for the day and do something comforting. Probably you’ll end up stopping, but maybe you’ll get something you can use in that short time. And if you don’t want to stop, if it’s starting to work, then keep going. The one thing you’re not allowed to do is to beat yourself up over whatever you do or don’t get done, because that won’t help at all.

I know it’s weird, but I have to make those kinds of bargains with myself all the time!

Advice #3

Get away from your computer? Just sit and visualize your story for a while–could be several hours. Take notes if you have to, but don’t hold the pen or notebook in your hand when you’re not HAVING to scribble?

Tea? Chocolate? Play with the animals?

Good luck–it’ll come!

Advice #4

My advice is to wallow.

I mean it.

Wallow.

Write about why life sucks right now…then delete it.

Be home alone and rant and rave.

Throw a tantrum–kicking legs and all.

Bawl.

Bawl some more.

Let the writing sit.

Seven months went by for me, and look. You are still here, LJ Land is still here, my stories are still here, my agent (bless her!) is still here… My friends are all still here. Now, I’m not saying you should take a break from LJ Land, no way! I’d miss you too much! I’m just saying, it’s okay. It’s okay to not feel like writing.

Relax. Let yourself ‘not write’.

It’ll be there tomorrow and the next day and the next….

HUGS!!!!

*hugs* and *chocolate*

Advice #5



Go watch some TV – an episode of something/a film you love, sad, funny whatever, it doesn’t matter. Give yourself and your brain a break. Then do the fool-your-brain thing – say you’re only going to write 100 words [or 50] and that will be it. Then pat yourself on the back for a good job done, and if you want to go for bonus wordage, then do the next 100. And tell yourself that it can be about anything.

And more *hugs*

Advice #6

This may cause your daughter to hate me forever and plot vengeance.

You need to dance. Put on the happiest song, (kudos if it’s a geeky, embaressing song) and dance in the living room. Revel in your geekiness and the groans of humiliation from others.

Don’t write. Read. Soak in hot, fragrant water. Drink/eat lots of chocolate. Visit your friends…the writing will be waiting for you when you come back. Till then, tons of HUGS and good thoughts, Carrie!!

Advice #7

Having emotions means you are not one of the sheeple.

If that doesn’t make yo smile, consider this: “The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.” ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

If that doesn’t help, I suppose I could call and do the choo-choo thing and sing songs. But that’s really an emergency procedure.

Advice #8

Aw, Carrie! {hugs}

I’m a big believer in WRITE NO MATTER WHAT…unless you can’t. 🙂 I think there are times when I weasel my way out of writing because I’m being a slacker – that’s not cool. But there are other times that I take a break because I can feel inside that no matter how long I sit there stabbing keys, nothing worthwhile is going to appear on the page and in the meantime I’m feeling darker and darker inside (and not the good kind of dark, if that makes any sense).

Take a break (like everyone else suggested) – whether it’s for a day or a week or whatever. Be gentle with yourself. You’ll feel the whatever-it-is ease inside you when you’re able to sit at the keyboard again. Just make sure you’re paying attention and not coddling yourself *too* much. 😉

Last Thoughts

I hope one of those writers’ advice helps you if you’re here because of writers’ block. No one way will work for everyone. No one way will even always work for ourselves. Be gentle with yourself the same way you would be for the ones you love.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 259,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcast is about urban legends. And our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about the B Story and goat voyeurs.

What To Do When Life and Writing Sucks – Be Your Own Damn Hero

Being your own hero in the story of your writing is a big deal and it’s something we all shirk from. If we are the hero of the story, of our own life’s story, what does that exactly mean?

It means we are in charge of our story as much as we can be. It means that our actions and words and choices define what happens next in the plot of our life.

Yes, sometimes random horrors or brilliant moments happen and those things aren’t (or at least don’t directly seem) caused by us. But, those moment are still… They are part of our journey and who we are is determined by the choices we make as a reaction to those moments of random horror or beautiful brilliance.

One way to get a bit of traction in how your story goes in your literary life is to define what Todd Henry calls “The Big Three.” These aren’t exactly priorities. They aren’t exactly projects. They are the big loops happening in your creative life right now.

Here’s an example of a Big Three:

What is the problem I’m solving?

How do I add more value to the world?

How do I make what I’m doing matter?

Making your own big three is a big deal. It’s a bit like the six-month goal sheet that we make at the Writing Barn, but it’s more loose. And it’s best used when you apply it to every stimuli that you see. When you are watching a movie, think about your big three for a second. When you’re at a random meeting or a soccer game, think about your big three. How are you shaping your life and your art? How is your art shaping the world? Does it matter to you? How? How not?

What you put your energy and time into matters. The things you do, your commitments, have to not be so overwhelming that the creative part of your mind shrivels up and dies. You want to and deserve to flourish. Keep the things that matter to you, add value to you, and pluck off the rest.

And remember, so many ideas and epiphanies happen when your mind is at rest – in the shower, driving in the car (sort of at rest), at the edge of sleep, working out. There is a reason for that. It’s in the white space that ideas sprout, that innovation has the room to occur.

Writers Write

So what do you do when you can’t write? If our actions define us, then do we stop being a writer if we stop writing? It’s a good question.

Bring On The Pressure

Some of us kick butt when the pressure is on. Death. Pandemic. Job loss? For some of us those things actually make us run to the page and write and process and puke up all the words.

MAKE IT ALL GO AWAY

For some of us? Well, we can only write when we’re happy and excited and things are going in a kick-butt ways.

So What Do You Do If You Are In The Second Group?

It’s okay to take a hiatus. If you hold your breath, you don’t stop being a human. If you take a writing pause, you don’t stop being a writer.

Are you afraid that if you stop writing that you’ll never write again? If so, you need to get a support group to help you talk through that. You need people to keep you accountable.

Channel Your Inner Oprah

Be about the self care. That doesn’t mean binging Tiger King or running six miles while drinking green shakes made of kale. It’s about finding the right way to journey through your day, your week, your month and finding a balance. Find the things that make you happy and put them on your to-do list for a half hour a day. Make it a priority to make yourself happy and balanced. Don’t be all about work. Don’t be all about other people’s needs. Don’t be all about not writing. Take care of your damn self.

When people are hurt? They need to recover. Allow yourself to recover.

I am trying terribly hard to start running again. I am a person who actually has to wear knee braces when I run so my knees don’t pop out. Full disclosure: My knees pop out just sitting in a chair for three hours. And when they pop out? I can’t run for two weeks or so.

Running is my favorite thing to do.

But I have to pause every month or so and stop and let myself recover.

Writing and our brains can be like this, too. We need to give them time to revitalize, get strong. 

So how do we do that?

Create A Plan Of Action

Let’s say you’re a writer as a full-time job. You kind of have to keep writing to keep paying for your food, your house, and so on, right? What do you do if you are having a crisis of faith and brain?

  • Make a scheduled time plan and stick to it. Figure how long each tasks take and when the deadlines are and do a bit each day.
  • Remember why you are writing in the first place. 
  • Try to remember that things are almost always temporary and change is a natural state. This is how I get through almost every bad feeling and experience. I know that it can’t last forever. Sometimes I have to chant that to know it, but it works.
  • If something isn’t essential, put it at the bottom of your TO DO list. Like laundry. You don’t get to do laundry until you’ve written 300 words. That sort of thing. I do this all the time.
  • Take care of your darn self. Drink water not just tequila. Have a salad not just Doritos. Keep your body strong.
  • Check in with others. Find people who aren’t full of judgement and who are supportive. Check in with them every day. A little accountability and support go a long way in making you feel less alone. I promise.

WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 213,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw, weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

RECENT EPISODES OF AWESOME AND BONUS INTERVIEWS

This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s episode link 

Link to Sam Spellacy’s interview.

Link to Cara Sawyer (librarian of awesome) interview. 

A bonus interview with Dr. J.L. Delozier, Pennsylvania doctor and writer. 

bonus interview with poet and coach Fiona Mackintosh Cameron. 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

Continue reading “What To Do When Life and Writing Sucks – Be Your Own Damn Hero”