Monday, May 23, 2011

What I Learned Last Week

Two weeks ago I was facing some unmistakable signs of approaching burnout. Having been there before with my math degree back in college, and knowing the consequences, I knew that I don't want to get to that point with writing. So I powered through to the end of the week (and the end of the first section of Unmade), promising myself to take the next week off anything writing-related in order to pause and push the reset button.

And that's where I was all last week. I stayed away from blogs, Twitter, Unmade and anything else that fell under the umbrella of “writing.” Instead I did errands, cleaned the house, visited with family, played computer games and finished a few books. Most importantly, I used the time to evaluate the causes of my threatening burnout and figure out some changes to make.

Three Major Causes:

The Forest for the Trees – Social Media

The social media roller coaster is an interesting ride. I started following blogs around a year ago, and I got into Twitter eight or nine months ago. My involvement in each gradually increased to the point that I was “reading” a few hundred blog posts every week and trying to keep up with every single tweet from every single person I follow.

The results? Disastrous. I was skimming, not reading. The point of following blogs and tweets was to connect with people and make the internet my digital classroom, but neither of those were really happening any more. And what's worse, I hit some major media fatigue. So I've cut back and given myself some boundaries now.

Divided Efforts – Querying

I have to say that I have no complaints about the query process. So far it's been a positive experience. The problem is with me and my divided focus. Some of that is necessary, of course, because I need to put thought and energy into researching agents and sending strong queries. What isn't necessary is investing thought and energy into keeping Olympus Gate in the front of my mind or feeding my impatience by checking my email constantly. All that energy should go into Unmade. So I'm letting go and redirecting my attention.

Out of Focus – Unmade

In part due to the above, I haven't given Unmade the proper treatment it needs. I set unrealistic expectations for a stellar first draft and then didn't even spend the appropriate amount of time preparing for an average first draft. So I have several frustrations with the characters and the voice and several of the scenes, because they aren't as sharply in focus as I'd like.

This week I'm hoping to work on those issues. I have a lot of research to finish before I can start into the next section of the book, and some of that research is on hold while I wait to meet with a contact, so in the meantime I'll go back through the first section and find some clarity.


So that's where I was last week and what I'm doing now. How do you handle the threat of burnout?


  1. It sounds like you made the best of your time away and did a lot of emotional/mental house cleaning. Good for the heart, good for the soul. I'm glad you're feeling better. :) Hugs.

  2. I am feeling the exact same way! It's so easy to get overwhelmed by everything out there (and our own perfectionism :) ) that sometimes we just need a break from it all. Hope it left you refreshed and ready to jump back in! (More moderately of course LOL)

    I think I'm going to be taking my own break for the next week or two while we're on vacation!

  3. Thanks, Kendra!

    I hope you have a great time, Jamie :) So far, so good on the jumping back in. I've been analyzing the chapters I've written so far, and I have some ideas for things to work on.