Author: Sandy Vaile
You want to be a published author, right?
Well, beware what you wish for because many career authors suffer burn-out at some stage. To enable longevity, authors need to find a healthy work/life balance. Here’s how you can avoid author burn-out and enjoy a long and fruitful career.
There is nothing like the little flip of anticipation in the pit of my stomach as I sit down to write or the thrill when I see plot points come together. Creative writing is a challenging and rewarding task but, like anything worthwhile, there comes a time when it becomes a chore. Being able to push through these difficult times is part of having a resilience mindset (see Part 1 in this blog series, called Practice Resilience and Surviving the Publishing Industry)
What is author burn-out?
When we experience prolonged or high levels of stress, it can cause mental and emotional exhaustion, which stops us from functioning effectively. The longer the symptoms are ignored, the more pronounced the effects, which may include the inability to make decisions, poor sleep quality and reduced productivity.
It’s more than not being able to figure out a solution to a plot problem or staring at a blank page unable to decide what to write next. Author burn-out means being too fatigued to come up with ideas at all or lacking the enthusiasm to write anything.
Signs that you are heading for burn-out
It’s better to take action early to prevent stress spiralling out of control. Look out for these signs:
Causes of burn-out
Burn-out may be caused by being over committed, isolated, having unrealistic expectations or unexpected situations arise.
Everything in our lives either depletes or restores our emotional balance. "
A useful exercise is to list which activities and thoughts restore or deplete you. I personally find that it’s the activities I have to do (work, clean the house, visit an unpleasant relative) that deplete my equilibrium, and the things I want to do (writing, dining out with friends, spending quality time with my family) restore my equilibrium.
Of course, we can’t stop doing the thing we have to, but we can manage them so our life doesn’t feel like one long to do list.
It’s a continual, conscious process working to reduce activities that deplete us and pursue those that restore us. The good news is that even short periods of restorative activities can quickly re-energise you."
All the best intentions and planning in the world can’t prevent unexpected situations, but if you continually monitor your stress levels and take actions to prevent burn-out, then when overwhelm takes you by surprise you’ll be robust enough to work through it.
The degree of action you take should be in direct correlation with how overwhelmed you feel. There are various ways to balance depleting and restorative activities, like:
We are the sum of all the parts of our lives and finding a balance between what we need and what we want to get done, will help prevent author burn-out. Nurture your creativity like the precious gift it is, and it will produce wealth for countless years.
You are your own creative genius, so keep going!
Other blogs in the Survive the Publishing Industry series
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Empowering modern fiction authors to confidently write novels worthy of publication