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Burnout Blues | July Check-In

At the top of the year, I wrote about my hopes for 2022 to be different.

2021 wasn't my best year creatively. Part of that had to do with finally prioritizing my mental health and the strain and difficulties that come with healing. I had started at a new job after being laid off following a pandemic-related furlough that came with a lot of adjustments⁠—and even more adjustments when I was promoted a few months later.

I was also coming off a few setbacks after a dip in the querying trenches that didn't go as hoped.

All in all, it was difficult to focus on writing, and frankly anything creative, and I ended up taking a hiatus from the blog and putting all of my WIPs to the side. I didn't feel great about it, but it was at that time what I needed to do.

Coming back was rough, but I was overall in a better spot than when I left off.

I'm still trying to find that balance a year later, but with different factors at play.

Unlike before, where I waiting to hear when I would be returning to my pre-Covid job (if it still existed) I was picking up a slew of hours for the first half of the year. It was great as far as my paycheck and my wallet were concerned. In other areas of my life, however, it took its toll.

After agreeing to do 40-hour weeks to help fill in some coverage gaps, which sometimes included being scheduled for eight consecutive days, I started having stress dreams about work.

Meaning that even on my days off, I could never leave my job at the store. I wasn't able to get that much-needed rest.

Needless to say, the additional hours also made it harder to find time to write. I was already in the habit of using my lunch breaks to work on blog posts, but it was becoming the only time I had for anything writing-related.

On the days I had off, I always planned to work on my ongoing fiction projects, primarily edits on Bound to the Heart, but found myself too mentally frayed to focus on writing. Not to mention the need to catch up on things around the house and run errands or indulge in other hobbies like baking and video games.

On top of that, I was put on pain meds for a knee injury that caused drowsiness and not long after suffered a pinched nerve in my spine that was frankly the worst pain I've ever been in. Both made it difficult to devote my full attention to anything for extended periods of time.

The feeling of disconnect from my WIPs was significant, and it still is in a lot of ways.

When I finally have a chance to sit down with Bound to the Heart again, there's always a period of reorientation. Trying to figure out where I left off last. Making sense of various notes I scribbled on the printout months ago. Getting my train of thought back on track.

It's easier said than done. By the time I've somewhat settled back into the story, I've been staring at the screen for an hour at least.

When people talk about burnout, one of the more commonly suggested solutions is to take a break and come back to it later with fresh eyes. But what do you do when one of the things causing those feelings of defeat and frustration is the fact that life pulled you away for so long?

There's a sense of guilt that comes with unproductivity. That nagging feeling that you aren't doing enough even though you're being stretched in so many directions that if you were spread any thinner, you would be transparent. You're at your wit's end and it's frayed.

When you finally have a day off and you have the time to dedicate to your craft, it's never enough. There's the housework that's been piling up and those things you swear you're going to get to but always put off until tomorrow. Things like injuries and illnesses just pop up sometimes that are beyond your control, and then there are things you don't have the heart to say no to.

Life, as always, finds a way to get in the way.

Not to mention the need to simply recharge. Because how can you write well when you're just exhausted?

In all honesty, I debated whether or not I was going to write a Check-In this year because I don't feel like I've accomplished much of anything worth noting. I haven't completed a draft or finished edits, and I certainly haven't taken any great strides towards my goal of publishing my writing.

I'm instead coming to terms with there being nothing.

But it's this recognition of burnout that convinced me to write this post.

We don't always hear about how common feelings of burnout are. Meanwhile, we frequently hear about how important it is to write every day which has on more than one occasion stirred feelings of guilt and failure in me when I'm not able to sit in front of my computer or crack open a notebook for more than an hour in a day. The fact that most of my writing is done on my phone during my lunch break, and it is typically for my blog rather than my fiction that stirs the feeling that I'm not a "real" writer.

And my ongoing, never-ceasing battle with impostor syndrome amplifying all of this.

So where do we go from here?

I think the rest of my 2022 will be about reclaiming my writing and forgiving myself in those moments when life gets in the way. Instead of beating myself up when I'm unable to sit down with my writing the way I "should," my goal is now being able to give myself a little more grace.

In that time, I'll hopefully reignite that spark in my writing that serves as a glimmer of hope for my publishing goals.

After all, there's still a fair amount of sulfur on this burnt-out match.



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