Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 28, 2012

Can writers avoid burnout in the 21st century?

Ever since my child was born, I have been struggling to find time to write. I know I am not the only one – many writers I have spoken to ask the same question, “How can I fit writing into my life?”

We are all trying desperately to shoehorn writing into a day jam-packed with other responsibilities – spouse, children, day job, school, and the millions of other things that crop up unexpectedly. Add to the writing the fact that we are also supposed to be “building our social media platform” as well, and that’s even more time we need to squeeze out of the day.

Can we really do it all?

I know I’m exhausted all the time, and recently another writer said she was stepping back because she could no longer juggle everything—the pressure was too much and every aspect of her life was suffering. And I can totally relate. I often feel like I’m neglecting many, many things (although hopefully not the truly important ones like spouse and child) in order to find time to write something longer than a grocery list.

And then comes the news that in the 21st century, authors are going to need to write more than one book a year to stay competitive. Color me depressed! Here I am cutting every possible corner to try and get out ONE book, and now I’m supposed to write more! No wonder so many writers are starting to feel burnt out. Write multiple books a year AND do all your own marketing AND take care of your family, day job, etc.

This is not a sustainable model for most writers.

I really examined my schedule the other day, and realized I NEVER STOP. I’m like a shark, I have to keep moving or I die. (Actually, I have to keep moving or I fall asleep.) There is no down time for me. I am never not doing something. Every second of every day is taken up. My “free” time is my writing time. The only time I’m doing “nothing” is when I’m sleeping—6 hours on a good night. Other writers I know are similarly scheduled to the eyeballs. How can we all maintain this pace?

As the pressures keep piling on, will we see more writers walking away? Will there be more one-hit wonders who then cannot sustain the pace? Will there simply be fewer writers in the mix, dropping out before they ever reach publication? Will we see a rise in poorly-written, poorly-edited works released before they should have been simply to keep up with the ravenous content monster?

Time will tell.

For myself, I will keep plugging away. My writing is my salvation at this point, the one thing that keeps me from being totally consumed by this creature called Mommy and losing my identity as an individual beyond my (wonderful) daughter.

I have never felt close to burning out on writing—perhaps because I get so little time to actually indulge in it. I still have story ideas and characters tumbling over themselves in my head, clamoring for my attention. I wish I had the time to give them all the attention they deserve!

Have you ever gotten burned out as a writer? How did you get back into writing?

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Responses

  1. I have a lot of writing projects going on at once. There is always something I’m not burned out on. I wouldn’t recommend this approach for others, though. Nothing ever gets done!

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    • I used to do that, too, pre-baby! But with advances getting lower and lower, more and more writers are not able to support themselves with just writing, and so have day jobs along with family obligations. The squeeze is tremendous. And if you are lucky enough to be under contract, you don’t have the luxury of jumping from project to project – you have deadlines.

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  2. I have a 15 yr old daughter and 11 year old son and understand your pressures. Part of the problem we face is we push ourselves into harsh time boundaries and shape ourselves according to them, instead of enjoying the ride. I’m lucky to use it as an outlet to vent those frustrations, and am supported by my spouse who draws the income. Writing is my therapy and when I’m tight as a top, it releases pent up frustration. I’m a poet, who believes hard work pays off but when the kids are small, never stop- build and build. I was once told by industry big-wig most writer’s don’t hit their stride until their 50’s, because of the life experiences they need utilize in their work. Every stride towards that goal (44 here) is a brick on top of another and a step in the right direction. So don’t get discouraged- continue to build your house and before you know it, neighbors will see the value and move in. The publishers are the real estate agents but usually last to know- they popularize the place.

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    • Thanks for the encouragement, Stephen! I’m not far behind you (42), so I’m accumulating the life experiences pretty fast.

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  3. This blog came at a good time. I’ve been irritable trying to fit in the time, every minute wasted in traffic, every crappy TV show I shouldn’t have watched, every lunch spent listening to Phillies fans drone on and on, could’ve been spent writing or blogging or contacting a bookstore or getting info on a book convention.
    I’ve decided to prioritize better, I can’t promote the way I want to, but every minute I can, I make the most of. I have podcasts downloaded for traffic, I make time on weekends. I just learned to do what I can with the time I do have.
    Thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone.

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    • Glad to help, JJ! And you are definitely not alone. This is a pervasive issue among writers.

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