D. F. Krieger

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writer Wednesday: (Don't) Burn, Baby, Burn

It's happening everywhere and many aren't aware until they are slumped in a corner, rocking and singing happy songs. It could be you next, or that person you chat with all the time on Facebook. It could be your mentor, your publisher, your crit partner.

Burnout has become a major epidimic and the problem is, many of us are to blame. Even I fell prey recently. This post won't be full of it's usual snark or witty remarks. I'm trying to call to attention a very serious issue that I'm seeing happen to lots of authors, and it worries me.

What has this got to do with you all and Writer Wednesday? Taking care of yourself and staying healthy, both mentally and physically. These are important in any field, but sometimes we don't realize it applies to us. It's so easy to get caught up in hype. Here are some common types of burnouts:

* The Hopper: This writer writes about his or her writing when they aren't writing. They are constantly making guest appearance on blogs, or joining in on blog hops. If you are visiting more than one blog a week, or blog hop, and it isn't to celebrate something special, you may need to step back and realize you are putting yourself on the stage too much. Many people won't read more than a couple posts about you because guest posts tend to repeat the same information, and it becomes redundant.

* The Critiquer: Have a story scene you aren't to sure of and want a second opinion? This writer always has time to read other people's work. Always. Send it their way, and they will return it immediately. Oh yeah, and they'll crit for that person, and that person, and that person. Many critiquers suffer burn out because they are so busy editing everyone else's work that by the time they get around to theirs, they've no creative juice left. Why is it so hard for them to say no? Because it's hard to say no to friends and they don't want to let you down. Dear Critiquer...learn to become more selfish. No is not a bad word, nor will it cause you to lose friends.

*The Promo-Whore: Yes, you have a book out. How could we not know you have a book out? You've posted about it yesterday, the day before, and have for the past week. Your social media wall is nothing but links to your book, posts about your book, or what people have to say about your book. You've posted about your book in all your social media groups, including ones whose genres are different from your book...but since you are a member in that group it must be okay to post your book there too. Well, no, it isn't. People join a paranormal reading group because they are interest in paranormal books. If your book isn't that genre, don't post it there. Same for GBLT reading groups, BDSM reading groups, etc. When you post your guest blog, or a totally unrelated blog period, in that group, you just look like a douche. Know what happens? People learn to ignore you so sales go down, not up. That's where promo-whoring gets you; less sales, not more.

*The Backlister: While we are all aware that backlists help an author sell more, there is such a thing as too much. I'm not talking about having wrote too many books, but when you are killing yourself because you are pushing out 2 or more books a month and annihilating any social life because, "I have to finish my book," then you are taking it too far. A book a month isn't unreasonable. Two books a month isn't too bad, but more than that and I want to know if you are even showering. Okay, if it's 10k shorties or something like that, I'm not going to look at you funny. But if you are writing multiple 30k plus books a month, I'm going to start wondering about your social life, your cleanliness, and your sanity. There is no rush to get those books out and if there is because of a deadline, you need to stop and learn to ask for time, and to write at a healthier pace. There is a reason they say the flame that burns the brightest sputters and dies the quickest. Don't let it be you.

*The Multitasker: This is the sin I was guilty of. Many of you saw me stutter and stumble by the end of November and I have no one but myself to blame. When someone asked me to do something, I gave a confident nod and said, "Sure, I can do that." People told me they were proud of me, praised me, and cautioned me. It wasn't until my health gave out and I ended up on bedrest for two weeks that I realized I'd pushed myself too far. I knew I was pushing the edge emotionally, but I kept telling myself, "When I get this, this, and this finished, then I'll take a week long vacation." Except the list kept growing. It was all stuff I could have said, "Can it wait until I get some breathing space?" or "I'm sorry but my workload is just too full right now." I am lucky in that my husband, my boss, and my authors are fantastic, understanding people and when I finally waved the white flag, they agreed to help me stand back up instead of being angry with me that I wasn't continuing to work myself to death for them. Many popped me on the rear and said "I told you so," and those are the best friends you could ever ask for. How can you tell if you are a multitasker? If you are working so much that you fear walking to the bathroom because you really have no time for a pee break, if you go to bed and have insomnia because you are worried that the time spent sleeping (or trying to sleep) could be better used to do X project, if you don't want to even go to grocery shop because you really need to work, if you are neglecting your health because those few moments you tear yourself away from work are given to the kids/pets/household then you are working too much. Stop it! Otherwise you'll end up sick, looking around at all the things you missed while you were in a workaholic fog, and saying, "My gods, what have I done?"

The best advice I can give is actually two pieces:
Learn to say no.
Learn your limits.

The things that you think are so important now...maybe, just maybe they aren't as important as some of the things you are taking for granted. Writing is great. Being an author is great. Having your family and your health? That's more important. ~ D. F. Krieger


Ann Harrison said...

Wise words my lovely. Sometimes we all get caught up in the rush and excitement and try too hard. I was pushing to get my current WIP done before holiday time but alas, it was not to be. So be it.
I took three weeks at Christmas to spend with my family. I was twitching when I got home but I stayed away from my computer for most of that time.
Nice to come back fresh and full of ideas.
That WIP will be done today with a better ending than I was imagining.

Raven McAllan said...

all so true