Monday 1 April 2019

Fighting Burnout - The Creative Process


Over the past couple of months, I've been finding it harder and harder to keep the momentum going in regards to writing. I've never been someone who struggled that much with writer's block, or at least I haven't been for a good number of years. Once I got into the routine I use now, it became a thing of the past. I'm not saying that every word was easy, just that I rarely got to a point where I couldn't write. But in the past few months, with my health going down the drain and other factors draining my creative well, I've realised that I am, quite literally, fighting burnout.

It's something that happens to a lot of creative people, including writers, and it's something that can be fought, but it's also something that can not be avoided if you don't learn the signs, practice self-care, and sometimes, take a step back to allow yourself to heal. Because that's what you need to do, when you've reached that point of being burned out, there's no pushing through. All that happens then is you lose your love for the project and in some cases, make the burnout even worse.

So what have I done? How have I gotten through this period? Am I still going through it? The answer to the last is that yes I am, but I am also on the tail end of it. I know that I need to do better at practising self-care, and I need to do better about making my days off, actual days off. Not just days where I plan to do nothing and end up doing everything else instead. So how have I gotten through it? I'm gonna tell you so that hopefully you don't end up in the same position, but if you do, you know some ways to ease your mind back into the creative space without making the whole thing a hundred times worse.

When I first started noticing issues, it was back in November. I was already pumped about starting NaNoWriMo, but I realised that with everything going n with my health, I knew it wasn't possible. I knew I had to cut back on work, and that meant not taking part in NaNo with the hope that things would improve going into the Christmas period. This felt like step one of a multi-step plan. Because while it worked for the short term, it didn't fix the issue because I was, as usual, back to normal in December.


It wasn't really until my sleep started to suffer in December and into January that I realised my plan of taking a month to get myself back together wasn't working all that well. I would find myself falling asleep early in the evenings, but being unable to stay asleep. It led to me being awake at odd hours, unable to get my usual amount of work done and then having to take long naps during the day. It meant that during the holiday period I was overtired, grouchy and not in the best place to be creative. It didn't help that I was having to keep working even though I felt like I was falling apart at the seams. There were outside factors that didn't help my stress levels and that of course just made me a giant ball of burnt out mess. So come January I realised I needed to do a few things and start to actually face facts and look after myself for the good of my writing career.

I've talked about this a little in my most recent Life Of Joey video. I got to the point where my health was suffering and I needed to take an actual break. I came down with an allergic reaction, that my doctors also wondered if it could be brought on by stress. I was ordered to take a break, and in doing that I realised that I needed some serious down time. I couldn't put it off any longer, and I couldn't risk getting sicker. There was also a period when I thought about not releasing all three books because of the massive amount of work involved. I knew that if I did go through with it, I needed to be doing a hell of a lot better. It was one of the reasons I got strict with myself about having at least one full day off every month that wasn't just Mepo.


And the next step was time. I took a serious chunk of time off in February, and did the same in March. I'm not sure to be honest where I will be back at the point I want to be by the time this blog post goes live, but I think it's important to focus on looking after yourself. If you need time to relax, to take a breather, to get away from creating and focus on healing your frayed nerves mentally as well as physically. There is no shame in needing to stop, and a friend of mine told me that resting was still time invested in your career. It's a way to make sure that you can keep going when you're back on the right track.

Of course what comes alongside taking that time is refilling your creative well. For me that meant a whole lot of reading. I went through almost 40 books in January and February. I imagine it will be similar in March and April. It was a way for me to both rest my own creative side, but also still have fun enjoying other people's. It gave me a chance to reconnect with my stories and it also gave me a chance to just have some time off. Refilling takes as long as it takes. It could be weeks, could be longer, but the important thing is that you let it happen. Rushing through it, like I did initially, just ends up frustrating you and causing you more grief in the long run.


And finally, monitor yourself. Be honest with yourself. Are you ready to go back to work? It's okay if you're not, it takes as long as it takes and it's not something to skimp on. If you are, then be gentle with yourself. It may take some more time for you to get back up to where you were, and that's okay. If you're not, then allow yourself that time to refill and time to heal, it will come back and with it, you'll find yourself thankful for having taken the time to charge yourself back up and get back to writing.

If you've got any burnout tips, lemme know in the comments, and as always, good luck!

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