Tuesday with Ana: On dealing with author burn-out

Hello, my lovelies. I’ve missed you. πŸ™‚ I’ve missed your shining faces, your silly comments, and your sweetness and camaraderie. To those of you who are reading this, I thank you for sticking by me even when I’ve been off and on for the past few weeks. Issues with internet, electricity, health, job deadlines, and some exciting news have all conspired to keep me peddling furiously on the great hamster wheel of life.

(Can you actually peddle on a hamster wheel? Ah, well, you know what I mean.)

Today’s topic is author burn-out, although it can apply to any profession or endeavor. If you’ve experienced it, I don’t need to explain. If you haven’t experienced it, I envy you.

We often see burn-out in high-labor, low-profit jobs such as teaching, nursing, or childcare. We can also see it in high-profit jobs such as business, but many times we become burned out because we work too hard at a job. Not because we are driven to earn a profit, but because we care passionately about our job and want to make a difference.

Sometimes, we forget that we are a community. In our drive to succeed and to perhaps be just a little bit better than the competition, we isolate ourselves in an attempt not to give away our secrets. We worry that we are not as productive, as accomplished, as recognized, or as successful as others.

Being an author in the ebook publishing industry is both the worst and best job I can imagine. Long after I gave up my dream, I’ve become a published author who is able to write the stories I love best. I get to connect with people who read my stories and care for the characters I create. I write for publishers who support me, support my work, and believe in me. I get to talk with other authors and readers who have touched my life and allowed me to touch theirs. What could be better?

At the same time, the competition is intense. There are several million (okay, perhaps I am exaggerating slightly) new ebooks on the market, and even writing at top speed I can’t hope to keep up with the most prolific writers. I pour time and effort into social media, only to find that I’m missing a crucial element or need to learn about a new technique or outlet. And, no matter how much time and energy I invest, there is always someone who outshines me in multiple areas. And darn it if I could break through the unspoken ban on reviewing F/F stories. People read, buy, and enjoy F/F. Why can’t we get more reviewers on record to say so?

I’m often asked (though not recently) how I can manage to do all that I do. The answer is that other people manage to do far more. The more I think about it, the more depressing it is.

Have you ever felt the same way?

The advice I’d like to offer today is this:

  • If you want to drive yourself crazy, compare yourself to others.
  • If you want to overwork yourself into the ground, focus on your inadequacies.

Simplistic? Perhaps. But sometimes truisms are called that because they contain truth.

We may not have been given equal and identical skills, talents, and connections. I may long for someone else’s achievements without recognizing my own. I think many of us secretly wonder, deep down, if we’re quite as good as the person we use for a comparison.

Today, I’d like you to do something for me. For yourselves.

Find someone whose work you admire, either someone established or someone new, and let that person know how much you like his or her work.

Here’s the catch:

Without comparing yourself.

I find that the authors I most genuinely enjoy reading and getting to know…are the authors who are generous in their praise of others. I don’t mean flattery in the hope of getting reciprocation, but genuine, no-strings-attached recognition of another’s talents and accomplishments. It doesn’t have to always be about work, either. The small notes of friendship, both writing and receiving, have brightened many of my days when I have been stressed.

It’s a funny thing. When I think about my own accomplishments or lack thereof, I get dispirited. When I find reasons to rejoice on someone else’s behalf…pretty soon I find myself happier as well.

How about you? How do you handle burn-out? Whom will you recognize today? (Feel free to keep the second part private, if you wish.)

Advertisements

50 thoughts on “Tuesday with Ana: On dealing with author burn-out

  1. willie says:

    Well as you know, I am certainly no writer, just a mumbler with a blog. I do know that if you don’t take 30 minutes *at least* to clear your head of EVERYTHING a day, burn out or ruts will find you. The best thing for me is a walk outside. I hate having to leave things, but the rewards are so worth it. To me it is like resetting the computer. A reboot.

    Hope you find all the peace you need one way or another πŸ™‚

    Like

  2. Cara Bristol says:

    It gets intense quickly, doesn’t it?And you’re right. There’s no way to keep up with other authors who are more prolific — any more than one can keep up with the “Joneses” who have a house 3x bigger, nicer cars, more money, etc. One can only operate at one’s personal best.

    I walk for exercise every day. I used to use the time to plot in my head. A couple of neighbors asked if I wanted to walk with them. My first thought was, “but I’ll lose the plotting time!” But I realized I needed the social outlet, so I said yes. And you know what? It’s so much better than walking by myself. It gives me that much needed mental break and a social connection with real live people.

    Nice idea, Ana, to pay it forward and compliment another author.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Or with other authors who just got a new housekeeper! *fainting with jealousy* Hehe. I only wish I had neighbors nearby who liked to walk. I used to have a neighbor who would walk with me for an hour almost every day. I miss that.

      Like

  3. Maren Smith says:

    Wow, this is a great topic. Hats off to you, Ana, for tackling it!

    A few years ago I was going through this. I was writing non-stop for two different D/s websites, had churned out 127 stories in just under five years, and one day I just looked up and realized I couldn’t write not one more word. I wasn’t just at the wall, I had slammed into it. I was tired. Every spanking seemed to read the exact same way, I wasn’t bringing anything ‘new to the table’ and if you can’t do that, for crying out loud, why do it at all? So I stopped. I sent notices to both websites saying I was out of commission until further notice and I turned my attention to other things.

    For almost two months, I played computer games, cross-stitched, watched movies, read books I didn’t first have to write and discovered a whole new slew of authors whose work I truly enjoyed. When the itch to write once more sizzled its way down through my fingers, it took me into a whole new genre. What I discovered about myself was that I wasn’t burned out on writing, I was burned out on writing spanking fantasies. The story that poured out of me was very cathartic, a dark fantasy/horror/erotica with a very dominant man but without a single spanking in it (unless you count the few times he swats her to get her moving; I don’t). It is probably the best story I’ve yet done and it’ll never sell, but it did for me what I needed it to. It recharged the batteries and changed the way I write. Now, I am back to creating the spanking stories I love so much, but not at the break-neck pace I’d been working at before. Between each one, I take a little mini-vacation and write something that will probably never sell but which is, at the same time, something I very much enjoy.

    My advice to those who hit the burn-out wall is this: There’s a tiny little voice inside every author that drives them to create. It may fall quiet at times, but it’s never silent for very long. Listen to it. Wander where it steers you. The benefits to taking a little time off will always outweigh the risks, especially if one of the consequences to burn-out becomes never writing again.

    Wow, did I get on a soapbox or what. Heh, sorry, Ana.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh goodness, Maren, THIS should have been your Fika post! I’m going to plot and plan until I find a way to bring you back. See, you’re an amazing storyteller even when it’s “just” a post comment.

      I absolutely agree about needing to fill our well in between drawing water. And 127 stories in 5 years…holy crap. No wonder you got burned out!!

      The topic about what we really want to write but won’t sell…what a great one! Plotting and planning some more.

      Like

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I cannot imagine writing at that pace. You bring up a good point: take a break. Many professionals take sabbaticals or go on hiatus. One has to recharge the battery, fill the well. I’ve read many an author whose later works weren’t as good as the earlier ones, and I suspect it’s a result having begun to churn them out, of having lost the joy of writing.

      Like

    • Ami says:

      Well, I for one, would very much like to read your story Maren. Why would you think it would never sell?! Sometimes a change in genre can be no only therapeutic, but very valuable, because it can lead you to extend into areas you had previously never considered beyond a few day-dreams. I hope Ana will use her powers of persuasion on you!

      Hugs

      Ami

      Like

  4. joeyred51Joe says:

    Ana,

    I am in awe of both the quality and quantity of your writings. I have a hard time just reading everything that you writer. I have all of your books. Reading your stories makes me feel very inadequate as a writer.

    I am more concerned about finding interesting topics to write about rather than burn out. I just hope that readers will not be disappointed in a story or real life account.

    I try to read my favorite blogger authors and review their books online or indicate like on the various book sites.

    Hug,
    joey

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      You know…you promised me a Fika post months ago. You haven’t forgotten, have you? πŸ™‚ You have a wonderful, approachable way of writing and drawing your readers in. As a matter of fact, I often refer your blog (and Lea’s) to people who are new to the scene. You have great thoughts to share. πŸ™‚

      When all else fails, tell us about yummy meals you’ve made. Heh.

      Like

  5. Joseph McNamara says:

    Thank you Ana for this wonderful thought on a topic that everyone will face sooner or later. I walk away here today feeling a little more comfortable in my own skin, or my own book cover if you will.

    Like Cara, I believe keeping up with the Joneses will only will have you “never” catching up with yourself…

    Like

  6. Constance Masters says:

    Wow Ana. This was one of the most honest blog posts I think I have ever read. I think we all feel inadequate at times. I know I do. I feel like I can’t write fast enough of pay enough attention to my family. I feel like I don’t always support other writers as much as I should. There are so many books I want to read and review and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I guess I just wake up everyday and try and do the best I can. I can’t really do better than that. I think you’re a wonderful writer Ana and a really nice person. It’s great advice not to measure yourself against anyone else. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    PS. Wow Maren 127 books in five years? That’s unbelievable!

    Like

  7. Celeste Jones says:

    What a fabulous post this morning, Ana. I agree that comparing yourself to others is a good way to feel inadequate. It’s also a good way to feel unappreciated (People are buying THAT book but not mine?). Those thoughts can really sow the seeds of discontent which blossom into a bad attitude.

    Might have gotten a bit off topic, but I think it’s all about what we say to ourselves.

    I also think that with computers there’s no distinction between work and not work time and even when you try to get away, the computer is there when you get back mocking you and telling you you should be writing or blogging or promoting.

    Great comments everyone. Interesting topic.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      No, not off topic at all. That’s exactly what I mean. When we compare ourselves and get discontented, it’s easier to get burned out.

      You can always jab your knitting needle in the air and mumble bad words.:D

      Like

  8. Sunny Girl says:

    You, burnout – the gadabout of the blogging world. Seriously, I don’t know how you find the time to do all that you do. You are amazing.

    I think everyone has to set their own pace and not try to compete with others. Personal Best is the way to go, otherwise you will be like the hamster on a treadmill.

    Like

  9. Alta Hensley says:

    I think every author goes through that. I have to be honest and admit that when I see authors who crack out a book every week, I feel envy. But I can only do the best that I can do. There will always be authors who write more, make more money, are on a blog everyday etc. Just know your limits and stop trying to be them. Stop trying to compete, because it will make you hate this industry. Write out of love…not out of business.

    Like

  10. jadecary says:

    I play computer games too when I need to decompress. The match 3s are my favorite. This genre, this Thing We Do, is a tough sell to the general population. We–as in the collective WE–will never be Jude Deveraux or James Patterson. We is what we is. But what YOU do is different than the rest. When you’re driving yourself crazy, remember that.

    Don’t compare yourself to others. You’re incomparable. πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I like to play Sims. πŸ˜€ Little pixelated dollhouses, that’s what I call it!

      I’d like to be Margaret Atwood. Or Tamora Pierce. Or, heck, Shakespeare. Except maybe without the raunchy bits. Hehe.

      Your name will forever be associated with the phrase, “flying my freak flag”. And being proud of it!

      Like

  11. Patricia Green says:

    Your passion shows, Ana, not only on your blog (as with this honest and thoughtful article), but also with your writing. You really love to do what you do. If you’re a little burned out, take a step back and focus on the aspects of your writing that you really love. Do that for a little while and then dive back into the fray. We’re all competitive; I believe that’s human nature. And as competitive humans, we want to win the “race” to the top. But you have to have your very own small goals that will get you where you want to go. One step at a time, not a giant leap all at once. I believe that people who focus on their small goals have less trouble with burnout. I find I burnout over promotions. I’m always ready to write, but the promos totally drive me crazy. I feel like I need to be everywhere all at once. So, when I feel burned out, I discard the stuff I dislike first — the promotions. I withdraw from regularly scheduled blog hops, blog posts, continuous social media plugs for my work. And that makes me feel better. Each writer has her own small goals; we’re all unique that way.We should not try to fit ourselves into someone else’s goal tree. That way lies madness…and burnout.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      You’re so right that we love different parts of the writing thing. I love (as if people couldn’t already tell) the blogging. Absolutely love it. Other people find it annoying, but I love it. I love making connections. I hate sending my books out for review and either getting rejections or no response, time after time. It’s a good point to focus on what we love about this profession. After all, doing what we love is self-rewarding and encourages us to do more. I think the promo stuff is hard (and draining) because it requires us to sell ourselves to strangers. I think many of us prefer instead to build community.

      Like

  12. Bas says:

    I heard yesterday that official sick-leave figures in The Netherlands have indicated that for the first time ever, the age group 25-35 was more prone to getting a burn-out than the traditional 45 -55 age group.
    Cause: probably the enormous pressure brought on by all the social media, to perform better.
    Not at the work floor, but with all those extra-activities.
    Nobody has time to rest anymore, there’s always some friend who has done something exciting, that you too must do.
    Too much pressure will take its toll and stop you like you’ve ran against a wall.

    The author I admire is Sunnygirl, she is not an author at all (sorry if you are a bit insulted Sunny, I don’t really know what the creative process asks from you), but I never get the idea that Sunny specifically sits down with a great need to write stories. It feels like the stories just flow from her and she is just so nice to write them down when they pass, so we can enjoy them too.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m going to make sure that Sunny sees this message. A sweet one, indeed!

      It’s hard to break out of the cycle of constant stimulation, constant work, and constantly being “on”. I remember when working meant going to the job in the morning and coming home at night. Not constantly being on call by SMS, email, and Skype. I miss that.

      Like

  13. Max says:

    On one hand there is this fascinating challenge to tackle every thing because there is so much to writing, publishing, formatting, editing, cover creating, promoting, marketing, pricing, etc to learn.

    On the other than there is a realization that some things are just not going to be your forte. And even when you look to others to learn from them, the magic isn’t leaping from your fingers the way it does from theirs.

    I think it’s good to take a break, to reorganize, to be self-aware of where you spend time and how. But I also think we need to remember that lottery tickets and one hit wonders are a rarity, and it takes a lot of nose to grindstone to produce something.

    We often lose sight of that. We’re surrounded by armchair coaches and hypothetical talkers, but not so many people who actual tuck in and drive forward to their goals. We’ve got constant sources of interruptions and this notion that multitasking is a good idea, and few role models who focus on one task until it is done. We’re trying to help others without enabling bad behaviours, and give back to folks who teach us things, but it’s all very tangled in the passions of today and dreams for tomorrow.

    Everyone needs different stimulus, support, and motivation in their life. The best advice seems to be that you find your balance, and then learn (often painfully) how to maintain it. And if that means turning off all the *must have social media* distractions then you do that. If it means a nap every afternoon or an alarm set so you remember to eat, then you do that too. And on a gorgeous day like today, that means I’m eating lunch outside. See ya!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Nice to meet you, Max! Always fun to meet a new reader.

      It used to be that publishing a first book meant a significant step on the road to getting known. E-publishing has made getting published easier, but it’s heightened all of the requirements for us after getting published. I wish authors could get paid per hour instead of per book. πŸ™‚

      It’s also a big process to find out, as you say, how to make connections without getting sucked into the negatives.

      A nap every afternoon sounds wonderful!! Ahh.

      Like

  14. Minelle says:

    I think that when we are type A achievers….we cannot help but burn-out at times.
    Ana you write from your heart and care about every part of the process. That in itself is hard to keep up. Sometimes being creative is difficult because it can come in bursts of energy. We keep going until it is finished. We cannot always control that impulse. However when we burn out we need to get away and do something else.

    Oh BTW, does bill burnout count?

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      No, bill burnout does not count. Nice try.

      Sometimes it is a focus issue. As artists we want perfection, but as realists we need to get things done. The compromise is not always a happy one.

      A get-away day does sound lovely. πŸ™‚

      Like

  15. Sue Lyndon says:

    Fabulous post, Ana. Burn out is a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I am very guilty of driving myself crazy by comparing myself to other writers. And like Maren, I’ve been in that place where I thought every spanking scene I was writing felt the same. That’s a scary feeling, too! I find that taking a break from spanking stories now and then is necessary and very therapuetic.

    Great idea about recognizing someone we admire! Now I have an excuse to email that one author who shall remain nameless LOL and tell her how much I liked her book:) Take care, Ana, and I hope you are able to slow down soon:) I will report you to Mrs. Claus, don’t think I won’t! πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      With your ridiculous rate of output, no wonder you have been thinking about burning out. I truly don’t know how you keep up with your pace.

      I’m really happy for the author you’ll write to. πŸ˜€ Yay! I’ll smile thinking of his or her response.

      Like

  16. Ami says:

    The problem with ‘burn out’ is that you can take other people down with you if you are not careful. There seems to be more burn out around today than I can ever remember – in all walks of life and professions. Maybe we are all expected to do far more than ever before “mentally” and the lack of physical activity is taking its toll. And I sooooo hate gyms! Mind-stunningly boring places!

    Walking is so much better, and riding horses better still. Take time to look at nature, to look long and earnestly into the sunset and watch the trout nose-forwards in a chuckling stream. There are times I hate and loathe technology because it simply contributes towards burn out. Go breathe the fresh air and create time “to stand and stare”.

    I do some of my thinking in a little old churchyard not far from here. It’s amazing how looking at those moss-covered stones can stop the world from spinning round.

    Ugh! Now I have to get back to the blessed computer once more. Thanks for the break for thought. Truly, I am not really going mad! Minelle will back me up on this!

    Hugs

    Ami

    Like

  17. Joelle Casteel says:

    so I’m finally on the other side of this flu- I hope- feeling much better. Of course I had to read this post; since September, when I started to go more professional about writing, I’ve constantly been flubbing job/job/job/job/life balance. I still remember that day clearly when my Master had no clean underwear ’cause I hadn’t been paying attention to the need to do laundry. I need to finish up “my publishing/writing goals” and get more printer ink- I came up with the idea to frame them and put them on the wall of the living room. Because really, when I forget that “don’t compare yourself to others” is when things go most wrong. I know, like you, Ana, that I’ve made tons of decisions that are going to make getting people to read my books harder. And I made a collection on my Kindle “needs reviewed”- I know at least 2 of your books are in there and I hope to get to reviewing again in the next few days.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Glad to hear that you’re feeling better, and it certainly is important to find and maintain a balance. We need to get our work done, but we also need to maintain our health and sanity. πŸ™‚

      Like

Thank you so much for joining the discussion! Please play nicely or you may be asked to stand in the corner. ;)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s