One Pair of Hands – That Burnout Feeling Part Two

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One Pair of Hands – Ellie Holmes

Over the years I have got good at juggling: family commitments, the day job, my writing…..the list goes on as I am sure it does for all of you too.

Every now and then I have added more on to the end of the list. When you migrate from writing to indie publishing, suddenly there are even more plates to spin.

If you are not careful you can get sucked into a whirlwind of activity and find that you are running just to stand still and paradoxically you aren’t actually achieving half as much as you did before.

If I had been on the outside looking in, it would have been obvious that I was straying into dangerous territory but we do not often have the luxury of looking at ourselves like that, do we?

A few weeks ago the blindingly obvious became, well – blindingly obvious and I hit a wall – emotionally and mentally.

Everything had become a slog, I was no longer enjoying what I was doing. Worst of all, I wasn’t even writing any more because I was too busy to write. How did I go from being an indie author to an indie author running her business who was too busy to actually write anything? The ludicrousness of the situation would have been funny if it were not so sad. I should have been living the dream but the dream was in danger of becoming a nightmare.

Frustration
Frustration by http://www.amenclinics.com courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/odEKjh https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

With no choice but to step back and think things through it became clear that I was suffering from burnout.

Examining all of my commitments I concluded that I could not easily shed any of them and there were still only twenty-four hours in a day last time I checked so what was the answer?

If I could not change the commitments and I could not change the amount of time available to me, the only thing left to change was my attitude and approach. Arguably, those things are the hardest of all to change but if I wanted to put the enjoyment back into what I do, I did not have a choice.

The one thing I was yearning for was to live my life like a normal person, if only for one week. Define normal? Don’t eat breakfast with one hand and schedule tweets with the other. Don’t spend your lunch hour answering indie business emails and checking stats. Don’t leave one desk to come home and sit at another. Sound familiar?

I wanted to give it a try, to take a holiday from my writing self but did I dare? The commitments were still there, piling up around me, could I look away and relax knowing they were all still waiting for me?

digital detox
Digital Detox by David Lytle courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/fsCwQ2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I am a conscientious perfectionist. I give myself the hardest time of all. Asking myself to sit on my hands and not get on with stuff is the ultimate punishment. But this was serious. I decided to go cold turkey. Well, sort of…

I will let you know how I get on in subsequent blogs but if you too have suffered with burnout at some stage in your career please get in touch and let me know what worked for you.

That Burnout Feeling

All authors are under pressure. Writing is hard work and to then switch to publicising that work is a difficult gear change for many. If you are an indie author, the pressures are magnified because you are your own CEO, your own publicist, your own everything. It takes a certain type of person to thrive in that environment but even the best of us can come unstuck.

Burnout
Burnt Out by Gerwin Sturm courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9iWxgH https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Burnout is a danger in many walks of life and writers are prone to it. We live in our heads for one thing, we often have day jobs to support our writing for another and so we write around the day job when we are tired and often not at our best. If we are published, whether traditionally, hybrid or indie, there are other demands on our time. We need to keep abreast of new ideas and innovations, to be aware of strategies to assist with our writing, or the production of our books, or our sales, or connecting with our readers. We can easily become overwhelmed by all the information out there. It’s a tidal wave rushing towards us and it’s easy to get swamped. Information overload takes over.

Tidal wave
The Roar by FHG Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/34pDEU https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Although many people would envy our achievements, we know the sacrifices it took to get there. We are also familiar with the pressures. It is a fine line to walk between being busy and pushing too hard.

We are all capable of working hard to finish a big project, throwing all of our mental and physical energy at something just to get it done. But what if the big projects just keep coming? We can only keep going at that pace for so long. Eventually we need to throw the off switch and have some down time and if we don’t our bodies will throw the off switch for us by making us sick.

How to recognise you are heading for or suffering from burnout:-

  1. The things that gave you pleasure now no longer please you.
  2. You have stopped writing anything new (this is different to suffering from writer’s block – that’s when you want to write but cannot because the words aren’t there). Here, you no longer even want to write.
  3. You are tired – mentally. All the time.
  4. Even the simplest tasks seem like hard work.
  5. You keep coming down with bugs and sniffles.
  6. You feel overwhelmed and inadequate.
  7. You are running just to stand still but are achieving less and less.
  8. You question why you ever started this in the first place.
  9. You want to stay in bed and pull the duvet over your head.
  10. Moving to a desert island with no wi-fi connection is suddenly an appealing option.
Desert Island
Desert Island by Rob courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6V2ZTa https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Sound familiar? This is where I found myself a couple of weeks ago.

Recognising the problem is half the battle. In the coming blogs, I will share with you what happened to me and how I am trying to combat it.

If you too have suffered with burnout at some stage in your career please get in touch and let me know what worked for you.