Monday, October 17, 2011

Writing Burnout

Just as bad as writer's block is its twin: writing burnout.  It happens when you push yourself too hard and end up writing a lot in a short period and then nothing for a long time.  Indeed, I've been known to suffer from writing burnout just thinking hard about writing.

Yes, writing burnout happens even when you're not actually recovering from a bout of writing but when you've ceased to get any pleasure from the activity, or even the thought of, writing.

I have to constantly remind myself that, much like my day job, I need breaks from my writing.  Yes, even an extended period such as the past month (full disclosure: I have written a few pages in the last week).

Don't get me wrong, I love writing (and I do love my day job, at times).  But sometimes, as Patti Smith says, love just ain't enough.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, etcetera.  A break from writing usually brings me charging back into it with renewed vigour.

My problem is allowing the burnout period to run its course.  My instinct is to jump right back onto that exhausted horse and hammer out a few pages, even when it is the last thing on earth I feel like doing.  Forcing myself to write works when I'm suffering from writer's block, not writing burnout.  When I feel burnout, I have to give myself time to rediscover my love of writing, which is sometimes lurking a few levels beneath my skin.  Sometimes, quite a few.

Writing is an art, a calling, a true love.  But like any love, you can occasionally benefit from some time apart, if only to recall why you fell in love in the first place.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Fear of Failing

I set myself up to fail sometimes.

Okay, that is a depressing statement.  I don't actually mean that I want to fail, but that I set goals that make it nearly impossible not to fail.  Take, for example, my recent resolution to write for an hour every day.  Now, I know with my work schedule and family life that I don't have an hour a day to spare.  Not every single day, certainly.  Yet I gave myself this goal and -- surprise, surprise -- I failed to reach it in the very first day.  And the next day.  And the next.

In fact, since I made that resolution to write for an hour every day, I have not written for an hour any day.  Yup, it's almost like I enjoyed the process of failing to stick to my resolution.


The experience has made me wonder about myself.  What makes me write less at the very time I had promised myself to write more?

Maybe I made that promise to myself because I was feeling a lack of inspiration or energy to write.  Maybe I made the resolution at the very worst time to make it.  Maybe I'd just gotten lazy.

Or maybe I was afraid of giving it my all and still coming up short.  Of writing the very best story or novel that I could and still having no one willing to represent or publish it.

That's called fear of failing and before people started worrying about fearing success, they were caught up in worrying about this (which really makes more sense, when you think about it).

Fear of failing begins with a fear of trying.

The problem is that while trying leads to failure, it can also lead to success.  I may be anxious about how I will how I will handle sudden success (fingers crossed) but I'm not fearful of achieving publication and writing accolades, which have been my dream since I was a child.  I am fearful of spending so much of my life chasing this dream and never quite making it.

Does it mean that I won't be making any more resolutions about writing?  No.

Does this mean that I will stop trying?  Never!