Warning: This rant is quite a bit more rambley and long than usual…and serves very little purpose than to remind myself that I write to battle burnout…it also probably makes very little sense…read with caution
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I work better as a running full-steam kind of guy. My brain operates better, I feel better, and overall, I get that good ol’ sense of accomplishment a whole lot more frequently, if I just plow through and get whatever needs to be done done. As the years stretch on, I’ve found myself tacking on more and more tasks to my daily budget and, in general, finding that sense of accomplishment waning, since the list never actually seems to get smaller.
In other words, I work hard. Or at least I try to.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I play pretty darn hard as well. I’m taking off two days from work next week to give me a four day weekend in the Northwoods, doing all the things that men do in the Northwoods…mostly drink and chase their children around the yard.
But every once in a while, I finally reach that point of burning out. Candles can only burn so long, as they like to say.
Anyways, here’s the issue I’ve found with burn out. Whether it’s with my paying occupation, writing, fixing up the house, or even chillin’ with the kids, I find myself in a situation where I know I need a break, but a break just doesn’t actually seem to be a viable option anymore, now that I’ve taken on so much. I mean…with my paying occupation, I’ve been wanting to take something of a more permanent break for a number of years….but apparently someone wants me to stay there (probably my wife 😉 )
And so I get to this point where I just begin moving slower and slower. Everything that stands in the way of me getting a task done becomes a monumental issue. Just having the kids take a few minutes longer at dinner can cause my head to want to explode, because it’s keeping me from getting to my favorite part of the day…the part I still find myself feeling guilty about when I look around my messy home…tv time.
It actually isn’t just TV time…vegging out time is what it’s really about. Whether it’s watching a movie, reading a book, or playing a video game…heck, even sitting out and doing some fishing…these things all allow my brain the necessary time to just shut down without being unconscious…allows those important secondary processes to run, like, Hey, when’s the last time we talked to Frankie. I wonder if he even still likes us… And yes, when I talk to myself, I use the plural…obviously there’s someone else there, since I’m talking to them, right?
Actually…interpersonal relationships are probably the item that fall by the wayside fastest when I get completely overwhelmed with life. My social life becomes something of a joke, where finally I’ll get text messages from friends asking if I want to go have a drink, which I totally do, but I feel that I’ll miss out on that all-too-important veg time…where I just sit around for an hour or so before I go to sleep.
It’s like pre-drinking for 20-year olds…I like to pre-sleep.
Burn out’s a dangerous situation to be in. When one runs the risk of burning out, they run the risk of completely shutting down altogether. I know that I attempt to compartmentalize my burn out, making it so my unresolved issues with one item don’t cause trauma in another area of my life. So, you know, if I get so burned out with writing that I can’t handle anything and freak out because someone makes some minor comment about how they would have done something differently with my books…I don’t instantly take that out on the rest of my life and lash out at everyone at my paying job…or worse, my family.
It’s difficult. Burn out’s not an easy thing to manage. And it’s rather stupid at that. I mean…if you tell me you’d do something differently than me in one of my books, I actually generally enjoy hearing it, especially in the situation where I most hear it…from beta readers. I’m generally solid enough on my belief in my own art that I don’t break down just because someone else has a better idea. And sometimes those ideas might end up playing into something else down the line…because my brain’s always working.
Also…I’m usually really good at telling myself that no one else knows what they are talking about 😉
But when burn out happens, it doesn’t matter. The world can be crumbling out from beneath you, all stability you normally feel is gone because you, simply, need to take a break.
In fact, when I find myself not taking breaks is when I find myself getting into the severe funks, the ones where I do nothing for months on end. The ones that caused it to take over four years for me to finally release The Legend of Buddy Hero for real (you know, after the initial crappy release).
Here’s the thing about me, though. My burn outs are almost never about my writing. I mean, I’ll admit that I’m a mite exhausted from how long I’ve been going straight on this whole writing thing…but the burn out isn’t from there…when I get burned out on writing, it’s actually that my compartmentalized walls are breaking down. Writing is my therapy. I love it.
I need it.
So, when you see me getting angry about it, you know there’s something unrelated going on. Sure, it’s frustrating, knowing that this hobby of mine is something that very few of even my closest friends and relatives will ever truly care about…people don’t read anymore. It would be like developing intricate slide shows that take hours to view.
Books are an outdated medium, in a lot of regards…a medium I fear will only get more lost as the years progress. In the past, even with cable and satellite where you have hundreds of channels to choose from, there was still always the possibility of not being able to find anything to watch. Now with the advent of services like Netflix and Hulu, you can choose what you want to watch at any moment. And veg…because tv watching is much more like vegging than book reading for most.
Book reading takes work, takes time, and honestly…when you get done with it, the likelihood that anyone else has actually read that book so you can talk to them about it is pretty minimal. Might as well be reading the letters to the editor in the local newspaper…you’ll be the only one.
There is a certain mystique still about books. And I’m, of course, talking about fiction here, as non-fiction books will serve a purpose for a long time…although I fear mostly through the ‘art’ of the celebrity ghostwritten memoir. People still hold books in a rather high regard (outside of ‘authors’ such as Kanye West). But they aren’t a simple form of entertainment. They’re not something that can be enjoyed socially. They are, actually, something that forces you to get down inside yourself, to place yourself directly in the shoes of the protagonist and see how you would hold up.
I know it’s cliche, but books are an adventure. TV has that point of separation, that screen and the fact that someone else’s face is on the main character. Books have to occur in your mind, they are a part of you the second you start reading. People talk about being transported to a new world…and with good books, you should be. You should be sitting front and center for the action and having your mind expanded to new ideas.
I sometimes feel a little embarrassed about the idea that I’m an author. Who reads books anymore, right? Even I have a tendency to allow book reading to be the last on my priority list for fun activities.
Because books are more than that. They exercise the brain. And authors are the ones who get to craft worlds, become god-like and tell stories that mean something.
Being an author is a long-standing tradition of people trying to be more than they are, of people trying to change the world through thought. I’m just a small part of that, obviously.
But that’s what keeps me going.
That…and because I love it.
So…if you hear me complain, or yell, or, in general, appear frustrated…just know that it’s not because of how much writing I’m doing. It’s generally because of how much writing I’m not doing.
And that was a really long ramble…
So…if you’re still here…it’s Friday. I’m going to get a ton of writing done and very little else.
I hope you have fun out there!