Some of you might think this post is going to be about romance, or how not to turn into a stalker, but actually it’s about burnout. See, today is my day off. Can’t you tell? But I didn’t get everything done that I needed to get done yesterday, like this blog post, so I sent out a few emails this morning and now at 10:45a I’m…writing a blog post. Because I didn’t get it done, and I didn’t get someone else to do it. Shame on me.
The thing is, I haven’t had a day off in awhile. I was in Toronto last week. I worked on Saturday, giving a presentation to the RWA chapter in Toronto. I traveled on Sunday. And I was back at work on Monday. I won’t have a day off this weekend either. More traveling for work. And I’ve been traveling for work a lot this year. So when it came time to come up with a blog idea I realized…I’m mentally exhausted and my creative energies are running low. Of course, this didn’t mean I decided not to blog. Instead, I turned to Twitter for a blog topic and someone said:
“How about why you should make time for play (because you shouldn’t be working on your day off). :)”
And I realized, she is SO write right. I love my job, I hope you can tell. I have a passion for it and I enjoy doing it and it’s not generally a hardship to do this job, because I think it’s fun. But sometimes I forget that I can’t do my job as well as I should if I don’t step away from it (of course, I’m still writing this post, but bear with me, we’re having a learning moment). And that’s where the title of the post comes in for you, as authors, for me, as an editor, for anyone reading this for whom it hits home: we can’t let our passion turn into an obsession because we lose sight of the trees for the forest.
In other words, if we don’t take time to step away from what we love (writing, working, creating, Twitter…) and we let it consume us, it’s easy to lose focus, lose energy, lose creative drive… When we don’t take a break, we’re actually less efficient and less creative than when we let ourselves have some down time.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been traveling a heck of a lot in 2011. Loosely somewhere in the ballpark of 20-25 trips with at least 60 days in 2011 away from home (possibly more. I’m afraid to count). In September, I had a period of a few weeks where I didn’t travel, and I was utterly amazed by how efficient I felt. How much I got accomplished at both work and home, how fast I flew through my backlog of emails, my to-do list and all of the assorted projects I needed to get done. Really, it was incredible how refreshed and on top of things I felt I was. Simply because I wasn’t doing crazy travel, I had time to relax and breathe and look forward to the next thing. That’s what giving myself a break from travel did. Imagine what a vacation might do…
The other thing about letting yourself become obsessed with what you’re working on, with your writing, your book, your career, your project is that you begin to forget to focus on the small details because you’re so busy looking at the big picture. You forget how important the story is, because you’re focused on releasing a book a month. You forget how important it is to improve your craft, because you have so many deadlines to meet. You forget how important it is to get out of the house, interact with other writers, reconnect and refresh and learn what’s going on in the industry–in person–because you’re so busy worrying about a blog tour, marketing campaign or posting on Twitter. Stepping back, taking a break, allows you to regain perspective about what’s happening in your life, your career, and the industry.
When I talk to authors at conferences and RWA chapters or other writer groups, and we talk about building a brand and a career, one of the things I talk about is the importance of treating it like a business, being dedicated and that success doesn’t come easy. Sometimes (often), just writing the book isn’t enough. But that doesn’t mean turning our drive for succeeding into an obsession that consumes us, because that can hinder success just as painfully, when it leads to creative burnout…or just plain burnout and suddenly there are no more words to be had, there are deadlines that aren’t met and you just can’t find the drive to keep your career going.
So next time you find yourself consumed with what’s happening on Twitter, the next industry drama, the next time you find yourself mentally exhausted and unable to type one. more. word. The next time…rather than punishing yourself, or pushing yourself, give yourself a break and take one. You might find your next inspiration during that break and you might find the book that much better and your career that much more successful.
(And now…I’m off to do some laundry and remove myself from the computer. And starting Monday–vacation! See? I can take my own advice!)