Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Re-Lighting The Flame - Beating The Dreaded Burnout

I sat up to write this thought piece after reading an article in my copy of the latest edition of 'Writing Magazine' on how to beat the burnout by author Simon Whaley. It caught my attention because that's what has happened to me in my second stab at a fairly fruitful career in writing. I was reading the magazine because whilst working on an assignment (which is a bit late I'm embarrassed to say) I hit the dreaded wall ... with a thump, and so needed a helping hand to get over it. The article cast a very bright spotlight on why the last three years or so I've struggled to get my writing career back into full throttle. 

For a very brief background I balance my writing with a full time job in the finance department of a blue chip company in the construction industry - which believe me sounds a lot more fancy than the reality. The role is demanding, the hours fairly standard, and requires me to manage expectations of a triangle of stakeholders with their own demands and agendas. It does have some fringe benefits such as working from home twice a week.  Believe me when I say this is not a complaint and I appreciate everything I have. Yet when it comes to my writing I found myself languishing somewhat, struggling to get assignments in, push through with more chapters on my book, and put time in on my platforms - let's not forget prospecting and all the marketing work. Yes I burned out.

The increasingly stressful workload of my day job turned into a never ending fire fighting exercise, and I was struggling to hold back the inferno. This led me to inevitable burnout having  forgotten the fundamental rule to be a little kinder to myself.  I neglected my coping mechanisms and gave too much credence to a day job that is not furthering my development or well being. Lately how ever that has changed with me in control of the demands of the day job, and optimistic about jumping back into the writing world full time someday. Yet I still have a lot of recovery to do to recharge my energy levels and regain skills that have fallen by the wayside. My goal is to be in a better place than I was before only this time - in the words of Denzel Washington - fall forward rather than back.  Simon Whaley's article draws on collective stories of other writers and their experiences with burning out. They all essentially identify similar struggles; depression, despair, and a general lack of interest in the work. Other symptoms include fatigue & poor sleep, as well as poor health - for me this is weight gain due to a less dedicated & undisciplined training regimen. 

Whaley's message is clear - self care is key to recovery from burnout though if we all want to carry on writing we need to be in this also for the long haul lest the need engulfs us to walk away. Taking a break is vital and for writers is perhaps the hardest one to do especially when deadlines loom. For me Karate and running are so important as they give me focus, discipline, keep me in the moment but most importantly remind me that I can thrive under intense uncomfortable situations - anyone who witnessed my blue belt grading or the weekend I ran a 10K race followed by a half marathon the next day can attest. We all burnout at times, and I'm okay with that. The key is drop the bad habits that contributed to it, recharge, and move on. As writers we are blessed with passion and opportunity, but cursed with a desire to rigorously pursue this creative passion. It's  time to find the balance and feed that good wolf that will put us on the writing path and keep the flame burning saving us from the dreaded burnout. 

Have you found yourself on the edge or even burned out? What was your experience and how were you able to reignite that passion? Any tips on how to deal with burn out? Why not be part of the discussion on Twitter or Instagram

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