Alright, a long time ago (hah! 2 years, but it was pandemic time, so more like 11 years); I did a post about burnout.

At that time, I was trying to figure out the balance. I’ve done many things since then. Hired staff, shifted to slower release schedules, pushed my releases out by 6 months so I am no longer writing and publishing in short order so I no longer chase after deadlines.

And a lot more. All of this was to pull away from incipient burnout that would stop me from writing or outputting the kind of work that I wanted to do.

I was reading the post before I wrote this and realised I haven’t HAD to stop and just read or hide in a corner anymore. Not in years. Don’t get me wrong, I still take those breaks; but they’re no longer forced on me.

Which probably speaks to doing this right.

But the point isn’t to talk about me, but to discuss burnout.


Increasing Rates of Burnout

There’s an author, a friend, named Becca Syme. I’ve known about her for a few years now, but it was only at the Oklahoma Writers Conference that I went to that we had a chance to talk. I hadn’t even gone to any of her seminars because for the most part, it wasn’t necessary for me. 

For the most part, I’ve done the burnout and recovery phase of my career(s) before she got to it, so I knew what to look out for and had started playing with methods to fix it. 

But the thing that crept up in our conversation was the fact that she noticed a trend, a need for that service, and started acting on it in 2019 or so, and has now made a name for herself, doing burnout coaching and author coaching.

And at Dragoncon recently, talking to others, I noted that the number of people who I talked to who had burntout from work were increasing. Some were friends I hadn’t even known were going through that, others I had suspicions, and the like. Some just audibly stated it when we met up.

But the number and volume keeps increasing.

Why?

Money is an obvious one. It’s hard to relax when your income is tied to forces you can’t control. Every release, every month, we’re always a little uncertain how things will play out with our income and how well the book does.

Some authors have gone full-time before they should have, only just barely scraping by with their earnings on a month-to-month basis. Others have been forced to go full-time by circumstances (injuries and retirement). 

So, money is a big stressor. And being constantly stressed about that is never great.

Some people just don’t handle stress well. Or don’t handle the existential stress of low income, personal deadlines, releases and the like well. The responsibility of being their own boss doesn’t work for them, but they do it anyway for one reason or another.

And then, of course, it’s the long hours or the constant need to produce. A large trend in indie authoring – and I’ll say it’s a mostly true trend – dictates that people should be releasing as many books as possible a year, no matter what.

I can definitively say that releasing a book every other month can do great things to your income. It bounces everything up, which alleviates the money problem. Which, if you are already marginal on income, can be rather important.

It can also be rather painful, if suddenly you can’t produce as well in one month or another and you were relying / trending because of that.

I’ll talk about longevity and striking when the iron is hot and long-term strategies in another post; but this post is about stressors and… well… there you go.

Constant production, money worries, constant stress and then you add readers and trolls and author drama and…

It’s a lot.

So what to do?

I’d say structure your business to reduce stress. Yes, that might mean taking a secondary job. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. More than one author I know has complained / commented how they can write better with less time than more. Because all that other work time, their mind is focused on fixing the problems with the plots and when they have those two hours to write, they can burn out a ton of words.

So, structure your business to reduce stressors.

  • Money problems? Reduce your expenses drastically and get a cushion. If you can’t, get a job. (Obviously, this one is tricky since there a lot of circumstances, but you get the idea). You CANNOT as easily increase revenue (in many cases); so reducing expenses is the easiest.

Be very careful about adding expenses you cannot shed. This includes office space as one example.

  • Create a baseline for revenue – I’ll talk about backlist strategies more and in more focused posts later, but I’ve covered much of this before. But your backlist is what will give you a baseline. Work on exploiting it more.
  • Overwork? – reduce it. Yes, yes, easier said than done. I know. This is the one that I fight the hardest to get rid of. But one thing I’ve done is pushed my release schedule out a lot and have this Patreon. Both of which allow me to write and post still to give me that impetus that I need, but allow me to just not worry about releases into the future.

Set work hours or words that you need to hit as a minimum and stop trying to push out a book a month or 4 books a year or whatever. This might be harder without a backlist, and if you’re new, perhaps you do have to push hard initially; but have a plan to cut back.

Plan for 2 years of hard work and then cut back after you have a lot of books out, or whatever number it is. But have a plan so you know. 

And be willing to adjust the plan if necessary.

  • Social stresses? – get rid of it. In most cases, those are Facebook groups and reviews. And other social media. In most of these cases, you do need them to some extent to promote your work; but if you are stressing over it – hire it out damn it. There are a ton of PAs who can takeover basic posting and even some basic question and answering.
  • Well empty? Forcing out words? – stop trying. Work on other fun projects. Work on projects OUTSIDE of your normal scope. Or maybe… just don’t work.

Read. Go for a walk in the forest or park (research has proven this works VERY well). Take a bath or a shower. Watch TV. Play a game.

Creativity is a well that gets filled up by other creative pursuits. By giving your brain time and space to put things together in new and weird ways. 

Stop forcing it as much.

It’s Real – So Fix it Now

I’m sure there are other options; but burnout is real. And if you keep pushing it, it can take a year or more to recover.

I know people who have had to stop writing for a year. Or two. Some, have had to stop writing altogether because the pressure, the worry and concerns overwhelm them.

So, if you feel yourself getting tired, irritated, unable to focus as well, etc. If you think you might be edging towards burnout, look for solutions.

Because the other option is not writing for a while anyway.


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