Friday, October 11, 2013

Writer Burnout as You Approach The End

Yeah, yeah, I know, writing a book is a marathon. Don't remind me, because I'm feeling the burn, baby! Here are Seven Signs you may be utterly toxic from struggling to the end of that elusive finish line:

--Coffee, ordinarily delicious and comforting and an aid to your muse, tastes bitter and disgusting and you never want another cup again.

--Your husband arrives home to find you in tears. Mumbling how you are in the last 50 pages and your book makes no sense and you think you have to delete the whole thing and start over.

--To take a break, you read a great, fabulous author because you only read the best when you are finishing your best draft, but instead of inspiring you, you start to cry. "I can never write like that! Why bother?" (This time it's Kristan Higgins, The Best Man. So wonderful!)

--Your ass hurts from BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard). And your hamstrings, and your calves, and all the tendons in your hands.

--You know that this, your "final" draft, is almost done. You pray for it to be done. All you want is relief. Your characters are suffering, heading right into that blackest of moments, and you are contemplating heading out the window. You are laughing, weeping, mumbling to yourself, and in total despair. And just to tip yourself over the edge, you know this will not be THE final draft. Beta readers, agent will say no no no and you will have to wash and repeat. Probably multiple more times.

--You appear in public in sweats. Your deepest darkest secret is sometimes you don't even dress until just before your kids come home from school.

--You keep saying, "I'll clean [insert something appropriate here]______ when I'm done," a task you despise. But right now it's looking pretty good as a diversion. Scary!

I don't know how this marathon will end. All I want is to muscle through and be done. I pound my head against the keyboard and drink my bitter coffee (better than eating through the fridge). I'm not a believer in waiting for inspiration to strike. Every day I sit here and slog it out, and every day I fix the slog from the day before. And most days I do this with a kind of joy I've never experienced before.

But burn out is burn out and when it reaches this level, sometimes you have to cave in to it and replete the muse by taking a damn day off. Maybe even two. Because you simply cannot write if you are insane. So today...I'm outa here!

Combating burnout...suggestions welcome!

South Carolina beach, a more tranquil place than my mind today!


  1. I soooo get this, especially the terror that this might not be the final draft, that your editor is going to demand a major rewrite. Hang in there. You're a better writer than your conscious self will let you believe. Start the next book and this one will look fabulous by comparison!

  2. Oh, thanks, Lark. So many voices critiquing inside my head...not all of them good :( Appreciate your stopping by!

  3. The comment about Kristan's book especially hit home. If I read her when I'm writing, I just want to curl up in a ball of shame for thinking I could even come close.

    1. (Sorry, Kym, I sent this reply from my iPhone yesterday and screwed up the address.) Yes, I am hearing you, girlfriend! I read The Best Man in a day. Could not put it down. I think I feel better now-- was able to write better than yesterday. Really enjoyed that book! Thanks, Kym!

  4. I keep writing the same paragraph over and over. Add a little here. Delete a little there. Add, delete. I'm starting to wonder if my first draft was right and I've just ruined the chapter. All I have McKenzie doing is leaning up against a door frame for heaven sakes. Yes it's me. Go easy Miranda when you're critique the girl leaning against the door frame. She's been through a lot in the last 3 days. Add, delete....Vicki

    1. Vicki, if anyone has the capability to make leaning fascinating, you can! I look forward to reading it.
      Sometimes the more we play with things the worse they get. Hard to know what's the big picture when you're doing micro work too.
      (Sorry, I replied yesterday from my phone but sent it to the wrong place!)

  5. Time to sleep, for one thing, and maybe slip in a period piece--North and South does it for me. Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester. I'm a write most every day kinda author, so I don't hit these death march phases as hard as everybody else seems to. I WISH all I had to do was work on the WIP. The WIP come first, then the copy edits, then the revisions, then the galleys, then some research... then back to the WIP, day after day. It's a good life!

  6. Grace! I'm honored you stopped by. I write every day too but I should stop complaining as my focus is on ONE project! I think I just overdid it a little, pushing very hard and needed to clear my head.
    Pride and Prejudice does it for me (I adore Colin Firth but I do love the 2006 version). Thanks for the perspective!
    (Sorry, I responded yesterday with my phone but screwed up the "send.")