Since January my writing life has been a non-stop whirlwind. Between coordinating and running Sun versus Snow, working on copyedits for a major revision, slush reading for Pitch Madness, and taking care of all the other things non-writing in my life, I’m pretty close to burned out.
In my weakest moments over the last months I’ve wondered if writing was really the right thing for my life at this moment. There are so many things vying for my time, and it feels like failure if I’m not writing at least for a few minutes every day. On certain days I go to bed feeling like a wreck because I’m so guilt-ridden for not opening my latest draft and doing some kind of work.
I think the breaking point was most recently when I was sitting on a bus with twenty screaming sixth graders trying to actually fix a scene that I already knew was broken. Honestly, if I wasn’t a pretty private person I think I would have broken down and cried right there. It took about an hour of zoning out and listening to music that I finally had an epiphany moment.
Here it is…There is NO ONE out there pushing you to write-except YOU. That creature called self-doubt you’re battling is YOU. So my answer is this – give yourself a FREAKING BREAK. Log out of social media. Close your laptop. Put aside anything writing related and do something else. Anything else to take your mind off of all the things you THINK you’re missing, doing wrong, not up to task on.
Stop comparing yourself to your friend who just signed with an agent. Or sold her book for xx dollars. That is his/her story not yours. Your time may not be now but it’s coming. Be patient. Wait. Give yourself time to walk away. Take a breath. Forget everything in publishing that is wearing you down. So you didn’t get 500 words today. OK. The world won’t end. Maybe tomorrow you’ll get a 1,000 and make up for it. The reality is that the only thing that matters is you and your well-being.
Remind yourself that you have your own path and that torturing yourself about what comes next is only hurting you. If it’s helpful, take a social media break. When writing feels like a chore, step back and take a day, a week, a month to recharge. Don’t do what I did. Burn the candle so fervently that when you get to the end there’s absolutely NOTHING left. That not only harms you, but everyone in your world. It also doesn’t allow you to make rational decisions, because if all you want to do is quit, you’re in the wrong mindset. You’re so worked up and twisted you don’t realize you’re not only giving up your dream but also giving up on yourself.
Please don’t get so low that you can’t dig your way out. Talk to friends in the writing community. Reach out and ask them to honestly talk about their low points (because I guarantee we’ve all had them). Then when you realize you’re not alone, give yourself time to reenergize. The words will always be there and quitting will not solve your problems. It will only delay your path, and I know in the end that’s the last thing any of us want.
What about you? Have you ever felt like quitting? What kept you motivated to continue writing? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.