The Guilt of a Burnout

Exactly what it says on the tin: the inevitable emotion of guilt when facing a burnout.

Ridiculous, yes? You’ve been writing a story, absorbed by excitement and curiosity, until come a while down the line you’re stopped by the burnout. Boredom and exhaustion replaces the positivity, and yet despite the knowledge that it isn’t your fault, part of you still feels guilty for allowing it to happen.

My burnout has lasted a week. I’d decided to attempt a novelette – a way to build myself up to a novel one day, what with writing short stories only for the better part of a year – and had a solid idea. At first, with any new shiny thing, you can’t stop thinking or writing about it, but then it creeps its way in, taking you by surprise because you thought there’d be no way, with your enthusiasm, it would happen again. But it does. And yet again all the shit washes over you. You’re frustrated, restless, unable to write a single sentence without hating it (if you can write one at all), distracted by stress so even when you try to relax you can’t. You wonder if you’ll ever make it out. You did before, but maybe not this time.

What do you do? Do you bite the bullet and carry on, even though each word you type is almost painful? Do you take a break, even though sometimes it doesn’t always work, returning to the dreaded document with less motivation than before? I attempted both, and of course it hasn’t helped since I’m writing this blog post. But, ironically – if it is ironic, I’m hazy on the definition still – writing this blog post has helped. Not entirely. I’m still not keen on returning to my novelette, or any writing for that matter, but at least by writing something different offers some refreshment.

I’m yet to figure out what to do. Perhaps I will take a week off, considering it is my birthday on Saturday and I have worked hard (in my opinion; to others it is probably nothing in comparison) in the sense that I’ve written most days. It is usually peanuts of writing, 350 – 400 words, but it’s still difficult since I’m a slow writer and an over-thinker. Snuffing out that anxiety takes all the more work and effort. Perhaps I’ll push myself to write, telling myself I’ve all the time in the world to fix, and re-write, and edit, until I get the story where I want it to be. Perhaps I’ll spend more time on blogging and reading as the last time I did that for more than a few minutes seems years ago.

What I will to, without doubt, is remind myself of these 3 little things:

1. Don’t beat yourself up.

It sounds contradicted; after all, the title of this post is about guilt, but there are some days – whilst rare in volume – where I tell myself it is okay. You wrote 50 words today? Great. You didn’t write? Fine. Your first draft is utter bollocks? Sure is. Be rewarding, be complimentary. You wrote 50 words but that’s still 50 more to your word count. You didn’t write but you figured out that plot point or gave that character a distinctive feature. Your first draft is utter bollocks but you’ve got time to work it out.

2. Take a well-deserved break.

Even if it means going for a walk, or reading a few pages of your book, or watching a few episodes of that show you’ve wanted to catch-up on. It doesn’t matter how you do it because it’s your break.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Something I’m still guilty of, but not as much as I used to. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t want to be like all the other #1 authors. But where would it get me? Wishing hard enough that it’ll pop a blood vessel but not make it actually come true, that’s where. You’re you. You’re not somebody else.

One day there will be a time where I’ve mastered the things above, but then again that day might never come. I’ll always face challenges in writing – we all will – but hopefully we will have the careers and lives we wished for, and will remember that although we went through all this trouble to get there, we still got there in the end.

2 Replies to “The Guilt of a Burnout”

  1. My burnout happened right when my chemo treatment hit. Everything you described resonated with me, I’ve been there so many times. I hope your birthday was refreshing and HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! My birthday was yesterday 😀 July writers unite!

    1. It’s hard to get out of it, but once you get out, it’s such a relief! And hopefully we know how to make it easier the next time — and I’d hope you’re out of it now! And thank you! Happy belated birthday to yourself. We rock.

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