I’ve had a crazy week. I’ve signed up for a couple new author signing events for next year, been trying to resurrect my blog after WordPress and the new theme made it disappear, and my very first audio book released (quite unexpectedly—it was just, surprise, it’s for sale now!). I’ve been working on a novella and I have several other projects in process.
I’m exhausted just thinking about everything.
Back in 2016 I would have just kept going. Push, push, push.
But I learned last year that I become a crappy person when I do that. All I ever did was write. I released a trilogy in eleven months time. That’s a lot of writing. (Put out a novella and a couple short stories in that same time too.) I stressed myself out with endless promotion that did nothing to sell my books. My husband and my kid didn’t like who I had become.
I just got to the point near the end of 2017 that I just didn’t care anymore. I got my trilogy done and then I walked away. I needed a break. I needed to be me. Not Randi. (Yes, Randi’s a pen name.)
Somehow, in all of this—much like when I first got married—I lost sight of who I was. When I first got married, I became this mashup of two people, and I didn’t have any friends who were just mine. I didn’t do anything without him. It took a toll on me. (And almost ruined our marriage.)
Focusing on Randi’s stuff rather than my own mental health took its toll on me. As did constantly spending my hard-earned money to push books that weren’t selling. That’s a massive ego crush.
When I took that step away, I said it was for good. Randi was dead. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to acknowledge the publishing industry (unless the email contained my royalties, in which case, gimme). It was a dark time for me. I felt like an utter and complete failure.
That’s the thing, though, I never knew it was okay to feel like this. My friends are pushing out book after book and winning awards and landing agents and I kept thinking that if I pushed myself just a little bit harder, I could get there too. But I pushed myself too hard.
I think, we, as writers (and creatives in general) seem to forget that it’s okay to not write. It’s okay to take a break. (Just don’t do it in the middle of contracted deadlines.) So many people say you have to write xxx number of words a day to be considered a writer and I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. I didn’t write for months, and even tried to convince myself I wasn’t a writer, but everyone who knows me knows that’s what I am. It’s who I am, it’s how I deal with things. It’s me.
What’s the point of all of this?
Newbie writers, and established writers alike, be aware of creative burnout. When you feel you’re burning the candle at both ends and it doesn’t make you happy anymore, don’t. Stop. Take a break. Maybe you just need to go for a walk around the block to clear your head. Maybe you need to not touch a project for months like I did. Whatever it is that you need to do in order to maintain your creative and mental health, that’s what you do.
The words will be there later. Take care of you.
Here’s the other thing I learned, it’s okay to not be all right. Let’s put it this way, writers are really good at putting on a happy face but secretly be dying inside. You don’t have to pretend you are all right when you’re not. I thought I was going through this burnout thing alone. I wasn’t. Once I took that step back, several of my friends said they understood, and some were even jealous of the fact I did take that step back. There’s no reason for that. If you need a breather, take it. There’s no shame in taking care of yourself.
Has Randi’s reputation suffered? Not really. Have people lost interest in me? Probably. It’s okay. I don’t need to be adored by everyone to be happy. All I need to be happy is to write something I’m proud of. I’m nervous as hell for my next major release, which will be in summer 2019, but I had so much fun writing it (and writing it and writing it… this novel went through at least five complete rewrites to get to where it is today) and I love that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It was just meant to be 70,000 words of fun. Because if I don’t enjoy what I’m writing, how will you? That’s the approach I’ve decided to adopt.
I won’t write if I don’t want to.
I won’t write what I don’t want to.
If I don’t love it, I won’t even seek publication for it.
If it doesn’t get published, it’s okay.
That last one is important, because so many of us in this industry forget that. Not everything you write has to be published, or should be published. You don’t win an award for having the highest number of titles in your backlist (though, let’s be honest, good luck beating Nora Roberts for that distinction).
Amidst all of that, I will have some projects published next year. But I also have to remember to take time to be me.
If I’ve learned nothing else about this industry, it’s that.