Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
It appears that I may have accidentally burned myself out when it comes to my writing.
The foundation for these unfortunate circumstances was laid last month, when I was preparing to go on my first vacation since the pandemic started (didn’t go anywhere, just a good two weeks where I could unplug from the emails and spend more time with my family). When I’m on vacation and therefore tend to be away from my computer, I usually put in less time for my writing. So in anticipation of this productivity dip, I thought it would be a good idea to build up a buffer.
One flaw in this plan was that my daily goals already account for vacations and stat holidays, so I’m already building up a natural buffer. Seems like riding the high from having my most productive writing year clouded my judgement a bit.
To meet these goals, I really did try to fit any spare minute of my day with either writing, or thinking about writing. And to my credit, I met my buffer goals, and was in a position where if I wrote moderately over my vacation weeks and then jumped back into the same pace once my vacation was done, I wouldn’t have skipped a beat and would have been well on my ridiculous 1,000 words per day rate.
About two days into my vacation I realized that I had overdone it.
The moderate pace that I expected from myself turned into a trickle – sometimes putting in only 50-100 words just so I can maintain my write-every-day streak. Where my mind would normally be racing through scenes while I was doing the evening cleanup, I couldn’t even force it to focus anywhere. Silently washing the dishes for twenty minutes thinking of random junk seemed to be preferable.
I assumed that this was because the entirety of my brain preferred to head on vacation, including my creative side. I also remembered about the built-in daily goal buffer, and decided I wouldn’t stress too much about it – I could pick it all up again when I’m hanging out with my computer the entire day.
That didn’t happen either.
I found my mind in an unusual spot where I couldn’t even force it to think about writing. And that wasn’t specific to any particular project but across the board – there was nothing I wanted to pick up any more, even at the end of the day where there were no particular priorities.
I tried to blame it on the heat wave, or the transition to work back from being freely available for my kids. In the end though, as I finished up my second week of this strange lull, I figured out that I simply overdid it. Which I guess is surprising, since there is a certain expectation that if it’s something you’re enjoying or it’s not particularly laborious then what is there to burn out over? However, there’s a possibility of overdoing everything, and I’m an expert at overdoing (just ask my multiple running injuries even though I’m a casual runner).
So this will be a lesson learned – don’t push yourself to be so productive that you end up losing productivity over the long run. Worse yet, don’t make something you enjoy a chore.
The plan is not to beat myself up over it and not allow any stray thoughts questioning my worth as a writer from intruding. What I need to do is gently ease myself back into my previous groove, perhaps focusing on those projects that are going through an easier time of being written in order to build my confidence up.
Such an odd thing to have to do after taking a vacation – one would expect that you come back feeling refreshed, but it appears that in this case it just allowed my mind to process and to reject my previous pace. Just need to be smarter about all this, is all.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.