Friday, March 21, 2014

When It’s Time to Press Wait

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Are you currently in a period of waiting? A time to lay aside the story telling for something else, for a time of rejuvenation and to spend more time with God figuring things out?

That’s where I’m at right now. To be completely and 100% brutally honest I haven’t written—not really written since summer of 2013. I dabbled with it a little bit until October when I decided that I just needed to put it aside.

I really didn’t tell many people about this when I did. How do you explain burnout? The inner fire doused as though buried under a flood of doubt? How do you respond to the questions of “how is your book coming” and “you’re bound to be the next one” (published or agented, etc.)? Most of the time I just keep my mouth shut because to say I’m not writing is to throw cold water on their warm encouragement—encouragement I am usually in very sore need of.

So how does one know it is time to press back space on the publishing chase? And how do you respond to the comments or the silent stares you get in the chattering circles of writer friends?

Burnout is never something we want or seek to acknowledge. It isn’t a badge of honor and is more often than not embarrassing around all our friends that always have something to write and love to work on their stories when all we want to do is burn ours.
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But every writer knows to some level what we’re going through and finding those that will stand beside you in support are the ones that we should turn to first and foremost when we feel the threat of burnout coming on or when we’re already long past the turning point.

I wouldn’t suggest posting it on Facebook or Twitter for the world to see, but I would advise turning to wise counsel you trust to sit down and pray with you and for you.   We all want to return to our novel writing at some point. When that comes around looks different for everyone, but continue to foster those relationships within and amongst your publishing friends. Spend time in good books and write a blog post or two. Don’t become hateful of words for words did not cause your lack luster. It’s merely the lack of excitement we’ve fail to breed within ourselves and surrounding our stories that has done us in.

Spending time in burnout is not ideal, no. It’s far from pleasurable and downright awkward to share with your peers. But good will come of this, of that I have no doubt. Both you and I will have a healthier respect for the writing process or we’ll better learn how to pace ourselves and not push our motivation to the breaking point.

It’s a balance we don’t always realize we need until we’ve lost it.

Are you in the middle of burnout? Feel it coming on or just climbing out of it? How do you plan to avoid it in the future?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. 


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh sweet Casey, I can so relate. I haven't really written anything in over a year. Yes, I said a few months ago that I felt like God was releasing me to pick it back up, but in truth, I haven't had the urgent desire to dive back in. I'm rereading some of my stuff, but haven't had the heart to just get back in it. maybe I am scared...I got sooooo obsessed with writing and it was not a good thing. I neglected so many things...including my family! So I am praying and waiting some more. :)

God will give you a green light someday. He's good like that! :)

Unknown said...

Oh, yes. How we can all relate. I was literally on my bedroom floor last night, begging God to rekindle the fire in my heart--pleading for a second wind (or, okay, maybe more like a 200th wind). There's nothing easy about being an artist. I'm just glad none of us are alone in the journey.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Casey, thanks for your transparency. You share such wisdom in these words. I've felt burned out before, but it hasn't lasted as long as yours.

Sometimes taking a break is needful to refresh and restore us, and to renew our perspective. Sometimes it helps us reprioritize rightly. Like Sherrinda, I've had times where writing took a higher place on my priority list than it should have. I've readjusted my schedule and priorities to keep real life in focus.

Great post my friend.

Unknown said...

Awesome post, Casey, and ohhhh burnout. I just went through a period of intense burnout...kind of still am. But I'm telling myself it's good burnout. Even wrote a blog post about how when candles burn out, it's because they served their purpose--they did what they're supposed to. So that exhaustion at the end, that's okay. That feeling of "I've got nothing left to give" AFTER giving it all...that's actually a good thing sometimes because it means we did, in fact, give it our all.

BUT...there are times when the burnout isn't good at all. When we've got to step away and refocus and wait for God to, well, rekindle that fire we used to have. I did that on a very small scale last week--took four days off from writing and went down to Phoenix to visit Lindsay Harrel. It was exactly what I needed to recharge.

kaybee said...

Hi Casey,
New to the Alley, been blogging with Seekers for about a year and Nick Harrison, you can never have too many writing friends. This is helpful, I am burned out, blocked and not creative on my WIP, not a good place to be but God knows the timing.
Kathy Bailey

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Casey,

I think every writer (except maybe Nora Roberts!) can relate to this. We've all had periods of discouragement, burnout, of non-writing. But in the end, something sparks the imagination and the desire to get back to the keyboard.

You're going through a lot of changes right now - big ones! I think once your life settles down, you'll probably get the writing bug again.

Sounds like you've got a good handle on keeping in touch with friends and the industry until then.

Saying a prayer for you now!


Angie Dicken said...

Hey Casey,
I am not very far ahead of you, ma'am. Totally understand this. I think my post for Monday will be about what to do during that burnout to get the flame kindled again! Thanks for your honesty!
Love ya!

Ashley Clark said...

Great post, Case, on something that's oh-so-common but I think few of us openly talk about. Something that helps me when I'm feeling burned out is reading other books, as you mentioned, and renewing my love of story. Sometimes the pressure is the source of the trouble!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Well, you already know that I completely understand where you're coming from, Case! You're never alone, and sometimes it's only our lack of transparency with each other that makes us feel as though we are. Thank you for your honesty! I agree with Sue - you're going through so much in your life at the moment, and sometimes we just need to be kind to ourselves and embrace the change of season for a while. Nothing lasts forever - even burnout.

Like Ashley reiterated, reading is a big one for me too. Nothing else gets me as excited about writing again like immersing myself in great books purely for the love of story.

Mary Curry said...

Hi Casey,
I'm jumping in from the other side. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to say how long I've been writing, but it's long enough to have gone through several phases of burnout.

Sometimes I came through it quickly. Sometimes it took years (during which I wasn't sure I would emerge from it).

I always consider myself a reader first. I burn out when my writing steals my enjoyment of reading. I can't write if I can't read.

Best wished you you in all your new endeavors. Last time I had burnout, I went back to grad school for a MA in Special Ed. I'm almost grateful for the burnout that prompted that.
My advice - enjoy all your new challenges. Life it too precious to waste worrying about things we've needed to set aside.