Thursday, October 31, 2019

Refilling the Well; Overcoming Creative Burnout
When I started setting up this post, I realized how much it related to several of my last few posts that basically dealt with how I've been low-key trying to diversify my life. I've talked about my discovery of, and subsequent addiction to, Hindi cinema ("Bollywood") and the value of escapist entertainment. I've talked about not quitting my day-job and how necessary it is to my creative process to not depend solely on said creative process for financial stability. I also blogged about how my passion for story-telling is continuously expanding to include roles beyond being a writer--such as being an editor and peer critic. Most recently, I wrote about how I'm dealing with my own midlife crisis by attempting lots of new things: traveling, learning languages, dancing, water sports, etc.

What all these posts have in common is that they exemplify how I've experienced a bit of a creative
slump and how I'm attempting to re-ignite my spark. Some creative people might be better at pacing themselves or finding the work-life balance that keeps their cycle of productivity steady and regular. Props to them! I'm envious. But as for me, as I've been trying over and over to make progress on my current two Works in Progress (A  YA contemporary fantasy and an adult urban fantasy), I've mostly felt like I've been bashing my head against a wall. It's not writer's block--I know what that feels like. This is something else. Some of it is that my non-creative life has gotten exceptionally busy, leaving me with far fewer "spoons" than I need for a productive creative life. But it's more than that, too. This, I think, is burnout.

For well over a decade, I've been chasing the "published author" dream. The many discarded novel and short story manuscripts in my digital "trunk" prove it. In the early years, I put much effort and energy into producing, producing, producing. In my mind, that was the only way I would achieve my goal. And then, when I finally did start publishing, I continued to produce, produce, produce. It was never a chore--I enjoyed it. Since 2015, along with keeping a full-time job and raising a kid, I have released two trilogy series, a stand-alone novel, a novella, and countless short stories appearing in SFF magazines and anthologies.

But after my last novel released earlier this year, I ran out of steam. I don't think I really acknowledged that fact on a conscious level until a few weeks ago. Obviously my subconscious has known for a while because it had been urging me to refill my empty well, an urge that led me on a journey of self-exploration and discovery I've been working on for most of 2019.

I theorize that creativity is like an engine, and it runs on fuel. If you don't keep the gas-tank filled, eventually the engine stops. To be clear, my engine is not broken. I don't for a moment entertain the thought that I'm done with writing. But I do know it's time for some self-care. It's time to give myself permission to take a break and not feel guilty about making other things (my family, my day-job, my community) a priority for now. It's time to refill the well.

So, how am I doing that? As mentioned earlier, a lot of my most recent posts on this blog are demonstrations of how I've been refilling the well. Most of those posts can be summed up in one way: Instead of producing producing producing, I've been consuming, consuming, consuming. When you're starving, you gotta eat, and I've been feasting! If you're curious about the ways I've been resting, recovering, and reflecting, I'll refrain from repeating myself and simply put links to some of my most relevant posts below. If you need it, I'm giving you permission ( how magnanimous of me, right? 😉) to take some time off. Rest. Recover. Reflect. Your creativity is still there, waiting for you. It'll welcome you back with open arms when you're ready to return.


Mary Fan said...

Love this post!!! Also, holy moly are we the same person?? I just realized that you and me have had basically the same release schedule (though I think I got a slight head start since I was with RAP earlier)... 7 full-length books out at a pace of 1-2 a year, plus lord-knows-how-many novellas and short stories. And I've literally been going through the same thing since about November of last year... filling my life with circus classes and choir and kickboxing and travel and and and... oh, and sticking with a low-stakes day job haha.

Yes, clearly we are the same person.

Karissa Laurel said...

It's so nice to have a friend whi understands and "gets me" :)

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