Monday, February 14, 2022

Thursday, February 10, 2022

A Confession about Burn Out Part 3

The hilarious thing about burn out is that you don't know you're there...in it...being devoured. At least, I didn't know. I had no clue. Was I overwhelmed? Sure. Was I depressed? Probably. Was I certain I'd be able to push through and get it all done AND be totally fine? Haha...yes, I was. 

I knew something was wrong with me. That's why I went to a therapist to talk about it. I thought it was stress from the usual suspects. Too much happening all at once and nothing I hadn't experienced before. But this time, what I wasn't seeing was the emotional toil that came with being so depleted and pushing ahead anyway. 

I wanted to run away. I wanted to quit my job(s). I wanted to disappear from everyone's radar. I wanted to sell our house and move to another province, work in a bookstore and have zero responsibility. (Don't get me wrong, I would still really love to work in a book store again). All I seemed to be able to do was read and sleep. I felt tremendous guilt for not writing. I had projects to wrap up, sequels to start. There were things to do but I just couldn't motivate myself to do any of it. 

Everyone I know is going through the same kind of stress, especially the moms. This pandemic has been brutal on all of us. I thought what was happening to me was normal. 

And maybe it is normal, but it's not my normal. 

After listening to me over several visits, and hearing the heaps of issues plaguing my mind, my therapist looked me in the eyes and said so matter of factly, "well, of course you're exhausted, you're drowning in the depths of burn out." That's when it all suddenly clicked. 

Ah, yes, burn out. I'd heard of it. I'd known other writers who'd gone through it. I didn't actually know what it meant, not really, or how to fix it. 

My therapist told me that if I didn't take steps to ease the burdens on my life now, the burn out would get worse and last longer. It wasn't going to fix itself and, with my track record, I'd probably keep going until I dropped dead (figuratively) from exhaustion.

Her first assignment: take a day off work. I hadn't taken one sick day, mainly because I'd been working from home and it wasn't impossible to push through headaches and nausea and exhaustion.

My next assignment: say no. 

These two things seem simple enough. I took a sick day planning on getting writing done and maybe clean a couple of bathrooms and...do you see what was happening there? I didn't but my body did and when I took that sick day it was like my body had a green light to deflate and rest. I slept all day. I got up to eat. I read a little. I relaxed completely. I so badly needed it. 

I've said no to three things as well. Two writing things and one day job thing. The world didn't implode. 

As my body and mind have started to replenish, I've noticed my motivation returning. I wrote a short story for an anthology call. I began adding words to a sequel I'd started last year. My passion and creativity is sparking again and I feel excited about working on things.

This isn't the end of my burn out story, I know, there's a lot of healing that still needs to happen. There are more sick days in my future. There are more offers I'll need to turn down. My 2022 reading list will probably the highest it has ever been because reading does recharge me and it's not procrastination like I was conning myself into believing. I will cut myself a lot of slack. I will not feel guilt for resting. 

Even though I love to work, it shouldn't be the thing that consumes me, there's more to life than that. 


 


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Confession About Burn Out Part 2

If you're following along, this is where I tell you the backstory that led to my burn out...how I have been working my ass off for the last four years to reseed my author world after it imploded when my publisher closed. Watching all of my precious books fall from retailer sites one by one was so defeating but it didn't keep me down, I was driven to find those books a new home (and I did).  

Not only have I been writing full tilt (17 books published in 4 years plus many more that are on my hard drive, three writer worlds to manage on top of that) but I have a day job gig and I teach some university courses up to four times a year. I am also a mom and a wife and a friend (although I will admit that I haven't been a very present friend lately). So, yeah, I have a lot going on and I'm not complaining. I thrive in this kind of environment. I'm extremely efficient and work with my head down and my fingers flying. 

Then Covid happened and that was a hiccup (like barf up my throat kind of hiccup). My writing life got weird and, like many, my brain did a lot of misfiring. I kept on writing though, pushing through as I do. A year later, spring 2021, Covid was more a part of everyday life. I'd gotten my writing world sorted and was in a good place creatively.  Two of my publishers offered me contracts at the same time and I, being the person I am, said, "Absolutely, I can do that!"

So, along with having three books release over the summer/fall and an intensive course to teach for all of July, I also, somehow (because I never miss deadlines) wrote two vastly different books. 

Did I make my deadlines? Of course, I did! Are you kidding?

But I was tired...so tired...and my day job was all of a sudden filled with uncertainty and there were pressures there that I hadn't faced before, draining pressures and were wearing me down bit by bit. Morale was so low among my colleagues and I wasn't able to help the people I needed to help because of the systems at play. I should have known then...I should have taken the time to rest because my desire to write dried up and it suddenly became a chore. 

Writing, one of my greatest passions...became a chore.  

Instead I pushed forward because that's what I do. I suck it up and keep going. And when I was offered a contract to rewrite three of the courses I teach at the university, I said yes. The timeline was tight and because when it rains...well, you know, I also got heavy rewrites on one of the books I'd written in the summer. Then I got edits on the other book I'd written. I was drowning and so exhausted that it was hard to keep my head above water.

I'm sure you can guess what happened after that. Burn out was hovering. I was exhausted. In the depths of my soul worn out. I should have taken that as a warning. I needed to chill out. I needed to sleep for days. I didn't do that.

I made my deadlines again. I gave every last bit of energy I had to do it and I was empty. Completely empty. 

Then one day while getting ready for work, I had a thought pop into my head...it was a random thought about how I needed to plot the sequel to one of the books I wrote over the summer - there's a contract, you see...

And I had a panic attack. The first one I've had in years. I lost it. How can I possibly write another word? How can I put that much work and effort and blood and sweat into another book?

In that moment I knew my body and my mind had, metaphorically speaking, curled up into a little ball, fetus-like. I was done.

 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

It's Release Day!

 


The Big Book of Orgasms is finally here! You'll find my story, Vibrations, about a couple who knows just how to crank one another up with bit of strumming and a whole lotta bass.  Get your copy at your preferred retailer: LINK





Monday, February 7, 2022

A Confession About Burn Out: Part 1

 

I don't get a lot of hits on my blog which maybe is why I feel like doing a confession post. I'm not harbouring any gruesome secrets and there are no bodies buried in my backyard (that I know of). 

My confession, as the title of this post suggests, is about burn out. My very own deep dark burn out hole (that I dug then threw myself in) and how I've been trying to claw my way out. 

Maybe this post will find another writer who is going through the same thing. Maybe that writer will feel less alone by reading this post. Maybe I'm just shouting into the abyss and no one will read this. I'm okay with any and all of that. Writing is good therapy for me and I can finally say that I'm back in a place where that statement is true again. 

I'm not the type of person to admit weakness and for quite some time, as I was wallowing in the depths of burn out, I felt at my weakest, mentally, physically, emotionally. Now, I know someone might say that burn out has nothing to do with weakness, that I'm being too hard on myself...and yes, that's true, (we are our toughest critics) but part of my failed attempts to help myself was because of my personally constructed idea about weakness and work ethic and the kind of person I always strive to be.

I've always been what many would call a workaholic. I like to be busy. Busy is good. It keeps the boredom from creeping in. I hate being restless, purposeless, without something to work on. That doesn't mean I don't know how to relax, I do. I enjoy reading and sitting outside sipping tea and gazing at nothing. I enjoy massages. I enjoy hiking and long walks. I also like deadlines and heaps of projects. I like it when my brain is buzzing with creativity and things to do. I like saying YES to asks that excite me. I like to be working hard so that when I relax I know it's well earned. 

The funny thing about burn out is that it creeps in on you. It circles like a predator, looking for ways to strike. I didn't see if coming even though people warned me. Even though I've seen other writers dive into burn out and stay there for a very long time. Even though I've been in burn out before. 

I ignored the signs. 

Now that I'm out of denial and into admission, I see exactly where the trouble started. Way back in the spring of 2021 when I agreed to two contracts, both due by the end of the summer and I said some personally famous last words. "I NEVER miss a deadline."