Karlie with you today!
So. I've heard a lot of authors complain that they just "don't feel it" anymore. That the desire to put the words on the paper is gone, and writing becomes a chore to slog through rather than a privilege.
And I can't imagine anything more heartbreaking.
Yes, there are days when I feel like throwing in the towel. Doesn't everyone? Sitting and staring at the computer screen for hours on end is no fun and definitely not encouraging. But the innate desire to tell a story has always been with me. That saying about writing for the same reason you breathe - if you didn't, you would die - may sound exaggerated, but for me, it's not. I'm a storyteller. The end.
But as I'm sure we've all experienced, too much of a good thing makes you sick of it. Have you ever wanted something with all your soul, only to get it? After spending all your time on this gift, you wake up one morning and realize you never want to see it again.
How do you keep your joy? Are you prepared to spend your life doing this? What do you do to avoid burnouts?
For me, it's partly never focusing completely on one project, and knowing when to step away for a bit. I always have three manuscripts in the works, and that kind of helps me stay motivated. And when I start getting seriously frustrated, I take a walk. Do the laundry. Crank up my music. Anything to give myself a break from the gaping plot holes and awkward sentences...and it usually works.
What about you?
Dan: I recently read a quote along the lines of "Anyone who can be talked out of writing should be." In other words, this is a tough business with lots of heartache and rejection. If you don't have a burning drive to get through all of that, you might as well go do something that makes you happier. But even the most dogged authors have slumps or off-days. To avoid total burnout, I like Karlie's idea of having multiple projects. I also recommend making some writer friends. Fellow writers are more likely to understand what you're going through, and to help you stay motivated. Also, if you happen to be a competitive person by nature -- which I am -- take a look at what your competitors in the genre are doing. Odds are, they're not all getting burned out, or sitting down to take a break.
Caitlin: Karlie, I do a lot of the things you mention (i.e., stepping away to do laundry, trying to have a few different projects going, allowing yourself some breaks.) All that works well!
Another thing that has been helping me lately is having a guilty pleasure project. I'm working on something now that I know isn't marketable and that I also don't think represents me well as a writer, so, honestly, I'll probably never let it see the light of day. But I am LOVING writing it. I only let myself work on it once I've met my other goals (or I feel too burned out to work on my priority projects), but the little stolen moments with this "guilty pleasure project" are just fun! And that has me remembering how much fun writing in general can be. :)
Lisa: How I keep my joy is never pandering to the masses. I don't try to follow a trend or what people perceive to be the next big thing. Writing the story that I want to tell is more enjoyable. One thing that I used to do that was detrimental was try to shape my story so that I didn't offend any of my family (one of whom is a preacher). That was exhausting and I was ready to throw in the towel. I finally figured out that I did a lot of things in real life that my uncle wouldn't approve of so why was I trying to please him in a book he'd never read?
I think that's the ticket - always write for yourself.