Time Out for Burnout

It’s funny how you can mean to take a week or so completely off, and instead you wind up running around like some kind of domestic berserker trying to deal with holiday-related cooking and cleaning, not to mention months of accumulated medical appointments and paperwork, restocking the pantry, all of those necessaries that make your life run more smoothly. Seriously, there is nothing like announcing “I am taking today off” to induce record-breaking productivity.

...Is that just me?  It can’t be just me.

The last month of the year, I wanted so hard to take a week or so off. But there were some looming pieces of work I had to finish by Jan. 2, not to mention those countless other things popping up like new heads on a hydra. I simply didn’t have it in me to burn through it all in a glorious two or four days. So instead I settled for half-measures; a little work, a little not-work, limping along to just meet my deadlines in time while not grinding the poorly lubricated gears of my brainmeats too hard.

Shockingly, this half-vacation punctuated with personal obligations did not actually cure my burnout. I know, I know, who could have guessed that still writing is not as good as not writing! So I was dreading work, procrastinating, the whole shebang. All I wanted to do was sleep in until 2pm and play video games until 2am, rinse and repeat.  

All of this half-holiday time was good for feeding new media and new experiences in to my brain, at least. I played through Gorogoa and tried Civ VI for iOS; I finished Null States and a series of LitRPG books; I watched The Good Place, The Last Jedi, and the last couple of seasons of Psych and its movie. I made ricotta cheese; I did some sketching; I started exercising and cooking for my family reliably. But I still wasn’t feeling quite myself.

Well, I finally did it. Thanks in part to the snow days in the Northeast, I squeaked out five whole days in which I did no writing, no edits, no meetings of any kind.  For most of them, I didn’t even leave my home, or my pajamas.

Funny thing, though. By day two, I kept thinking about my novel whenever my mind wandered. About the characters, the themes, the intersecting web of interactions.  By day three I was starting to get really excited about this book again. By day four, I was impatient for the kids to hurry up and get back to school so I could get to work putting some of this on paper.

This is how I work best; when an idea has worked its way into my brain and become a puzzle I’m trying to solve, constantly in the background. A low-level obsession. It’s like when you’ve played too much Tetris, except with narrative. I love it, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve felt like this. Definitely not since August, and maybe not since January.

And yet here we are. I’m back, and I’m writing, and I am so excited, because this is going to be so great, friends, seriously I love this thing I’m writing, gahhh Kermit flailing I love it so much. And I hope one day in the not-too-distant future you’ll love it, too.  And in the meanwhile: gosh, it is so great to feel like myself again.


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