20 January 2019

Trying to be Writerly While Burned Out

It's been months since I wrote on this blog, and the one post (of a total of three) I wrote for all of 2018 was a bombshell admission that the thing I had spent years chronicling on this blog - my book (aka my graduate thesis at Seton Hill University) - could no longer be pitched or published in its current iteration because the baby I wrote and loved and bled for was too problematic despite my efforts, and that if it was ever going to see the light of day, I just needed to do a complete do-over of the entire thing.

Then... radio silence from me. For ages.

I've felt incredible guilt over letting my website die. I started it in 2010 as a required component of my graduate degree program, but it was never meant to disappear after I graduated in 2013. This website was to be the home of my author identity - the major component of my writer platform besides the books I'd publish. For a couple years after graduation I kept this baby alive, talking a lot about my fandom obsessions (like anime and cons!), occasional updates on my projects, random writing advice posts, a few author interviews, and -  for a time, when I knew I needed to keep the website running but had no time to regularly write - signal-boosting posts for author blog tours.

But yeah...after working very hard to build what I thought was a successful blog for a "nobody" writer, I let this blog go kaput. Every year subsequently, my posts just drop...and drop...and drop. What happened?

I became a teacher! 

I did two years of community college teaching right out of graduate school that just...kicked my butt...and now I'm in my third year in Japan teaching EFL to high school students in Kumamoto prefecture. While teaching in Japan has been a far better gig than teaching in the US, I've not been able to shake a pervasive exhaustion that has crept into my bones and settled there.

This "blehhhh" I'm feeling is burnout. And reading the now-viral article from Buzzfeed "How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation" and its follow-up "Here is What Millenial Burnout is Like for 16 Different People" helped me find the words to go with the feelings, even if those words aren't mine.

It started with people lambasting the younger generations for their decisions not to vote in the 2016 midterm election (don't look at me, I voted even though I live in Japan), and then Anne Helen Petersen of Buzzfeed sought to know more...why is dropping an envelope in the mail so exhausting? Of course, there's more than meets the eye than just simple "laziness" here, and these articles were so comforting to me because they accurately depict my experience - having to always be "on," for one thing, and never really feeling like I'm living in the moment - that every decision has to be some sort of conscious stepping stone to an ever-elusive future lifestyle for which I must continually market myself.

How can I write, edit, promote, submit, and sell my work (and my "self") when I only have enough energy to get through the classes I teach each day? How can I rewrite my first book, and then more books after that, if it takes all my willpower to just feed myself dinner after work and do laundry on the weekend? Not to mention dishes needing done, the house needing cleaned...

I think of what modern writers are "expected" to do - self-published or not - and the list looks exhaustive:

  • Write every day
  • Read every day (especially work in your genre)
  • Self-promote and publicize
  • Maintain a social media presence and author platform - website, Twitter, FB, Goodreads, etc.
  • Regularly engage with your audience
  • Build professional relationships within your industry
And there's even more to this list depending on the type of writer you want to be and how you want to be published!

Anyway, I've been feeling burned out for years, and there are genuine consequences when you're too exhausted to keep on. Besides the fact I haven't written a new book since 2013 or published anything since 2017, I've let this website deteriorate dramatically after investing so much time and money into putting it together. 

My *only* shining spot in this field has been the editing work I've done (I'm proud to be a contributor at Speculative Chic, among other things), but editing is not the same as me writing my own stuff.

I'm not going to call this a New Year's Resolution, but let's just say this year I'm trying to slowly reemerge with a stronger writer identity, and that includes more of my own writing on this blog and then trying to work on some of my fiction, whether it's the redo of The Name and the Key or the new-ish project capturing my attention now. 

I've felt disengaged from the writing world for quite some time, so my goal is to just produce more of something - ANYTHING - and try my best to get regular with it again. 


How do you keep on writing when you're burned out?

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