So, I burned myself out obsessing and writing and re-writing and editing and I needed a break – so I took one. I started a new hobby, played with my dog, relaxed and tried very, very hard to put Destructive Magic out of my mind for a bit. I was having such a great time on my vacation, that I was actually only obsessing about twice a day that my manuscript wasn’t finished/polished/perfected.
Then I read the blog of another author who was hard at work organizing an Author Blog-In. I read Kate Policani’s posts frequently and I find her to be smart, funny, and optimistic – I can now add “hard-working” to that list. Her post about the blog-in was the kick in the tail-feathers I needed to get back to work. I am happy to report that I am once again focused and working diligently. There are lessons in my mini-vacation, though, and I’d like to share those with you:
1. When you’re burned out, you need to recognize it and address it. You can’t keep your shoulder to the wheel if you have no idea where the wheel is going. Stepping back and getting perspective is just as valuable as forging doggedly ahead – actually, I think it’s more valuable because by putting the book away for a while (okay, longer than I intended, but we’ll get to that) made the book better. I found clarity and vision and noticed a few things that I hadn’t articulated as well as I thought I had.
2. Bringing something new into your environment changes your perspective. My new hobby reminded me how I get the most done…I work hard for a long time, then I step back and re-visit things I’ve done in the past. By doing that, I recognize mistakes I’m prone to making and am able to make a course correction so I don’t repeat the mistake. If I weren’t busy learning a new skill, I wouldn’t have realized that I just needed time to process and obsessively looking a the same material wasn’t getting me anywhere.
3. Distance helps you untangle the knots. I read a bit of Destructive Magic and realized that I was headed in one very clear direction with the characters, and then I could clearly see where I became so involved that I tied them in knots. The harder I worked at it, the bigger the tangle became. That’s where the delete key came in handy. I’m a ruthless editor and I don’t hesitate to remove large chunks of my stories if they don’t click for me on a read-through. Once I freed myself from the tangled web by leaving it alone for a while, the story flowed again. I think that applies to most situations in life…if you’re stuck, step back and let it go for a while – the solution is buried in the mess, but until you stop tying the knots tighter, you can’t see it.
If I had more time, I’d find a picture of a Chinese Finger Puzzle and post it here because it’s a great analogy for what I’m saying…unfortunately, I have a novel to finish, so you’ll have to search for the image if you want to see it. Which brings me to my final point:
4. Sometimes the reminder to get back to work comes from an unexpected place.
If you’re feeling burned out, take a break. You won’t hear the wake-up call until you’re ready to tackle your project again. I’m sure I received many other “time to get back to it” calls in the past few weeks, but Kate’s was the only one that got through (thanks for that, Kate Policani) – it’s funny how the universe seems to know what you even when you’re not sure yourself.