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By Kathleen Laccinole · September 15, 2021
It wasn’t a nervous breakdown. It wasn’t a mid-life crisis. It wasn’t even boredom. About five years ago, I quit writing. I hung up my computer and decided to start my life over — as anything but a writer.
Something was different. In my heart, and in my brain. And it wasn’t pretty. I’d lost my motivation. My writing was uninspired, unfeeling, and unoriginal. In other words, it sucked.
I became forgetful — as in, really forgetful. Phone numbers, appointments, my kids’ names… I was worn out, but I couldn’t sleep. Everyone bugged me. I couldn’t stand my husband (but that’s a story for another time). I wore black all the time and, god forbid, saw no need to color my hair. I quit doing the things I loved. I stopped socializing; stopped walking the damn dog; stopped drinking iced blended mochas (!) And I did absolutely anything to put off writing.
And while I was convinced that my mental deterioration was due to a rare autoimmune-neuropsychiatric disorder, contracted upon being bitten by some rare tsetse fly-like bug that got me while out walking the damn dog, what I didn’t know was that I was merely suffering from a bad case of BURNOUT.
| “The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.” — William Goldman
Writer’s burnout is when that thing you love, that thing that feeds your soul becomes a chore. You know you can write. You just don’t want to do it. You’re tired of that blank page. You’re tired of thinking. You’re just plain tired.
So, what did I do when I was burned out on writing?
And the part of my life that was once occupied by writing was now spent doing stupid things: I got a divorce (okay, that was a no-brainer). Gained ten pounds. Got another dog. Threw out all the scripts I’d written. Bought a high-end candle company. Threw out all my writing books. Dragged my kids all over Europe learning how to make high-end candles. Went on Tinder. Sold the candle company. Went off Tinder. And ultimately faced reality: I missed writing.
So began the long slog of “getting back into writing.” And it hasn’t been easy. One step forward, five steps back, trip and fall, roll backward down a hill, hit head, concussion, start all over again. And again, and again, and again. But, it’s worth it. And you know it.
| “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet.” — Unknown
DON’T QUIT WRITING!
Do step away from the computer… and emails, phones, texts, and social media – anything that is work-related. You’ve probably noticed that as your burnout grows, so too does your time online… YouTube, Facebook, those awesome cat videos on Instagram. This is because you are burned out.
Set boundaries for yourself and others. Take a break and use your writing time to do something productive. Read! Clean your house, bake sourdough bread, refinish the teak furniture in the backyard. Exercise! Put on Netflix, get on that bike, and ride. Aaron Sorkin says he likes to shower when he needs a fresh perspective – taking as many as eight showers in a day. (Downside of burnout? Dry, chaffed skin.)
| “Burnout exists because we’ve made rest a reward rather than a right.” — Juliet C. Obodo
Burnout happens and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t need to quit. You don’t need to get a divorce, or go on Tinder, or get a parrot, or throw out all of your high school yearbooks. And for the love of god, you don’t need to buy a candle company. Candles melt. Whereas your words, your ideas, and your beautiful, beautiful dreams are eternal. Have a rest. Have some fun. Because we want to see your beautiful dreams up on screen.
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