I was never exactly burned out. Well, it can’t be burn out, can it, when you still want to write, and still have fun writing? When you find yourself reading something and going “oh, I could write this take off that…”
But about six years ago, I became badly scorched, you know, like food at the bottom of the pot, when you forget to stir.
I was stirring of course. Well, at least I was going around in circles and not getting much done.
I think what capped it was exactly six years ago, the year of the six books and homeschooling the kid. I wanted to write. I knew what to write. But it just wasn’t making its way from the head to the page.
Of course, since then I’ve written a lot of other things, including much fantasy and science fiction.
But I seem to fall back into the scorch at the slightest provocation. And provocations can be really slight – like my getting sick for a while; getting worried about something else; having a series of medical tests (even though they’re routine); worrying about one of the kids’ health.
Just that and I get thrown back into “the scorch” where I’m not exactly burned out, but nothing much is getting done either.
Symptoms of the scorch include: feeling like I simply don’t have the strength to write, as though writing were a stone too heavy for my ability to lift. Not being able to read anything new. Not even something I really want to read. It would require my emotions to engage and I can’t do that, so instead I re-read stuff I read as a kid, like Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. (Not to read would actually be impossible.) Not getting much done in anything else, either, because I keep wandering off in the middle of doing something like laundry, having completely forgotten what I was going to do next.
The scorch is a delicate condition and I’m not sure it has a cure, as such.
Well, I’m sure if I spent a month by the pool, drinking funny drinks… I’d get awfully sick. But that’s besides the point. I’m sure if I had the means and ability to take a vacation for a month or two, or if I were in the position to not worry about money ever for the rest of my life, I could eventually recover.
And, you know, if pigs had wings they could fly.
So the scorch has become a condition I manage.
Things that help manage it:
Take the day off. Take a nap. Play with the cats.
Go for a long walk.
Find something in a genre I’d never write and read it.
If all else fails, take two weeks off and paint a room.
Sometimes all of those fail, and there’s nothing for it, but to do them all over again.
You see, the scorch is a condition that is brought on by anxiety. When it first occurred I was very much afraid of not being able to keep my obligations, and that my career would come to an end, because the books wouldn’t be good and—
Well, that’s gone. The career can’t come to an end, because I have indie. But there’s all the series I started because of the publishing business being the way it was. They all have fans and I can feel them breathing down my neck for the next book.
And yet, it’s not the end of the world. No one can fire me but me.
The problem is that the dinosaur brain doesn’t know that. The dinosaur brain is still very scared and when the pressure gets too great it decides it’s all about to fall apart.
And then you start smelling the scorch.
And it’s time to take a long walk, and a deep breath.
Which is what I’m about to do now.
And my writing column is up at PJM (it goes up every Tuesday afternoon.) Straighten Up and Write Right.