It’s the middle of summer here in the northern half of the planet, and the third coast has no scarcity of surf, sand, woodlands, and all the amazing things that make life, well… amazing. Unfortunately, I’m a full time employee of a company whose busiest times of year are the summer fair/festival season and (you may have guessed it) Christmas. And if you’ve read me at all in the past three years, you’ve heard my lamentations regarding my sleeping arrangements, housed as I am with a 90-year-old dementia patient, a toddler, his working and stressed out parental units, my over-worked hub (see parent with dementia), oh and now the spare to the Boehm fortune is dating. And you’re murmering about writer stuff? PU-LEASE!
Truth is, I get it. Even if you do what you love to do as often as you can, relationships—all relationships—ebb and flow. We humans need periods of rest, even from the things we love, and if we don’t give ourselves permission (or more often, life itself gets us over committed) we burn out. And then? Everything is a drain on our spirits.
There is a person in my life who is dear to me, who even at the passionate beginnings of her career as entrepreneur/editor/author is experiencing a bit of burn out. She would deny it, selfless and committed as she is, but I see it. And even though my own needs for validation rise up because, well… she gets me like no one else does, the voice of experience, of wisdom, and of empathy today is a little bit louder.
Dear One, I get it. I know where you are. Surrounded by the very thing you’ve fought and cried for and right now? You fight the urge to get up and walk away. You force yourself to digest one more paragraph. One more page. And it’s like? It’s like… being dipped in acid. So move closer to the screen while I whisper an itty bitty exhortation: it’s okay to walk away.
Burn out is a real thing and requires real attention. It’s not like powering through a bout of boredom or a pesky bit of writers interference (because writer’s block is a lie). Burn out is a killer. Just like a fire out of control, it sucks up all the fodder in the room, chokes the light, and destroys the oxygen. And it will take your creator soul with it.
So give yourself permission to get up from the desk, put the project down, and walk away. And if you are able to do so, don’t sit back down until you’re itchy and twitchy and bursting at the seams with ideas and thoughts. If you’re overcommitted in the rest of your life as I am, put a time limit on your hiatus. Maybe you just need to go get a waffle cone full of chocolate studded, caramel drizzled, hard serve ice cream. Or maybe you need to pack a change of clothes and indulge yourself with a road trip. Or maybe you just need to curl up with your resident feline/child/underappreciated spouse and binge watch something on Netflix.
Whatever the escape route, take it and don’t apologize. Unlike powering through, stopping to breathe deeply is the best fix I know for burn out.
My friend will probably struggle with this concept. Even her “down time” is planned to the nanosecond, because she is a dynamo. I’m a hot mess, and I struggle with it. But dear ones, if we do not learn to give ourselves the break we would never deny those around us, we will come to resent the very thing for which we are so passionate.
Your “gift” should not be your “burden.”
A special thank you to Kristina and Rani for trusting me with your writer hearts these past few weeks. If I’ve imparted nothing else, I leave you with this: You are deeply loved and treasured. Now go take over the world!
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor