by Casey Herringshaw
Every writer, at some point, during their novel-creation career will most likely experience some period of burnout. It creeps up like a naughty third-wheel cousin and steals all enthusiasm you might have cultivated for this story. It often doesn’t matter how much you love a story or the characters, sometimes it’s all the emotional energy we pour into these books and don’t take enough time to feed ourselves.
You can absolutely love the story you’re working on, but if the emotional connection has been tapped, it can be all types of discouraging to try and pick that book back up and re-write, edit, repeat. I definitely think there are ways of avoiding burnout from the very beginning, but sometimes we don’t realize we’ve slipped down the slippery slope until we’re tumbling to the bottom of the ravine. To look clear back to the top of the cliff we tumbled off can be just as frightening as the ride down, the difference is we’re able to see the handholds on the climb back out.
At some point during burnout, depending on whether you’ve got a deadline or you don’t, you have to press through and finish the project and sometimes this is the quickest alternative to scaling the climb. Other times, it’s not that easy: when the very thought of turning on the computer brings you to tears. When the encouragement from friends isn’t enough anymore to make you believe that your story and the hours you’ve invested is even forth it anymore. When casual acquaintances ask how you’re writing is going and for the first time you have to answer: it’s not.
Pressing through is great. But it’s not everything. It can often lead to a quicker and faster fall the next time around. What I’m learning during my latest course of burnout? Prayer is everything. A heart-rending, one-on-one cry to God, asking Him if this is really where He wants me to be. Because maybe it’s not, but I don’t want it to be me throwing in the towel. I want clear direction from my Heavenly Father. He put me on this writing road for a reason. Maybe now is the time to find out what that reason is.
He put you on this writing road for a reason and I don’t necessarily know where you are in your journey. Maybe you’ve hit the burnout ravine or maybe you’re climbing back out of it, but take heart in this, my friend…there is nothing wrong with being where you’re at. It doesn’t matter how deep the pit or how far and how hard you’ve fallen. All that matters is what are you going to do with it? God has a purpose and a place for that story you’re telling and maybe it’s just to show how great He is, right here in this moment.
So keep on keeping on. Burnout is just a word. It’s not a destination. Keep praying!
Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town with more cows than people. Casey is a member of ACFW and is currently serving as Carol Awards Coordinator. You can connect with her through her blogs, Writing for Christ and The Writer’s Alley.