For the first time in my life, I experienced what it is to be completely burnt out. I should have seen it coming. The last fifteen months had been particularly busy for me with nine novella contracts, a new grandson and another back surgery. Never one to back away from a challenge, I faced it head on—and ended up exhausted and so sick that I had to take a few months off to recover.
Here are a few ways to avoid making my mistakes:
There’s a reason God rested on the seventh day. He wasn’t tired, but He wanted to be an example to His creation. He knew our bodies and minds needed rest. But there are those of us who think rest is for other people. We feel lazy. Personally, I’m like Tigger the tiger, always bouncing around with a daily to-do list as long as your arm.
What I’ve learned over the past four months is that rest makes you more productive. So stop—don’t kill yourself trying to get everything done. It will still be there tomorrow.
A few years ago, Danny and I came up with this great idea of the dream vacation. We would rent a condo on the beach and spend hours just lounging reading. Three years ago, we finally decided to do it. BEST VACATION EVER! I read nine books that week! When we came home, I was pumped to write again. Why? Because while I was enjoying the books, my brain had a chance to really soak in the writing. It made me a better writer!
So read as much as you can! Don’t delegate it to your yearly vacation but read every day. Try another genre instead of the one you write. And don’t get bogged down in critiquing the writing—just savor the experience. Your body and mind (as well as your writing) will thank you!
Learn to use the word ‘No’
Over the years, I’ve preached to many writers about the art of saying no. It’s a word we writers should use frequently if we want to get and stay published.
But as I learned the hard way, you don’t have to say yes to every writing opportunity offered to you. As I mentioned before, I had nine novellas contracted over the period of fifteen months. Think about that for a moment—nine different sets of characters with different motivations and conflicts in nine different time periods.
What was I thinking?
Probably that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be published (and the checks helped too!) I mean there are others that would jump at the chance to be published so I had to take the contract, right?
I don’t know. By the time I wrote the last contracted novella, I could hardly remember what I wrote. Did my characters have a strong motivation and conflict? Did the story even make sense? By the grace of God, it did. In fact, my editors stayed in stitches reading it. (Remember, I was punch-drunk, I was so tired.) It became my first historical comedy.
But I learned my lesson. I backed out of three more commitments due over the next year, and I’m fine with that.
Plan out your day
I’m big on using planners—the one that I use is geared for writers. But the one thing about using a planner is you see all the things you don’t get done. So if you’re me, you spend your day trying to play catch up or worse still, trying to do two things at one time.
Give yourself a break! Books aren’t written in a day! Don’t fill up your schedule with so many things, you have no hope of completing them. Delegate. Let others help you. When our girls were younger, they would have to tie my shoes because of my back problems. When people asked why I let them do that, I told them they were practicing their gift of service. If people want to help you, don’t steal that blessing from them. LET THEM HELP YOU!
It took me a few months to get back to writing again, but now, I go at it with a renewed sense of purpose. I don’t beat myself up for what I couldn’t accomplish but rather celebrate what I do get done. I’m in a better place, one that honors God.
You can’t ask for better than that.
A multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Barbour, Patty Smith Hall lives in North Georgia with her husband of 35 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, her son-in-love and a grandboy who has her wrapped around his tiny finger. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or working in her garden. Visit her at https://www.pattysmithhall.com.