I’m not writing.
I’m not even letting myself write for the next two months.
I just launched my seventeenth book at the end of last year, so not even a month ago. While knowing the steps to take for writing and launching a book gets easier, doing the work itself does not.
So I’m forcing myself to not write for the next two months. I’m breaking writing habits and all sorts of advice—advice I’ve even given—by doing that. A lot of writing advice is wrong.
Writing a book takes energy!
Writing a book takes a lot of mental energy. So does launching it. Any time you put your writing out into the world for others to see, you are making yourself vulnerable and open to criticism. While you might be able to brush that off for something like a blog or social media post, a book is a much bigger project. It requires mental and emotional energy and a bit of yourself. I routinely see authors gutted by reviews. It’s a learned skill to not take that kind of criticism personally.
As an editor and book coach, much of the writing advice I see out there—and that my clients come dragging in as baggage—is to push through harder and faster. Write more books. Keep your butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard. Don’t edit, just keep writing.
In some circumstances and for some people, that is probably good advice. Writing burns a lot of brain energy, and your brain’s primary goal is self-preservation, not writing a book. So it will not easily or willingly use up a bunch of energy for something like writing. It is a hurdle that is not easy to overcome.
Burnout is real for writers and creatives
But I am also seeing—and feeling—a lot of burnout. Writers who are done writing. For good. Writers who give up because they can’t jump on the production bandwagon. Writers who have lost the joy of writing and feel only like a word-producing factory.
I wrote a post about writing during difficult times here.
There’s got to be a better way. We as humans, I’ve observed, struggle with balance and moderation. We tend to be all in one way or another. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m so burned out I don’t want to write again. I also don’t want to be on the book-as-widget-factory production line. Somewhere in between those two things should be the joy of writing while creating income-producing work.
Creativity needs time to work in the background
My self-enforced sabbatical is my way of letting the field of creativity lie fallow for a bit, to allow the ground to heal and restore itself.
It’s a change from my normal routine, but I think it’s a good one. I admit that when I sit down at my desk each morning, I feel a little lost without a project to work on. My first instinct after so many books is to dive in.
And yet, I am working on a project. I have a good idea of what my next book will look like, and I’m letting my creative compost pile (my term for the subconscious creative work that happens in the background) do its thing while my conscious brain rests and restores.
I’m trusting the process. And I’m trusting myself as a creative. I know what I need, and I’m choosing to give it to myself.
And that might be the best advice of all.