The Journal: Yesterday and Thoughts on Burnout

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Yesterday and Thoughts on Burnout
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“I may never become a millionaire through my writing, but it makes me richer every time I put fingers to keyboard.” Adela Crandell Durkee

Topic: Yesterday and Thoughts on Burnout

No writing yesterday as it turned out. I did a few chores, went to the grocery and the post office, and on my return my little girl cat wanted me to spend some time with her. So I did.

Writing fiction is important, but it isn’t all-important. The baby asks very little of me, so she generally gets what she wants. And that’s perfectly fine.

I also spent some time in reflection. Not the navel-gazing “What’s the purpose of life?” stuff, but more a series of small epiphanies.

I often take cues from DWS. Often, but not always, if he starts a new challenge, I start a new challenge. Often, but not always, if he sets a particular goal, I set a similar goal.

Two days ago, during a video I watched in the Licensing Transition class, Dean mentioned he was about to ramp-up his fiction writing production again. (After all, a writer who isn’t writing isn’t really a writer.) That was after his having endured a major life roll for the past year-plus with Kris’ illness, selling off part of their business, their move to Las Vegas, and rebooting the philosophy and structure of their company from publishing to licensing.

So my first thought was maybe I should ramp-up my fiction writing production too.

Then I remembered I was happily surprised to learn during an audit of my productivity spreadsheet that I’d written 10 novels this year instead of 8 as I had thought. So pretty much par for the course. And that was with me basically taking 3 months off.

So I don’t need to ramp-up my production. When I’m writing, my production seems to take care of itself.

But “when I’m writing.” That’s the key.

My stalled Blackwell Ops 7 novel was a short novel at only 33,000 words. It took only 20 writing days. (The longest novel I’ve ever written took only 32, if I remember right.) Yet the first writing day of that novel was August 7 and the twentieth writing day was December 1.

If you’re counting, that’s 116 calendar days, during 96 of which I didn’t write fiction. To put it into perspective, at an average of even 2,000 words per day, that’s 192,000 words of fiction. At my old average of 3,000 words per day, it’s 288,000 words.

Water under the bridge. You can’t get it back, so no reason to dwell on it.

Still, I wondered how many more novels I might have turned out on the year had I actually written during those 3 months. When that novel stalled, why didn’t I just change gears and write a different novel? Or two or three? After all, I’ve done so before.

While writing the Wes Crowley series, I let one novel languish at about the midway point and wrote and published three other novels in other, unrelated genres before returning to it.

So I chastised myself for being so lax. Why hadn’t I continued to write during those 3 months? If I had, I probably would have written more novels than there are months in the year. For the first time ever. Dang it. (grin)

But for whatever reason, I didn’t write other novels during the interim, though I did manage to pound out three short stories. And the reason came to me:

When I stopped writing Blackwell Ops 7, I was in the midst of a temporary burnout. At the time, I thought maybe I was burned out on the Blackwell Ops series, but that couldn’t be it. Blackwell Ops has endless possibilities.

No, I was burned out on writing fiction, period.

I’d been going hot and heavy for almost 6 years, writing fiction pretty much every day, not to mention maintaining this Journal, my weekly blog, and other nonfiction writing projects. As a result, although the BO7 novel was running along fine, I lost interest for awhile.

When burnout happens, there’s no real choice but to take some time off and ride it out. And from what I can tell, all long-term writers experience it at one time or another. The key to riding it out, I believe, is to be self-confident. To trust that the words haven’t left you; they just need a respite.

Having recognized that probable burnout with 20/20 hindsight (and having started a new novel), I now feel like I’m past it.

So my takeaways?

1. As I mentioned above, I don’t need to ramp-up my production. When I’m writing, my production seems to take care of itself, so…

2. I need to ramp-up my discipline, an endeavor in which I am already happily engaged. For one thing, I will continue to stick doggedly to Heinlein’s Rules, which are my core and my solid foundation. But I hereby give notice that I’m amending Rule 2. For me, it now reads, “You must finish what you write, but you don’t have to finish it Right Now. You can write something else, then come back and finish it later.” And finally…

3. I’ll try not to be blindsided again by temporary burnout. That is, I’ll try to recognize it when it happens, take the steps necessary to get through it, and return with a fresh mind.

As a gentle reminder, burnout is not the same as laziness or laxity or a shift in priorities. It isn’t a conscious decision to just not show up for work, or the result of dealing with a life roll or succumbing to fear.

It’s more of a frozen inability to work, a sense that you are suddenly and inexplicably indifferent about something you’ve loved doing your entire life.

On top of everything else, I have a twitchy feeling deep inside that I might embark on a short-story writing frenzy soon. I keep noticing titles of novels I’ve written and thinking of all the untold stories that are not included in those novels. My creative subconscious keeps saying, “Hey, what about this over here?”

We’ll see what comes of that. For now, back to my WIP. Naturally, I’d rather finish it and be done with it before moving on to the next thing. But the key phrase is “I’d rather” instead of “I must.” For me, that’s a major shift in thinking.

I hope something in this introspection helps with your own writing.

Today, I finally had a good day of writing with just under 4,000 words.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Knowing When You’re Ready to Submit…” at This is chock full of wisdom, delivered in gems like the Quote of the Day above. (But notice the implied bias of the title even though Mr. Durkee is self-published. Proponents of tradpub never quit.)

See “Gartner’s Predictions For Retailers…” at Especially see PG’s take afterward.

See “Business Musings: Habits (A Process Blog)” at

See “When a Writing Break Turns Into a New Novel: J.T. Ellison” at

See “Control Or Creativity?” at

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 3818
Nonfiction words today…………… 1190 (Journal)

Writing of Jonah Peach (formerly Ice Cream, tentative title)
Brought forward…… 4416 words

Day 1…… 1047 words. Total words to date…… 5463
Day 2…… 2254 words. Total words to date…… 7717
Day 3…… 1196 words. Total words to date…… 8913
Day 4…… 2972 words. Total words to date…… 11885
Day 5…… 1592 words. Total words to date…… 13477
Day 6…… 2705 words. Total words to date…… 16182
Day 7…… 1905 words. Total words to date…… 18087
Day 8…… 3818 words. Total words to date…… 21905

Total fiction words for the month……… 19341
Total fiction words for the year………… 416906
Total nonfiction words for the month… 9180
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 312440
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 729346

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 10
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 44
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 197
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31