Finding Balance in my Writing Life
by Kathy Coatney
April 14, 2022
Do I ever shut down as a writer?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself often lately. Six months ago my answer would have been rarely. I always had something writer related consuming my thoughts, much like the proverbial hamster on a wheel. And even when I got away from physical writing, guilt descended. It constantly nagged at me with what I call the “I shoulds.” I should write, start/finish another book, do edits, promotion, take classes, etc. The list of I shoulds was endless and growing.
A recent podcast by the Happiness Lab, Burnout and How to Avoid it, made me think about this even more. Some takeaways from the podcast were:
Three signs of burnout:
- Reduced sense of worthiness—feeling like you’re at the end of your rope.
Burnout, it said, is more than just tiredness. It’s chronic exhaustion, and even with a break from the job, exhaustion returns. People suffering from burnout will also be irrationally angry and feel reduced personal accomplishment.
The podcast also suggested these books:
- Burnout: The Cost of Caring by Christine Maslach
- The End of Burnout by Jonathan Malesic
The podcast also said our culture highly values work—it’s a badge of honor. This really resonated with me. Who am I if I’m not a writer?
I see more and more writers on the verge of burnout. You write a good book, pay for a quality cover, editor, and then it doesn’t sell enough to cover expenses. So, what’s the next option? Write another book, and another, and another.
Been there, done that, and in the aftermath, I have to ask myself, did my quality falter in the rush to write another book? Also, I have no downtime to generate fresh ideas, and worse, no me time, no family time.
What happens if I continue at that pace? Burnout.
So, how do I prevent burnout?
I can only answer what worked for me. I’m currently working on my business plan for 2022 (yes, I’m late). I have cut back on my writing schedule, and I’m looking at what I can afford to hire out. I have penciled in me time that includes one guilt free day a week where I do whatever I please—even if it’s vegging on the couch watching TV or reading. I have given myself plenty of time to make deadlines. I make time every day for exercise as I consider this crucial time for not only my physical health, but mentally I need it to stay sharp and fresh with my writing.
I still struggle with the feeling that I should do more where my writing is concerned; but it is something I will keep working on and remind myself that many, many people work eight to five jobs where they clock out and they’re finished for the day. I need to learn to do that, too.
No one on their deathbed said they wished they’d worked harder—words to live by.
Kathy Coatney has spent long hours behind the lens of a camera, wading through cow manure, rice paddies and orchards over her twenty-year career as a photojournalist specializing in agriculture. Kathy also loves—and writes—deeply emotional, small-town contemporary romance. Ironically, her books carry an agriculture thread in them, some more than others. Please note Kathy used to write these books under Kate Curran, but now writes all her books under Kathy Coatney. Kathy also writes a series of nonfiction children’s books, From the Farm to the Table and Dad’s Girls. You can learn more about Kathy at her website.