Note: This has been previously published on YourBookWritingCoach.com
Friday. 9:30 a.m.
Jagged Edge’s “Tip of My Tongue” pumps through my MacBook speakers for the fifth time this morning. I’ve been up since 4 a.m. trying to put the finishing touches on this chapter of my book.
It’s a sexy non-fiction book, self-help. I’m not revealing the title but it’s about pleasing your man in bed. I published a previous version of this very same book about a year ago, and to date have made about $5k in sales - without any marketing whatsoever.
Despite this wonderful fact, I know that, truthfully, $5k is only the tip of the iceberg when we’re discussing book sales. An established title with great reviews can make over $1 million dollars time after time. Heck, no-name authors make over a million bucks with books sold for 99 cents – and that’s making 35 cents per book on Amazon Kindle’s publishing platform. I’ve read stories.
This alone motivates me to push through five rotations of the same iTunes playlist without fail. However, I’m more and more easily distracted by everything right now. My cat, Buddy, sticking his paws irreverently into the kitchen chair next to me for attention. The loud ass cab driver honking outside in his ’96 Lincoln to alert whoever he’s there for to hurry up. Everything is a distraction.
And of course, the screen. This growing mass of words on the screen, this book I’m planning to write and publish in 90 days or less, it’s mocking my intelligence now. This book needs to write itself; usually, that’s what famous writers say happens, right? That the words just flow?
I glare at the screen. The screen glares back.
As I consider all of the badly written books already published, via Amazon’s Kindle or in Barnes & Noble, I’m wondering what the hell do these writers know about executing a book from start to print and in stores that makes the process come to a tangible end for them? Because I’m stuck. Frustrated. And ready to quit.
I’m truly burned the fuck out.
An Author’s Experience of Book Writing Burnout
Writing a book is extremely rewarding. No matter what the topic or the format, nothing tops knowing that you’ve made your mark in the world accomplishing something you’ve wanted to do for so long: Publish a book.
Nevertheless, writing a book can be a stressful experience. You’re used to writing essays and term papers. You might even have experience publishing a few blog posts or articles online for an indie mag or your own site. Yet while these have all helped you hone your voice, none of them are books.
Blogs are pretty small – 750 words or less, usually way less. Articles are anywhere from 500 – 3500 words, depending on the topic and the audience.
Books? Sheesh. You’re easily talking at least 35 to 85 thousand words or more. (How well you deliver the content and how much content you decide to cover is the most important factor of all; this supercedes limiting yourself to a specific word count.)
Every Writer Experiences Burnout
As you’re writing, burnout periods definitely occur, especially when you’re writing a book. Burnout often occurs as a result of going hard when you’re writing your book without giving yourself proper recovery periods. Everyone gets burned out at some point – or at least, gets warnings that they’re close to burnout:
- Waning energy that depletes earlier and faster as each day passes
- Writing is less clear and structured, becomes more lengthy and vague
- Increased desire to toss your laptop across room
- Physical tension, especially in your dominant (writing/typing) shoulder
- Feeling hopeless about finishing your book on time
- Regret and exasperation that you decided to do this in the first place
This list isn’t exhaustive; can go on forever. Burnout symptoms are different for every writer, so just because you can’t determine whether or not you have burnout based on how your experience compares doesn’t mean you may not be suffering from it.
Manage Burnout and Finish Your Book
1. Remember your mission. Producing my book was an act of sexual transmutation. My book was an experiment in determining my capability of self-publishing without the need for a large publishing company or literary agent’s support. Lastly, my book was a rebuke to conformity. A rebellious rejection of the long-held belief I needed to “stick to the script” in order to succeed. Now, almost 365 days later, I get paid each and every day for this shamelessly successful act of rebellion I produced just to “prove a [silent but effective] point.”
What motivated you to start writing your book? Does accomplishing this motivate you to finish what you started? What false doctrines are you rejecting by writing and publishing your book and making it successful?
2. Schedule yourself accordingly. I used to sit in Panera Bread and work all day, several days out of the week. I was notorious for sitting in the same place for hours at a time, neglecting human necessities – food, water, bathroom, fresh air - as a means of trying to “get shit done” faster.
I thought it was effective. It wasn’t.
As hours flew by, productivity waned and I became increasingly irritable. Eventually, I realized I needed a more effective schedule – with a time limit. Now I rarely spend more than 4 hours at Panera.
Develop a consistent time limit for writing. Every so often, say, every 30 minutes, take a 5 minute break. Or every 2 hours, a 20 minute break. Get up and stretch. Check the mail. Use the restroom. You’ll refresh your eyes, give your lungs some new air and empty your bladder (avoiding those nasty UTIs and bitter cranberry juice shots).
3. Move with your natural rhythms. Queens of the Stone Age sang, “I can go with the flow.”
Go with the flow.
That’s what I did.
So should you.
Finding time to write a book also means knowing when to write. When do you write best? When are your energy and focus at their peak? Schedule at least 30 minutes of writing during your peak performance period. It will increase the effectiveness of your writing, ease your burnout and improve the clarity of your message.