Indie Author Tips: Avoiding Burnout

Avoiding burnout. It’s something we all have to do, no matter what industry. There is such an overwhelming pressure to perform these days that you need to be constantly hustling and producing to be “successful”. Of course, this says a hell of a lot about our concepts of what “success” is, but that’s a topic for another time.

I get it. The feeling of needing to be constantly busy to make it. As an indie author I have no one to delegate tasks to. If I don’t do it or organise it, it doesn’t get done. If this was my full time gig I can understand the fear that drives people to hustle the whole time, depending on the pay check associated with the work they produce. I’ve also managed a trade business from home that was my family’s sole source of income. Trust me when I say I get it.

But avoiding burnout is essential because it can take months to get back to producing art when you’ve crashed and burned. Whether it has affected your physical or mental health, it can be hard to pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and get back to work. And that’s if you can do it. I have a degree in photography and I haven’t picked up a camera (except to do my book covers) since I graduated, because the last year of my degree burnt me out so bad. Artistically speaking, there’s nothing I can say with a camera right now.

As fellow author Wayne Davids put it, one way to avoid burn out is to have a “realistic schedule”. This is going to look different for everyone. Some people have full time jobs they have to factor in, or family that needs caring for. I’ve talked in previous articles about Ella Barnard’s Done in Three Months program, and why I found it unrealistic for me. I’m not going to go over it again here. But programs like this are designed to take advantage of things like Amazon’s internal algorithms, and to keep your name in front of reader’s eyes. It may be suitable for a full-time writer, or perhaps someone who has a partner to financially support them, but if you’re like me and have a full-time gig and health problems, they can be unrealistic. When you feel like you’re failing it can be the start of burn out.

A realistic schedule looks at all the time you have, all the tasks that need to be achieved, and includes rest time. I think it should also be flexible and include “flex time” for when life gets in the way. Your realistic schedule might not look like anyone else’s. That successful author you admire may be churning out books month after month. But sheer volume and speed of publication is not the only answer to “success”. Trying to game algorithms is a short-term solution to your “success” based goals because the algorithms (and therefore goal posts) shift over time. What worked last year, or even last month, may not work now, or in two weeks, or at some point in the future.

Scheduling is huge for me. I try to not over schedule myself any more. Last year my goal was to write a book a month. I crashed and burned. I also had the unexpected collapse of my marriage and the need to move from my home to build a new life somewhere else. I think the key to realistic scheduling is flexibility and not setting the bar too high. Know you can write 3000 words a day? Schedule 1000. You’ll have the flexibility to get ahead (and if you don’t make it to the computer on a given day you aren’t in a position not to catch up to your goals), and the endorphins released at achieving your goal will help drive you to continue on.

Our brains work on a hormonal “reward” system where our brain releases feel good chemicals when we accomplish something. It’s part of why video games are so addictive. I read somewhere we can “hack” our bodies to be more productive by setting smaller goals. In a writer’s case this not only releases the endorphins we need to avoid burnout but also sets us up to succeed by driving us to reach the next check point quickly.

Another way to avoid burn out is self-care. I know, I know, “self-care” is such a hype word at the moment but it’s true. I believe the beauty industry and the food industry have given us warped perceptions of what self-care actually is though. For me self-care is not a new anti-aging wrinkle cream or indulgent chocolates for dessert on cheat night. Self-care for me predominantly looks like self-improvement. Yoga classes. Therapeutic treatments to manage my pain levels. Foreign language classes. Marketing and business-related courses. Things that make my life better.

Sometimes it includes cutting people and things from your life that don’t help you get to where you want to go. Like binge watching Netflix every night instead of writing those 1000 words. For you it might look entirely different. We all have different needs, and therefore different self-care methods. I’m definitely not an expert on the subject. One of my friends said quiet time is essential to his self-care. Someone else said meditation. Perhaps it’s as simple as a twenty-minute break to have a cup of tea in your garden.

Avoiding burnout is essential but there’s no one answer on how to do it. Just as there is no one right way on how to be “successful” as a writer. Last week I wrote that the only right way to write a book is to continually put one foot in front of the other and get it done. Avoiding burn out is the same. Find something that lets you relax, whether it’s one day a week off, or a break every hour for a cup of tea. The important thing is to not get so caught up in the hustle that you do not stop to recharge.


Published by bforresterbooks

Indie Author. Lover of all things supernatural, witchy and magical. Obsessed fan of The Wizard of Oz, Supernatural, the works of Tolkien and the Harry Potter Universe. You can purchase my debut novel The Kingston Chronicles at Amazon.

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