Burnout and the Ambition Room

Good Monday, all. It’s been a work since you heard from me and let me tell you, it was one odd week. Burnout is always a looming specter when you write on the side of a full-time job, and it’s been looking over my shoulder quite a bit over the last few weeks, poking its bony finger into my shoulder every time my guard drops for even a minute. It’s not easy to guard against it, either, as writing moments are so often snatched from thin air, conjured when walking to my car or waiting in a crowded elevator. Those little moments add up in terms of word count and story development, but they also add up when it comes to burnout, too, and I reached saturation point on Friday.

This has been a difficult novel to write, and I’m well behind the schedule that I maintained for Room 3. It doesn’t help that with each passing day I feel as if the writing world itself might be leaving me behind. I can’t keep up the same pace as many other writers, and I know this about myself but I can’t seem to accept it. A part of me always insists that I could crank out more words if only I did this or did that, that the key to success is accepting “good enough” and not worrying about lingering issues like plot holes or consistent writing, but that just doesn’t seem right, and so it ends up taking far more words than usual to craft a story; City of the Dead, for instance, has easily 110,000+ words of material out there right now, but the novel itself is sitting at 83,000 words. Some of that excess is re-usable for future works (one deleted scene in particular is earmarked for Portal of the Dead), but you can see how frustration sets in.

Frustration, and doubt. I don’t know whether my problem is what fellow author Aniko Carmean refers to as “The Ambition Room”, but it does become rather easy to doubt the validity of what you’re doing in the absence of a growing readership. I’m well aware that it’s become more difficult than ever to capture that audience, but there are times that it can’t help but settle on your bones.

Anyway, that’s where I am at the moment – trying to ward off burnout and stay on target. Been here before and gotten through it, so now it’s just a matter of pulling through once again.

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  1. Hey Jonathan,
    So what comes to mind is the story of the three hundred books. Once upon a time, a writer (ok, it’s me) self-published a book and ordered three hundred copies. The three hundred copies arrived, and the writer set about figuring out how to sell them. Well, let’s see. WordPress.com is a non-commercial site, so she needed a dot org version. She got her graphic artist working on that one. Then she had to figure out shopping cart software. Then she had to get up the courage to ask a local bookstore if she could come do a presentation. Then she had to follow up and actually schedule that presentation. Then she had to learn audacity so she could add podcasts to her blog . . . and through it all the voices kept whispering: You’re not good enough. Who wants to read what you wrote? You still have 295 books sitting here staring at you. . .

    Fast forward to two years later. There might still be 200 books sitting in the studio staring at her, but having lived through fear, frustration, self-doubt, & embarrassment, this writer knows she is finally ready and able to be worthy of her books. She’s finally ready.

    I think it’s called divine timing, spiritual growth, lessons to be learned, acceptance, self-love–and I know it can’t be rushed.

  2. Jonathan, press on. Press on through the doubt. Use Write or Die and do brief sprints. Tell yourself, who cares if no one buys this? What would I rather be doing with my life than telling my stories?
    We each have a unique voice, and readers fall in love with CHARACTERS that they will follow to hell and back. I know. My characters have been.
    If you ever want a copy of my marketing book, just let me know. I’m giving it away now.
    Writing is both joy and discipline. Find the joy. Use the discipline.
    Marketing, a whole other thing. Don’t get them confused.
    ALoha and friendship from your triberrmate
    Toby Neal

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