I hate it when bloggers ghost and then turn up weeks (or four months) later like, “Hey, I’m alive. I hope you are too.” I mean, where have you been? I had problems to solve. And I missed you.
On the other hand…Hey. I’m alive. And I hope you are too.
(This is what I get for being a Judgy McJudgerson.)
So I’m in a cafe on my laptop. It’s time to write this blog post, finally, and after so many false starts I decide to just tell it like it is.
You haven’t heard from me since February (that’s a long time in blog world!). If you emailed me, I answered. If you left a comment, I replied. Just no blog posts. But I’ve been thinking about you.
And, yes, I’ve been writing. (I hope you have too!)
Since we write about what ails us (or what we’re obsessed with), you may have spotted this coming when I wrote those tips to survive blogger paralysis. That’s because I mine my personal writing challenges for inspiration when it’s time to help you with yours.
My thinking is, if I struggle with something in my writing, maybe you do too. But now I think it really means my blog is just a running chronicle of everything that’s wrong with mine.
Ever notice it’s easier to spot solutions to other people’s problems than it is your own? Turns out, giving yourself great advice is as easy as talking about your problem in the third person. It makes sense. When I research, brainstorm, and share solutions you could use to overcome whatever writing challenge I’m having that day, that’s often all it takes to solve the challenge for me too.
Not this time. Because stage fright was just a symptom of the deeper issue. And I ignored the signs so long, it was long after my last blog post that I realized what happened: I was burnt out.
The symptoms of burnout are tough to recognize when you’re in the middle of it. And it’s easy to burn out when you work for yourself. Long hours under a perfectionist boss (yes, I mean me) can kill anyone’s enthusiasm.
After two and a half years writing a blog post or three a week (of 1200-1500 words each!) and too many other projects, I needed more than a break. I needed an intervention.
You don’t have to learn the hard way. So here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout (before it eats your writing).
#1 Do Something That Isn’t Writing (Or Whatever It Is You Do for Work). My first clue that I desperately needed something (anything) outside of work was how resistant I was to the idea of doing something with my time that wasn’t work (because goals!). I worked and pushed when what I needed was more Fun and Interesting. So if you’re like me and instead of taking a break when you need one you crack the whip instead, it’s probably time to do something you enjoy. Because work isn’t everything, even when that work is writing.
#2 Make New Friends. Working for yourself comes with its own brand of loneliness. And as an INTJ, making friends doesn’t always come naturally to me. But women entrepreneurs (including writers and bloggers) can make friends easier if they sign up on friend matchmaking sites like this one. It felt weird to sign up for a service like this at first. But women entrepreneurs are already weird, so why quibble now? Especially when a pre-made service solves that whole Making Friends problem so efficiently 😉
#3 Trust The Universe (Hear Me Out Before You Roll Your Eyes). No matter how intricate my career strategy, how thorough my research, or how hard I work—a lot of “making it” (whatever that means to you) is up to chance. All I control is how well I treat my body during and how often I show up to work. The rest is up to the universe. So why not take a page out of those Notes from the Universe and decide to trust it? I’ve found lately that the less I resist, the easier it is to find the right path. And sometimes things work out better when you don’t try so hard.
#4 Reality-Check Your Ambitions. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim high (definitely aim high!). But if you’re comparing yourself to people who’ve been doing what you’re doing for longer than you have, maybe it’s time to reassess. My email list may not approach the colossal impressiveness that is Ramit Sethi’s. My blog posts may not sparkle with the dry wit of Penelope Trunk. But when I remind myself I’m a newbie compared to them, it’s easier to be okay with where I am now. And to have fun with it again.
#5 Change Direction. One of the great things about being a blogger or writer is you can write whatever you want. That may mean lost readers when you take your blog in a new direction, but the alternative is to feel stuck in patterns that don’t work for you anymore. Maybe I’m bored with the format I created for myself. Maybe I’m afraid I’ll lose you if I talk about more than writing. Maybe I’m just not sure which direction I want to go next. Either way, I’m ready to accept the uncertainty and forge ahead anyway. If other people can do it, you and I can too.
Have you experienced burnout? How did you get though it? Share your insight in the comments.