Like me. In the spring, I burned out. I’d planned to break the quarter-million-words mark, even hoping to reach half-a-million. I’d managed 235 000 the year before, in basically six months, I was writing at speed, planning a Kickstarter for my series, bright future ahead. And then, BAM!
I didn’t write for six months. Not a word.
Oh, I could stagger along at work, producing half-decent copy. I forced myself to type up a couple of blog posts. All of it slow and painful. None of it the type of writing that I counted as capital-R, capital-W Real Writing.
That, I couldn’t do.
Not only because I suffered from all the symptoms of burnout and stress, like confusion, exhaustion, short-term memory loss, and all the other things that make life worse, but also because I had a problem.
I’d hit the wall, but I couldn’t let go of the vision that put me there. In my mind, I was a highly productive writer. Someone who not only could, but should, write half-a-million words in a year.
That wasn’t my reality any longer.
It took me six months to get to the point where I didn’t get dizzy just from looking at a page of text. More importantly, it took me six months to go from the idea that a minimum productive day was 1000 words.
My mind still looks at that sentence and thinks that 1000 words isn’t that much.
I’m seeing my best days in the pre-crash times, the ones where I’d write a thousand words in half-an-hour (yes, that’s happened, more than once – on good days). I was comparing myself to the me that was on top of my game, that could do things that even a year earlier, I’d have been amazed at.
I wasn’t comparing myself to the reality I was living in, where I hadn’t written for months.
Where a thousand words wasn’t a minimum but a dream, where a word was a struggle and a single sentence unachievable.
It took me a long time to change that, to realize that I couldn’t set a goal of “write for half-an-hour” but had to satisfy myself with “write for a minute”.
And I had to realize something else. That a minute was a win.
And that I had to take my wins wherever I could.
Still, I’m lucky. I’ve worked with people who have suffered from long-term burnout. People who’ve spent their days and years struggling to get out of bed, to get dressed, to get the motivation and energy to eat breakfast.
I’m lucky that all I suffered was some memory loss and anxiety. That I didn’t lose my ability to function.
But you don’t see that when you keep looking back at productive, successful you. You only see that when you manage to redefine your wins, to see those single minutes of writing as the tiny sparks that can red-light your life.
Because that’s what wins are. Fire. Fuel. Energy.
Addictive energy, granted, one that can drag you down and burn you out, but energy none the less.
And once you redefine what constitutes a win for you, what makes a good day for you, you can start being kind to yourself, and start that long, slow climb back to the heights.
In 2022, I will write for 1 minute every day. No matter how tired I am, no matter if it’s in the middle of the night, I will start up the computer, and write for 1 minute. That’s all I’ll need to do – write for 1 minute.
Every month, I will do the same challenge, to write for 1 minute day.
Every week, I will do the same challenge, to write for 1 minute each day.
If I fail the year, I will still succeed most months.
If I fail the month, I will still succeed most weeks.
If I fail the week, I will still succeed most of the days.
One minute, failing forward, every day!
Luck and Persistence!