The On-Fire/Burnout Cycle of a Writer

black framed blue sunglasses on orange textile

Photo by Oleg Magni on

Summer is my hyperactive period for creative productivity. The sun and warmth fuel me, like I’m bathing in endorphins that my body synthesizes into pure motivation. This energy rush spurred me to take on multiple writing projects this past season, most of which I’ve completed or am in the process of wrapping up. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last several months in my pursuit of the title Grand Authoress Supreme. Or, you know, published author.

What exactly have I done this past season, I’m pretending you asked? Well, let me tell you! (humblebrag starts in 3, 2, 1…)

I’ve been querying my middle grade superhero novel—Colossa and the Big Kids—to agents and am prepping it for an online pitching contest later this month. I wrote, submitted, and finished final edits for a short story selected for a beach-based anthology contest. I’ve been shopping around three more short stories to online journals (sold one!), and recently finished revisions to a fifth story I submitted to a campy horror anthology (wish me luck!) I’m spearheading the third anthology series for my local writing critique group and finished the first draft on my own story for that book. I’ve also just started a rough draft for another short story anthology about cats and dogs. I’ve been producing a monthly series for my column on Luna Station Quarterly and blogging weekly on my website.

on fire







And, I’m about burnt out.

Okay, draw up a chair for some rare, heartfelt truthy-truth time. I love being busy. I thrive on deadlines and submissions and edits and results, because the busier I am, the more relevant I feel inside my own small world. I enjoy that feeling of being the go-getter. The go-to person. The go-with-the-flow-because-she’s-creating-the-waves type person. That’s why I have a tendency to overload my plate with more than I can handle. When I somehow amazingly pull it off and handle it all, I experience this incredible feeling of accomplishment that’s both inherent and vital to this Virgo Gryffindor. It’s like snorting pure endorphins.

photography of trees covered with snow

Photo by Radu Andrei Razvan on

But then comes the crash. The burnout. The come-down. Thankfully, it’s a slow ride down the hill, because I still have a handful of projects I need to wrap up before the doldrums of winter hit. As you might expect, the snowy season is the polar opposite for me to the endorphin-fest of summer. Like many people, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which means I’m going to slow down whether I want to or not. As much as I don’t look forward to the cold weather, I am looking forward to the break. Admittedly, that break doesn’t mean a complete work stoppage. I still have writerly tasks I wish to accomplish, just fewer of them.

For starters, I plan to institute a temporary personal moratorium on writing any new short stories. I’ll reduce my blog posts from weekly to two or three times per month. The writing group anthology will be in the editorial phase by December, which requires my mechanical writing brain rather than my full-fledged creative one. I may even send my middle grade novel to an editor (if it’s not selected for the pitching contest,) and let them hack away at it for a month or two before picking it back up in 2020 for recommended revisions and querying again.


This is a long-haul project.

The lightened authorial load also means I’ll have more time to tackle non-writing projects that have been building up. My youngest daughter’s dollhouse has claimed half of our dining table real estate since mid-summer as I s-l-o-w-l-y glue on roof shingles. It’s only half done. I have a wood wind spinner that I tasked same daughter this summer with repainting from white with fading butterflies to a rainbow Pride motif. It’s also only half done. And I have three to four boxes stuffed with memorabilia for all three of my kiddos that are destined for memory scrapbooks. Zero percent of that project is done. *sigh*

Obviously, winter is NOT going to be a season of complete slothing and do-nothingness, but it WILL be a break from the hyper-creative mode I push myself into during the spring and summer months.

I wrote last month about the importance of consistency for Writers, but I also believe that writing involves more than just putting words on a page every day. All of us need periodic vacations from constant “write, write, write” in order to replenish our creativity wells. What’s more, the non-writing activities we engage in can restore our love for life outside of the narrow confines of our stories, and dare I say, remind us there IS life outside the worlds we build in our books.

Taking breaks help heal the symptoms of burnout or avoid writer’s burnout altogether. When we are back to stonger, healthier, and whole, that gives us the energy to light it up and set ourselves ON FIRE once more.

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