Dealing with Burnout by Rebecca Heflin

True confession time: I crashed and burned.

For the first time in my almost ten year writing career, I blew past my self-imposed deadline and delayed my book release. I could chalk it up to life events, and there were plenty of those, including a seriously ill family member, but the truth is I hit a wall. I burned out. Even Copy of Untitled (2).pngas I resented everything that kept me from writing, when I found a little time to write, I just . . . couldn’t. The well was dry.

The worst part is the guilt over not writing when I should be, the feeling that I have let down my readers, and the worry over my future as a writer. Now, I am dealing with a manuscript that is about 75% complete in terms of word count, but otherwise a bloody mess. And the longer I am away from it, the harder it is to get back into it and fix it.

I’ve tried everything, short of drowning my sorrows in wine. That might be next.

I’ve turned to self-help books like Becca Syme’s Dear Writer, You Need to Quit (excellent, by the way) and Jennifer Probst’s wonderful Write Naked, as well as Stephen King’s On Writing, hoping to recharge my batteries. There’s a sputter, but not enough to spark my inspiration 

I have even tried self-care. I gave myself permission to take a break, but the guilt is still there, hanging over me like a cloud of volcanic ash. Typically, the holiday season would be my break between books. The recently finished book would be out of the nest, soaring on the currents, and the next book would be incubating in the nest, while I relaxed, enjoyed the fruits of my labor, and indulged in the holiday festivities with friends and family.

Not the case this year. While I decorate the tree, shop Cyber Monday, wrap gifts, and gather with friends at holiday parties, the unfinished book is like a five hundred pound monkey on my back, weighing me down and casting a pall over everything I do.

There is no question—I will (must) finish this book. One, I’ve dedicated too much time to it to toss it. Two, it’s the second book in a four-book series that I’ve been promoting. And third, it’s a matter of pride. I have finished every book I ever started. There are no half-finished or unpublished manuscripts stashed under my bed.

I. Will. Finish. The. Damn. Book.

But first, I’ll wallow a little longer in the guilt and self-doubt. After all, a shiny new year approaches with all its promises of a fresh start. 2020 will be a better year. Right? Right? Please tell me I’m right, otherwise, where’s the corkscrew?

Have you faced burnout? How have you dealt with it?

About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
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4 Responses to Dealing with Burnout by Rebecca Heflin

  1. A very wise person once said to me, “Deadlines are meant to stimulate and motivate, not constipate or castigate.”
    I think books have their own timetable, all we need to do is joyfully surrender to them. You will finish that book, and it will be great. A bit late, perhaps, but blessedly DONE!

  2. Beth Carter says:

    I was on a roll but had some news that threw me for a gigantic loop. Due to that, I haven’t touched my story in weeks, nor my computer. Mine is a series too and I hate disappointing readers, so I feel your pain. I agree with taking a break around the holidays and double agree about the wine!! 😉 You’ve got this, friend. Happy New Year!!!

    • Hi Beth, With the holidays, this comment slipped right past me! Thanks for your kind words of support, and it’s so nice to know I’m not alone in this. ☺ Happy New Year!

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