Sunday, January 31, 2016

Triumph After the Pain: Why I took a Break From Writing

I found myself struggling to write--to put pen to paper, to put fingers to keys. There was a kind of fear that wasn't there before. And it scared me.

I'm aware that it's in large part due to burnout. I was creatively exhausted. Depleted. Empty. And extremely frazzled.

Crimson Earth was a huge project. The number of hours committed and the emotional toll it took on me, officially made it the hardest project I've ever accomplished. Maybe if I hadn't been in the midst of busy season at work, and maybe if I hadn't been planning a wedding, then maybe it would have been easier. There were times when I felt like I was drowning, and I would plaster a fragile smile on my face, absolutely determined to finish the f*cking book.

Looking back at it now, those months felt like a dream.

Crimson Earth is done. It's out there for the world to devour. There was a brief moment during the holidays where I wanted to ride that momentum--the euphoric waves of having written and published my second book. I was eager to start on another story that had been clamoring for my attention. But every time I sat down to collect my thoughts it felt as if the strings tethering my heart were suddenly clipped, and a steel wall would come down, shutting away any and all inspiration.

That feeling was terror.

I wasn't ready to endure that kind of pain again.

I'm so very proud of the sequel. Every time I think of the plot and the subplots, a bubble of elation and glory fills me. Because I did it. I really, really did it. I wrote and published a second book. And I love every page: The harrowing journey taken by Aeva, the beauty of Ruven's pain, Pique's bravery, and Karth's glimmering hope. It was a curse-of-a-challenge, and one that definitely helped me grow as a writer.

But like a child who's touched a blazing stove, I remember, the agony of the heat. I recall it too vividly--the sleepless nights, the muscle spasms triggered by anxiety; holding my breath as I counted and recounted how many hours a week I could realistically devote to writing. There was never enough time in the day, and the chilly nights were nothing more than a tease.

There were good moments in those months. Most notably, was the sharp, untouchable focus. A kind of intensity that I'd never experienced before. I would lose myself in the work and it was a blissful kind of purgatory. In those moments I was determined, passionate, and driven.

I'm almost over this slump. I know this because I have finally written and posted this blog!

I was so trapped in my fear that I couldn't get myself to write a simple, honest post. I felt like I had no words. Nothing meaningful to say, and any effort was already more than I had in me.

I'm over the hill, so to speak. I've started reading again, thinking, thinking, and thinking some more about the other stories buzzing around in my wearied imagination. That space in my head felt like it had shrunken, but it's growing again, like the glow of a bulb turning brighter as it builds and consumes more energy.

Breaks are important for this reason. In the stillness and quiet is where our dreams can flourish, breathing color and life into empty spaces.

I'm going to be trying something new for my next project--Snow Dolls--which after a turbulent stint in the querying circuit, is now back on the editing block. For those of you who have read my stories, you know my strength has mostly been in first-person narratives. I'm going to go out of my comfort zone and change it up a bit for SD. It's going to take a lot of work, but Time and I are going to be friends on this challenge. It will be my goal for 2016.

Thanks for stopping by and checking in on me. :) I've missed you!

BTW - Have you checked out Crimson Earth yet? Let me know what you think by leaving a review on Goodreads or Amazon.

Love, love, and more love, ~A




26 comments:

  1. Awww! Anna, glad to hear you're back. As much as I love writing I feel the more professional you get about it the more introverted the whole journey becomes. No time for blogging or anything in between.... :(

    Still, it's good to know Snow Dolls could have its own launch at some point too! Looking forward to it.

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    1. Thanks Shay! I've been meaning to pop over to see how things are going with you! Thanks for checking in on me. :)

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  2. So glad you now feel able to put finger to keyboard as it were. So brave of anyone to write a novel, I imagine the emotional toll can be telling and that's to say nothing of the sleepless nights etc that you mention.

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  3. I know what you mean about it feeling like a dream. Sometimes I work so hard that I can't believe I did all that in x amount of time. Breaks are needed. It's also great to step outside our comfort zones.

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    1. I definitely look to you for example Medeia! You have accomplished so much, and I'm really grateful to know you and other authors like Sandra who are so in tune with their muse! Very inspiring. :)

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  4. Wedding? Planning a wedding? Details please.

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    1. LOL! I forgot that I haven't posted anything about my wedding. :) It will be this coming June! So little time...so much to do. *sigh*

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    2. Many congratulations. So happy for you.
      On the writing....Can you pace yourself without losing the creative flow?

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    3. Definitely working on that! This year, my goal is pace myself. As fun as it is to be so busy I can't think of anything BUT writing...it was exhausting to the point of despair. I don't want to go back to that place again. :( (It could also be seasonal, so for now, I'm taking notes on everything and seeing where I can adjust). I'd love to learn more about your writing habits/techniques!

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    4. It's not very sexy. I just shoot for x amount of words a day. And depending on what mood the muse is in, I either right straight through or give myself short spurts of timed writing and keep coming back to it.

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  5. I ALWAYS have to take a substantial break after finishing a book. Several months each time. Writing a book is so all-encompassing that burnout is inevitable. Good for you for doing what felt right and recharging. And good luck with SD!

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    1. Thanks Tiana! And so good to hear that a decent break is the norm. I always worry that I'm going to lose all the "lessons learned" or skills I picked up during the editing. But with each book, I have faith that I can keep improving my prose. :)

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  6. Sorry you've had such a rough time. We all need to take time out to recharge sometimes. And now you've had a chance to see where that sort of stress takes you. Time to rethink how you work so that you don't burn out again. (Not that you won't, but hopefully not like this.)

    Glad to have you back.

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    1. Great advice. :) Thanks Liz! Definitely glad to be back to my "normal" quirky self. Hah!

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  7. I so needed to read this post tonight. I have been trying to write lately, and while I'm finally managing some words lately, it's still hard to get excited about it. Real life has taken a real roll lately. It's good to know there's light at the end of the tunnel. And I am loving Crimson Earth. It's amazing. I haven't had much time to read (or breathe) the last couple of weeks, but I'm getting through it and really enjoying it!!

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    1. Big hugs to you! You've had an amazing, jam-packed year, so I can only guess how much of a toll all that (fun) has taken. I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying Crimson Earth!! I know what you mean about not having the time to read (I couldn't get myself to do even light reading for a while). Hang in there! :)

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  8. Glad you're starting to find that creativity again! We all need breaks, and time to recharge. And fist bump on all you went thru to get Crimson Earth out there!

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    1. Thanks Leandra! :) Hope the new year is treating you well!!

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  9. Hi Anna. It's nice to be back here after being out of it for so long.

    I experienced a similar kind of burnout after my debut novel too. You pour all of your energy into creating that book and then marketing it, there's not a whole lot left in the tank. There's definitely an ebb and flow, and it's great that you're starting to feel it again. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Jay! And I'm also glad to see you back in the blogosphere. :)

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  10. Sometimes we all need a little break. It's totally okay. Recognizing it's what's best for you is good. When you return, you'll be better than ever. :)

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    1. Definitely. It's energizing to be so completely invested, but it does wear out its welcome. Knowing that limit and where that line is is key.

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  11. never underestimate a good break! I've had those moments of doubt and terror too. I had a bad period this summer where I was almost afraid to write because I know all that goes into it, and all the waiting, and is it even worth it? But a nice break did the trick! So glad you're coming out of the slump! :) xoxo

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  12. I'm glad to hear you're coming out of your burn out. I think that exhaustion is normal, but yay for the break working out for you! I hope your imagination refills quickly!

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  13. Breaks are good for you. It's like recharging a battery after it's fully expended! I'm a full-time freelance writer for my "day job," so I'm writing 2,000 words a day most of the time. I don't think it's the same as when I pour my heart into a novel, though. That takes a lot more out of you than writing about the best inventory software for your business!

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