Working Vacation

I know that most people return from vacation to a crushing workload of backed up emails, housework, or other work they do. I, on the other hand, have returned from my recent week-long sojourn farther ahead than when I left.

I work from home, with a preschool-age child. So I find that tasks that require prolonged concentration are difficult for me to find time to do. I have the time after she is in bed, but by then my brain is tired and I am prone to stupid mistakes (although this is a good time for creative writing for me). But most business-related tasks require attention to fine detail and often a half an hour or more of blocked time to accomplish competently. For example, I submitted the same short story to 5 magazines recently—and I had to format the story in 3 different ways to follow their guidelines. This is not a complaint—I understand why this is so. This is just to show why I need time to really pay attention to these sorts of details.

As a result, I have had a list of business-related items that I kept saying, “If only I could have a week without distraction, I could get all this done!”

This vacation was that week.

With Preschooler being entertained by Grandma, aunts, cousins, and Daddy, I was able to grab some focused work time. In this week away, I accomplished:

  • Submitting 3 Critique manuscripts to the Philadelphia Writers Conference
  • Submitting 3 Contest manuscripts to the Philadelphia Writers Conference
  • Spending several hours on Duotrope making lists of markets for my various short stories
  • Sent 5 queries out for my short story Dying Breath
  • Sent 5 queries out for my novel The Oracle of Delphi, Kansas
  • Edited 1/3 of my short story Finale
  • Read 2 Newbery-Award-winning novels
  • Critiqued a friend’s short narrative non-fiction piece
  • Wrote a blog post for my personal blog, The Goose’s Quill
  • Wrote the Thursday blog post for our group blog, The Author Chronicles
  • Kept up with social media platforms
  • Slept

I also managed to have fun visiting with relatives and enjoying the beauty of the countryside!

Many people might not consider this much of a vacation, but for me it was ideal. I get so worn out with trying to keep up with everything, and so frustrated pushing things off to the back burner because of time constraints. Getting so much of this done was a great weight off my shoulders, which allowed me to relax.

Do you find yourself working on vacation, or do you really get away from it all?

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Can writers avoid burnout in the 21st century?

Ever since my child was born, I have been struggling to find time to write. I know I am not the only one – many writers I have spoken to ask the same question, “How can I fit writing into my life?”

We are all trying desperately to shoehorn writing into a day jam-packed with other responsibilities – spouse, children, day job, school, and the millions of other things that crop up unexpectedly. Add to the writing the fact that we are also supposed to be “building our social media platform” as well, and that’s even more time we need to squeeze out of the day.

Can we really do it all?

I know I’m exhausted all the time, and recently another writer said she was stepping back because she could no longer juggle everything—the pressure was too much and every aspect of her life was suffering. And I can totally relate. I often feel like I’m neglecting many, many things (although hopefully not the truly important ones like spouse and child) in order to find time to write something longer than a grocery list.

And then comes the news that in the 21st century, authors are going to need to write more than one book a year to stay competitive. Color me depressed! Here I am cutting every possible corner to try and get out ONE book, and now I’m supposed to write more! No wonder so many writers are starting to feel burnt out. Write multiple books a year AND do all your own marketing AND take care of your family, day job, etc.

This is not a sustainable model for most writers.

I really examined my schedule the other day, and realized I NEVER STOP. I’m like a shark, I have to keep moving or I die. (Actually, I have to keep moving or I fall asleep.) There is no down time for me. I am never not doing something. Every second of every day is taken up. My “free” time is my writing time. The only time I’m doing “nothing” is when I’m sleeping—6 hours on a good night. Other writers I know are similarly scheduled to the eyeballs. How can we all maintain this pace?

As the pressures keep piling on, will we see more writers walking away? Will there be more one-hit wonders who then cannot sustain the pace? Will there simply be fewer writers in the mix, dropping out before they ever reach publication? Will we see a rise in poorly-written, poorly-edited works released before they should have been simply to keep up with the ravenous content monster?

Time will tell.

For myself, I will keep plugging away. My writing is my salvation at this point, the one thing that keeps me from being totally consumed by this creature called Mommy and losing my identity as an individual beyond my (wonderful) daughter.

I have never felt close to burning out on writing—perhaps because I get so little time to actually indulge in it. I still have story ideas and characters tumbling over themselves in my head, clamoring for my attention. I wish I had the time to give them all the attention they deserve!

Have you ever gotten burned out as a writer? How did you get back into writing?

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