When aspiring authors first begin to scour articles on writing and the publishing process, they’re often drawn to the “sparkly” side of being an author: penning that best-seller, working with cover designers and making all that money. Like many aspiring authors, when I self-published my first novel in 2017, I was pumped to embark on the sky-high journey to accomplishment and stardom… but, there was a teensy problem. The road to becoming a best-selling author is not paved with golden, sparkly bricks. In fact, it’s difficult to find a well-groomed path at all. And in the midst of tearing through the internet to locate that sacred pathway to successful authorhood, I soon discovered the opposite: the dark and depressing lair of Author Burnout.
2018 was a difficult year for many, and within that nightmare of a year, I experienced two mild and one major case of Author Burnout, the latter leading me to take a month hiatus in December. Reflecting back on each of those three periods of Burnout, I’ve realized there were precautionary measures I could have taken beforehand to prevent a Burnout of that magnitude from occurring. Whether you’re an author aspiring to publish your books someday, or are a seasoned author with several books under your belt, I’d like to share some tips with you on how to recognize and prevent Author Burnout.
Recognizing Author Burnout
Symptom 1: Constantly Checking Stats on Social Media
For self-published authors, book sales stats, rating stats, and content view information are only a click away. Today’s society thrives on instant gratification, and if our books are doing well, then we’re on cloud nine. But then there are the days, or weeks, or months, where no sales roll in. It seems like everyone is turning their nose up at your books. You find yourself repeatedly refreshing your stats pages in search of something–anything–to validate your worth as an author. And once that sale shows up, or our blog hits its highest view count to date, we only hunger for more.
My friend, when you find that you’ve become addicted to checking your KDP reports, blog stats, and Goodreads Author Dashboard every day (or more than once a day), it’s a sure sign that you are deriving your value from your author platform. Yes, there will be spectacular months, but keep in mind that there will be no sales months. Your blog’s view count may vary drastically from month to month. Your book will inevitably receive a low star rating. And whenever these bombshells hit, you’re going to need a shield in your arsenal.
If you find yourself addicted to checking your follower count, sales stats, and book ratings, I suggest restricting your access from these sites. Don’t check your Goodreads Author Dashboard, KDP reports, or Author Central on your phone. Make it a rule of thumb to only check these sites once a week or month.
If the struggle is beyond that and you find your heart rate increasing in anxiety whenever you look at those sites, don’t check them at all. Constantly checking stat sites for any sign of life and then finding your collective author rating has dropped has the potential to lead you to Symptom 2. Trust me, you can survive without knowing what readers think of your work. To be honest, you’ll be a lot happier.
Symptom 2: Increased Stress and Anxiety
When authors are so caught up on what readers think of our work, our creative endeavors become engulfed with a cloud of negative thoughts hanging over our heads: Will they like this? Will they buy this? Will it be worse than the last book?
When our creative voice is strangled by these thoughts, we face the beast that is Writer’s Block. We think we have good ideas, but hesitate from using them for fear of what the readers will think. We start losing sleep at night, laying awake wondering what we can write that will SELL. Every time we hold a pen in our hand or poise our fingers above the keyboard, ripples of anxiety overtake us. And, if we’re not careful, failing to combat this symptom will lead us to Symptom 3.
If Writer’s Block due to increased stress and anxiety over writing endeavors is looming over you, I suggest taking a short intermission (a day or two) and focusing on other facets of your life. Hang out with your family. Go on a special date with your significant other. Play a board game, pick up the guitar, watch a movie. Build an entire town on The Sims 2 *raises hand*. Do whatever you can for as long as you think you need (not in excess of a week) to refresh your mind. Then, go back and give writing a try. Nine times out of ten, this short intermission works for me, but if you’re still struggling, you may have:
Symptom 3: Decreased Interest in Work
The most notable symptom I had in the lead-up to my major case of Author Burnout was decreased interest in working on author projects… mostly this blog. After having poor sales from a recent release and having spent the entire month before on blogging efforts for marketing said book, I had no desire to even type up the handwritten drafts for blog posts and schedule them on WordPress. The longer this symptom was ignored, the more depression seeped in from the Burnout. The final straw was the first week in December, when I verbally lashed out at my boyfriend due to depression and anxiety I was facing over author stats. I seriously considered taking my books down for good, because I was tired of feeling so low. If you can relate to any of this, please adhere to this prevention method:
If you’re up to this level, take a hiatus. That’s right. Take a minimum of two weeks off from all author endeavors. If you have made low-demanding prior commitments such as a blog tour stop, it’s perfectly okay to contact the coordinator if you’re no longer feeling up to it. If you’ve already made a larger commitment, such as a deadline, talk to whoever you need to to have it postponed.
Your mental health is worth more than winning NaNoWriMo or reaching #1 in your genre. Your mental health is worth more than destroying yourself trying to sell books.
Know Your Worth
God did not call you to be an author to have you constantly worried over your “value” as an author. Your value as an author is IN GOD, because He equipped you with the necessary means to make you an author.
God did not call you to be an author just so you could let it beat you down. He has a greater purpose for you, my friend.
Most importantly, don’t assume that any mistakes you’ve made as an author will prevent future success from coming. You never know what God has up His sleeve for you, and you’re not capable of thwarting His plans.
Talk to me, Arrowheads! Have you experienced any of the symptoms above? How have you handled Author Burnout? Feel free to share in the comments!