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Monday, May 13, 2013

Will Going Paleo Cure Writer Burnout?



 I've done it to myself again.

One of the best things about me is that when I launch into something, I dive in full bore and rarin' to go. Consequently, one of the worst things about me is that when I launch into something, I dive in full bore and rarin' to go. 

Months ago, I went in guns blazing to become a writing machine. I wanted to write more books faster and promote a lot harder. My carefully scheduled days for writing and promo were cast to the four winds, and I ran myself ragged. Every day, I wrote when I woke up unless I was promoting, and I promoted unless I was writing. Then I'd run off to the "other job" and write/promote on meal breaks. When I got home, I wrote/promoted until I fell asleep. 
When I was promoting, I felt guilty that I wasn't writing and vice versa. And breaks for anything else, even watching a fave TV show, became infrequent and riddled with similar guilt since I wasn't writing or promoting.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I'm completely burned out and don't want to write anymore.

I saw the signs coming, of course. Despite more time for "writing", my word count started going backward. I stared at my manuscript with nothing to say and hated everything I'd already written. Hitting the delete key is pretty much all I've accomplished lately. I could blame this particular book or a generic case of writer's block, but I know better. The coup de grace is when I can't look at that manuscript at all. I rebel with mindless TV or games, all the while feeling guilty because I "should" be writing.

Why do I do this to myself? How did that starry-eyed, can't-wait-to-be-a-writer I once was  find herself dreading another day of fruitlessly pounding keys? It's ironic that one of the things I enjoy most can rob my enjoyment of many things, writing included, when it becomes too much of a focus. 

So what will I do about it?

The answer for me lies in knowing when to quit, and I don't. It's a personality flaw that has plagued several areas of my life. That's why a writing schedule calendar is essential. My calendar tells me when to write, promote, and do nothing of the sort. Of course, I can choose to ignore the darn thing, which I've just proven, so I also have to take a mental step away from the stress I heap on myself. Enter my latest guns-blazing challenge: living Paleo. 


In an effort to find ways to decrease stress and improve my overall health, I've been moving into a Paleo lifestyle. For the uninitiated, the super simple definition of Paleo is to eat, sleep, and exercise the way our bodies are designed to, the way our ancestors did long ago. It's not a fad diet any more than vegetarianism or eating Kosher. It's a belief about how to nourish our bodies optimally.

You may be wondering what on earth my diet has to do with my writing habits. For starters, when I'm on a writing "binge", among the first casualties to my schedule is cooking and nutrition.  Most of what I consume comes out of a ready-made package, a Starbucks' counter, or a drive-through. I gain weight, my health suffers, and I'm tired and lack mental alertness. Living Paleo forces me out of the stress cycle of write-promote-write. I must stop to shop, prep, and cook the right foods or else I go hungry. I have to spend time on the learning curve to merge these principles into my lifestyle too. And I'll have to take time out for relaxation and (gasp!) exercise. 

A side effect of this shift is the mental change that goes with it. No longer am I focusing on That Thing That Stresses Me Out. I'm focused on making my days and life more zen, for lack of a better word. Will it work? I believe so. By putting my health above my productivity, both will improve. I'll check in with updates on how it's going.

Are you're stressed out over writing or a busy schedule in general? If so, I'm not saying you have to go Paleo to fix it (not that I'd argue). Just take a look at the ways your diet, health, and enjoyment have been impacted by your schedule. Now think back to when you were at your absolute happiest, and what factors were present/absent. What can you add or subtract to bring you closer to your personal zen? What's your best advice for managing writer (or schedule) burnout?


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On Mondays I gab about, well, pretty much whatever I want!

I'm J. Rose Allister, wife, working mom, and the author of over twenty-five books. Somewhere in between one and the next, I love hanging out here on my blog and over on Twitter. Give me a comment or follow-I love chatting with people!

4 comments:

  1. Good luck with it. I'm in a stress zone right now and am contemplating becoming an alcoholic. Of course, I don't really drink much at all but that's beside the point.

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  2. I'm right there with you, J. Rose. I'm taking a day to get caught up and plan to slow down so I can get back into writing without that horrible burn out. Great post!

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  3. LOL I hope it doesn't have to come to that, Jillian. And good for you, Bellina. I hope easing off your schedule helps!

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  4. For me, my burn out is that I don't read much while I'm writing, because, well, I'm writing. When I finish a project, I binge read- up to 2-3 books a day, just to feed my muse back up so I can write again.

    Wishing you luck with your paleo. Must say, I'd never heard of it before now, but it sounds interesting.

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