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Friday, November 30, 2012

When The Going Gets Tough: Avoid Burnout by Joan Reeves

In my Christmas romance, Nobody's Cinderella, the heroine knows how to keep going in the face of adversity.

When adversity rears its ugly head, what do you do?

Remember the old Billy Ocean song When The Going Gets Tough? If you're not old enough to remember the song, look it up on iTunes. What do you do when the going gets tough? The way you answer that question may determine your longevity as a writer.

You've heard the old cliché and seen the inspirational posters: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Right?

Well, usually. Sometimes when the going gets tough, if you've been fighting the good fight for a long time, maybe you should just relax a bit. Take a load off, Fanny, to quote another old song. Take a vacation even if it's just a day off to goof around.

How To Goof Off Productively

Set a time schedule for relaxing, or you may end up relaxing away the rest of the year instead of a couple of days. After a few days of catching up on your TV viewing or a day at the golf course or shopping or just reading some of the books from your towering to-be-read stack, you'll be surprised how much better you feel. You'll be ready to dive into the writing again with renewed energy rather than fall victim to burnout.

Take A Dis Vacation

Take a vacation from disrespecting yourself or anyone else. All that negativity and whining takes an enormous amount of energy. Resolve that if you can't say anything good about someone that you'll just keep your mouth shut. That goes for your self-talk too. Especially for your self talk!

Some people trash talk themselves so much you'd think they were getting paid to do it. Start saying good things about yourself. You're not a loser because you didn't get that promotion or paint the dining room before Thanksgiving or write 100 pages last week. Get some perspective on your goals and your life and never personalize the downside of anything.

Figure Out Where You're Going

Do you have goals? If so, are they realistic? Most people set goals so high that they set themselves up for failure. Figure out exactly what you want. You. Not your spouse or your best buddy. What would make you happy? Set your goals realistically—high enough that you have to work to achieve them but low enough to be in the realm of real possibility.

Wrong-thinking Goal: I want to hit the NYT best seller list with this book. Or, I want to win Yard of the Month from the Garden Club. (Totally out of your control.)

Right-thinking Goal: I want to finish the manuscript. Or, I want to have a weed-free yard. (Totally within your control.)

Figure out what you want and why, and then set up a viable action plan to achieve the goal.

Dance To The Music

Celebrate! "Dance to the music." So says another song. With everything you do, set up a system of milestones and rewards. When you achieve a stated milestone like completing the first draft of a manuscript or getting an interview for a new job, celebrate.

When you get a good book review or you get an "attaboy" at work, celebrate. If you get your first rejection as a writer, celebrate. I don't mean pop a hundred dollar bottle of bubbly each time, but do celebrate and bask in the glory of achievement. Have a little chocolate or whatever is your special treat. Let the reward fit the achievement.

Be Present

Live today. Don't get caught in the trap of regretting what you didn't get done yesterday. Pat yourself on the back for what you did today. Avoid thinking: when I get this done, I'll be happy. That's just a way of postponing happiness because the lengthier time is the time spent working on the project.

The shortest time is the space between projects. Being happy shouldn't be reserved for that tiny span of time. Be happy when you're working toward your goals or just hanging in there and enduring the present in hopes of a brighter future. Live each day and be happy each day.

Don't postpone your satisfaction for some future time or happiness will always be just out of reach. Enjoy the journey because time spent on the road to success is longer than time spent at the destination.

Post Script

I hate to use Hollywood buzz words, but be present in your life. Live in the now. Be happy now. That's the real secret to avoiding burnout as a writer or as a human being.

(Joan Reeves is a bestselling ebook author of romantic comedy. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers and in audio from Audible.com and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free newsletter for writers. For articles about the art, craft, and business of writing and the world of books, visit Joan's website and SlingWords, her blog.


  1. Joan, the perfect post for my mood today! Thank you for the pep talk. Best wishes for continued success.

  2. Hey, Caroline! I was beginning to think I was all alone here.

    I wrote that because I too needed a pep talk. *g*

    Thanks for commenting and have a wonderful weekend.

  3. Joan, your post is a keeper. When things go wrong, I whine for a couple of hours, but my DH kicks my ... figuratively, and insists we do something fun. Bless him. I see things differenrly after a break.

    1. What would we do without our wonderful husbands? Mine makes everything possible.

  4. Lots of great advice here! Thanks, Joan!

    Morgan Mandel

  5. Thanks, I needed this. I feel like I am plodding through my life. I will soon have good news to share, but the prep is hard work! I need to catch up!

    1. Hello, Mary. So much of the writing process is plodding. Hang in there and share the good news when it happens.