Today, author Jaye Wells did a fantastic post on burnout. Go read it. I'll wait. She explains how she got burned out when her passion and escape (writing) became her job and took over every aspect of her life.
I so relate to that article. I've talked a little bit about it here, but I definitely was burnt to a crisp by the end of 2015. I love writing. It is my passion. But when it became my job and my world became deadlines and constant writing and promotion and all the business that goes along with being a writer, I lost what Jaye calls the "escape hatch."
Writing used to be my escape hatch. I started writing in high school not just because I loved reading and creating stories but because it gave me a break from the angst of being a teenager. It was an escape from every day life. That's one reason why I went back to writing after I had my son. I was a new mom who had no idea what she was doing and was dealing with a very colicky, non-sleeping baby. When I needed to take a break from all that, I escaped into writing.
That was the best thing I could've done because that's the point where my passion turned into my career. I got my first publishing contract when my kidlet was three. From that point on, writing became my full time job.
I love it. I feel lucky every day that I get to do this for a living. BUT, it means that writing is my job. It's what I *have* to do now. That takes some of the "escape" out of it. Where do I get to escape when writing gets hard or stressful or a book is fighting me? And books always fight.
That's what led me to my burnout. I didn't have that other outlet anymore. For a while at the end of last year, I didn't even want to read because that's tied to writing. And, believe me, if I'm not reading, that means there's a major problem lol. *cue warning sirens for meltdown*
So after turning in my book, I stepped back and evaluated and took a break. I read non-fiction since fiction wasn't calling to me. I painted and redecorated my office. And I got a planner--seemingly to be more organized--but it ended up being more than that. I discovered there was this whole planning community. And it was a crafty pursuit. There are pretty pens and washi tape and stickers involved! That has become my version of an escape. It's a hobby that will not make me money, that has no pressure attached to it, and that relaxes me. From the outside, it seems like a silly thing. I mean, how many pens do I really need? This many, btw:
But after reading that post, I realize--no, it's not silly or indulgent. It's necessary. It's self-care. I found a crafty, creative outlet to be my little escape hatch when I'm not writing. And looking back, I've been doing this all along. When things get stressful, I seek out hobbies. Maybe I start cooking a lot. Last year, it was canning and pickling things. I took a photography course a few years ago when I definitely didn't have time for it. I rebuilt my website because I enjoy the process of taking things apart and putting it back together. It's even in my author bio:
"If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her cooking, watching reality television, or picking up another hobby she doesn't need--in other words, procrastinating like a boss."
But maybe it's not always procrastinating or a hobby I don't need, after all. Maybe it's making room in my head for the writing. It's giving my brain space to "breathe" and refresh.
And I know that Jaye's post was specifically about writing, but I think it applies across the board if you're doing a job you love. Or being a parent. Or even a job you hate. We need that time to play. We need those things that don't have any stakes tied to them.
So, I'm curious. What's your escape hatch?