Burning Through Writer's
Karina L. Fabian
Copyright © 2008 by Karina L. Fabian, All Rights Reserved
It's normal for people to feel burned out sometime in
their career. One of the wonderful things about a writing career,
though, is that its flexibility offers you a lot of options for burning
through your burnout.
Start by examining your feelings. Find a quiet half
hour when you're in a reflective and receptive mood. Begin with a
prayer for guidance, clear your mind, then ask yourself: how do you
feel about your writing now compared to when you first started? When
are you happiest about writing? When do you have to fight yourself to
get anything on paper? What's frustrating you -- the topics? The
markets? The pay? The pressure? Is your attitude toward writing
focused only on work, or is it part of a general malaise? Once you've
defined what's affecting your attitude toward writing, you can start
looking for solutions.
If you're tired of writing on the same old topic,
branch out. Take a class in a subject you're interested in but have
never explored. Read some books or magazines in a totally unfamiliar
area. Then use your new knowledge to generate query letters. If you're
established in a field and depend on that for your income, you may need
to start slowly. Try a query a month in your new field of interest if
that's all you can afford time-wise. Combine your interests to give new
life to your established field. My husband and I combined our love of
science fiction with my religious writing background to edit an
anthology of Christian SF. Leaps of Faith (www.leapsoffaithsf.com)
was published by FrancisIsidore Press in 2001 and was a finalist for the
Dream Realms and EPPIE awards. That's led to us to another anthology,
Infinite Space, Infinite God (www.isigsf.com),
an EPPIE award winner for best SF, as well as other writing
opportunities for me.
If you write regularly for a particular magazine, you
may be able to work with the editor to change your assignments. After
writing a column on saints for three years for Montana Catholic,
I found myself dreading the monthly chore. I discussed it with the
editor, who, coincidentally, had been feeling that their limited budget
could be better spent on more local topics. After exchanging some
ideas, I was assigned -- with a raise -- to write monthly interviews of
the clergy in their diocese.
Sometimes, the problem isn't the topic so much as the
market or a specific employer. Just as people in other careers change
companies, writers can, too. Start with finding new magazines at the
bookstore, in Writer's Market, or on the web. Make sure you avoid
employers that may have the same problems you're trying to avoid. For
example, if you're tired of writing articles for low pay, pay close
attention to the pay rates unless you're thinking of simultaneous
submissions or reprints. If you want something more dependable, call
local markets or check for staff jobs on sites like JournalismJobs.com.
You might also ask editors who know your work well about staff
positions. If you need a break from high-research writing, look for
magazines that cover "soft topics" or human interest. If you're having
problems with a particular editor, discuss it with him or her, but if
you can't work your differences out, be prepared to quit, especially if
it's a moral issue.
Sometimes, it's neither the market nor the topic, but
a general feeling that what you write doesn't matter. Feedback helps.
I had written craft books for the first year of a Catholic girls' club
and a boys' club. After the second one, I felt tapped out and sick of
crafts, but six months later, I received 10 copies of the Blue
Knight's Craft Companion, a check for the royalties on the Little
Flowers Craft Companion, and a letter from the publisher saying
she'd gotten several calls from mothers wanting to know when the craft
book for the second year of Little Flowers was coming out. I was
wanted! Suddenly, I was full of enthusiasm and ideas.
Look in some issues
of magazines published after your article -- did anyone write to the
editor about it? Run a Google search on your name. You may be amazed
at how many of your articles are reprinted on-line or referred to in
chat groups. If you have a good enough relationship with your editor,
you might request some feedback, though you may want to address it in
terms of determining how you can better serve their magazine.
burnout may be symptomatic of a bigger problem. Do you feel you're no
longer serving God's purpose for your life? Are you simply overwhelmed
by balancing writing, work -- whether another paying job or just keeping
up with the house -- and family? Is your writing burnout part of an
overall depression or physical malaise? Sometimes, our lives need a new
focus, a rebalance, or a serious look at our mental and physical health,
but we are only aware of a specific symptom, like the inability to get
words on paper.
Burnout can happen
to anyone. Rather than seeing it as a source of frustration, you can
use it as an agent of change.
Fabian has been writing professionally for 12 years, moving from
local magazines to national "slicks" to radio to fiction as her
burn-out led her to move on. She’s now writing books for several
publishers, winning writing awards, and loving her muse. Learn