Business Musings: Burnout and the Indie Writer

Burnout.

I’ve been hearing that word a lot in the writer community. It took a while for the word to penetrate. I’ve had my own things to deal with this year, and I really haven’t been looking outward as much as I usually do.

But a friend who traveled to a number of conventions this year mentioned that avoiding burnout was a topic at every single one of those conventions. We mentioned burnout at the Business Master Class briefly on one or two of the panels, mostly telling people to watch out for it, but we didn’t focus on it.

That’ll have to be a topic for next year.

Because I came perilously close to burning out in the past two years. I watched the people around me get sick or irritable or lose effectiveness, and I recognized all of that a sign of burnout in them.

I knew that I was on some kind of edge as far back as last summer, but I also knew that some of it was due to grieving for lost friends. I blamed some of that edge on exhaustion as well, because I hadn’t taken enough time off—or rather, the proper kind of time off for me. I’m an introvert, so time away from the computer isn’t necessarily time off, particularly if I spend that time with people (even people I love).

I forced myself to take one day per week totally off starting last spring (a life saver, that), and then I added no screen time to that day off. No email, no iPad, no laptop. Phone with me, but set on do not disturb except for the handful of people who can call in for an emergency.

That time away from screens helped almost more than the day off itself. Because I had to remind myself that answering an email immediately didn’t matter. Reporting something about my life on Facebook didn’t matter. Retweeting the hashtag of the day on Twitter didn’t matter.

And staying out of touch on the news was A-Okay, at least one day a week. That led me to changing my default home page from NPR to Emergency Kittens this month—and guess what? My productivity increased. Not because NPR was a gateway to other websites, but because my stress levels went down.

I had figured all of this was particular to me, although other American writers were blogging about how much time they had lost this past year to political matters, flame wars, and general feelings of unease. The never-ending 2016 election, still being litigated here in the States, is the lump of coal that we can’t shake out of our Christmas stockings. And there have actually been studies now to show that the constant harangue of negativity has led to a reduction in productivity in almost all businesses, not just writing.

So, I more or less dismissed the discussions on burnout as the natural course of a difficult year. Some writers burn out, especially first time freelancers, because they don’t know how to handle the day-to-day challenges of working from home.

They also don’t know how to handle success, which is one of the biggest contributors to burn out. Successful people often don’t know why they are successful, so they try to replicate that success without understanding it, churning and spinning in their confusion, working harder, but not necessarily working smarter.

It’s such a common phenomenon that I felt it was worth a section in my Freelancer’s Survival Guide. Tonight, I reread the post on burnout from the guide (which is still available for free on this website). Looking at it from the distance of eight years, that post is still relevant. It has good advice and it provides a great way to see if you’re on the edge of burnout.

There’s a list inside the post of the signs of burnout or impending burnout. I suggest you read that list and see where you fit on it.

I read that post after rereading another post, written just before last year’s Master Class—a short post in which I mentioned burnout. In that post, I linked to a previous post on how busy my September was in 2016, and as I read, I realized that I was burning out then, much more so than now. And for good reason. My sleep schedule got disturbed by some major promotion for a book I had done traditionally; I had other projects to promote; I was writing three other short-deadline projects; and I had stopped doing anything fun.

I wasn’t taking my own advice—except that I managed to keep up the exercise throughout all of it. Maybe that was how I remained sane.

Anyway, the burnout discussions from other writers were just background noise, until this week, when I put a few things together. Earlier in the week, I had had an unsettling interaction with a clueless writer whose career is on an obvious downward slide, although she doesn’t realize it yet. She actually explained writing careers to me, and how to be a business person, and how publishing worked.

The interaction was unsettling not because she was rude (which she was), not because all of her beliefs about publishing were stuck in 1999, not because she shows a stunning lack of respect to the people who came before her, but because my reaction to her is different than it would have been as little as five years ago. As she spouted off about all the myths, and treated me like an aged idiot granny whose brain had disappeared along with my once-perfect skin, I regretted getting involved in the discussion in the first place. I begged off the comment thread as fast as I could.

Eight years ago, five years ago, maybe even three years ago, I would have pointed her to blogs about the way the business had changed. Not just my blogs, but blogs by others including people whom she might have respected more than Ancient Old Granny here. I would have done whatever I could to make sure this clueless writer had access to clues.

I have failed to put out the links to the changing business to help clueless writers for more than a year now. I think some of that is due to the fact that the information has been out there, and to believe that things are the same as they were in 1999 shows a willful ignorance. Or maybe a cluelessness I no longer have to subject myself to.

Something in the interaction, though, made me climb out of the murk of my own self-involvement to realize that the usual Saturday assault from the Kindle Boards had ceased at least three years ago. Used to be, when I would post something about some new thing in publishing, or when I would do a pricing post, or when I would discuss advertising/branding/newsletters, hoards of young writers would descend on my comment section en masse over the following weekend. Most of those writers touted their credentials, and then, without reading the blog (because the excerpt someone posted on the Kindle Boards was enough in their eyes), would point out to me where I had gone wrong.

Some of those writers had no real credentials. They had tens of thousands of books given away for free, with no real follow-up sales. But quite a few—maybe a hundred or so—did have real credentials. They had ebooks that sold extremely well on Amazon, and in some cases, on all of the platforms. Some of those writers were making tens of thousands of dollars per month.

They didn’t have to report that income to me (although some did). That income was verifiable through the continuing sales ranks in the early Kindle algorithms (since tinkered away as to be almost unknowable).

Those writers—however rude and arrogant in their brand new knowledge of a career I had spent my life in—were worth watching. They were doing something right. Some of what they were doing was the same thing writers had done well since the dawn of the printing press. Those writers were telling excellent and compelling stories.

But the writers were also doing other things, creative things that weren’t about the book. They were publishing a lot of product very fast, something traditional publishing did not allow. The writers were also maintaining a personal relationship with their fan base, usually through websites, social media, or—toward the end of that gold rush era—newsletters.

I quietly kept an eye on a good number of them, because I figured if they could sustain their sales at even half the numbers of the gold rush period, those writers had something to teach me.

And I did learn—and change my mind—about a lot of things. Over time, though, the hoards stopped assaulting my comment section on Saturdays, and it became clear that the hangers-on, the wannabes, had vanished. The writers who were writing a lot were working too hard to care what I was saying on my blog. They were trying to stay on the crest of the wave they were riding.

We sort of forgot each other.

Occasionally I would lament the Saturday silence, only because when the Kindle Board writers came over and screamed at me, they usually gave me blog topics.

But I didn’t think about it in depth until this past week, when I decided to look them up. The hangers-on don’t even have websites any more. Most of the wannabes have taken their books down, which stuns me, since they could still be making some (miniscule) passive income if they just left the books up.

The legit writers, though, the ones who were telling good stories and doing a lot of work—well, a lot of them were gone as well. And I would wager they didn’t disappear because their sales went down (which sales inevitably do) or because their hot-hot-hot genre became lukewarm.

They vanished because they burned out.

The handful that I had continued to watch over the years slowed production long about 2015, and almost stopped in 2016. Many of them haven’t released a book in 18 months or more. Some haven’t even done basic maintenance, like boxed sets or new covers or newsletters.

Either they had had life crises (always possible) or they had lost the joy in writing or the interest in their work, and they simply couldn’t drag themselves to the keyboard.

I checked with Dean, who had also experienced the Saturday phenomena back in the day, and he had done a similar search about three months ago. He confirmed my own anecdotal evidence; most of those well-performing writers were gone.

On Sunday, I saw my friend who had been attending conferences and that, combined with the web search I had just done, inspired me to ask him about all of those burnout conversations.

How many of the writers who worried about burnout, I asked him, were the writers who were producing 5 to 10 to 15 books per year?

All of them, was his reply.

He did tell me that, in romance at least, the books weren’t 100,000 words long. They were more like 40-50,000 words long. But still. At 10 books per year, that’s a half million finished words, something many traditionally published writers can’t manage in five years, let alone one.

The writers were trying to hit a goal of at least one new novel per month, if not more, plus advertising and newsletters. I asked how many of those writers had farmed out their work, and he reported a rise in the use of virtual assistants (which I knew about) as well as a rise in the use of dictation.

The writers could produce 3-4,000 words per hour by dictating, and then cleaning up the copy, which increased their output. Which was great for actual productivity, but didn’t solve the marketing issues, or any of the other issues that came from being a one-stop publishing business.

I understood why these writers were worried about burnout. I had worried about the same thing a few years back, and as I wrote above, nearly succumbed to it last year (through some bad choices of my own).

I watched friends and business associates have similar problems. There is, as I’ve been saying, more work in this indie publishing world than one person can do. I joked with a reader on email a day or so ago that I would love to be able to write two books at once—one with each hand.

If only.

The key really isn’t avoiding burnout. The key to surviving as a writer is learning how to sustain a career.

And that’s true not just for indie writers, but traditionally published writers as well. Some of the demands traditional publishers put on their bestselling writers make the actual writing impossible.

Writers in traditional settings have to learn how to say no.

Writers in an indie setting have to figure out their priorities.

Priority number one should always be self-care. If you break down, your business slows or stops.

Self-care includes taking care of any medical conditions you might have, of course, but it’s more than that. You need to do three very important things to avoid burn-out. You need to:

  1. Sleep eight hours a night.
  2. Eat well.
  3. Exercise.

By eating well, I don’t mean eating a lot. I mean eating a healthy diet. I’ve been eating more sugar this week because of Thanksgiving, and boy do I feel it. Much as I enjoyed the pie, I’ll be happy to be back on my normal eating routine, which has a lot of fruit and veggies and protein and very little sugar.

As for exercise, you don’t have to go overboard. You need a minimum of a thirty-minute walk per day, something you can do around the neighborhood. When I walk, I catch up on podcasts or, sometimes, I have no distraction at all. I just think about the stories I’m working on.

Priority number two is spend time with your loved ones. Your children are only little once. You need to give them time. Your spouse need to know that they’re loved, and not just because you say I love you frequently. The people in your life are important. Make sure they know that.

Priority number three is writing new words. I used to say this back in the day, and that was one of the many things those Kindle hoards argued with me about. They told me that once a book was done, promotion was more important.

But the online data has caught up to the data that has existed in traditional media for a long time. Readers don’t care about marketing; they want to know when the next book will appear.

The best thing you can do as a writer is produce a lot of words.

Priority number four is publishing those words. Make sure you have good covers and blurbs and a good static website so your readers can find you.

Priority number five might be…marketing. Or it might be…consuming other people’s stories. Or it might be…playing a video game.

There are only so many hours in the day, and it’s up to you how you spend those hours. Not up to some guru or some data-driven stat at the moment. But whatever it is that will keep you healthy and happy and at the keyboard.

So really…

Priority number five might be…learning to say no. Or maybe, learning to say, I can only do this much right now.

Priority number five might be…learning to be satisfied with what you’ve accomplished rather than what you failed to accomplish.

It doesn’t surprise me that burnout has become a serious concern for indie writers.

The writers who have survived the loss of the gold rush and the move into a long-term business model might not have yet learned how to exist in that new business model. I’ve got some ideas on that (You knew that, though, right?) and I’ll discuss those next week.

Until then, get some sleep. Play with the kids or the dog. Take a walk. Write a goodly number of new words. And have fun.

I certainly plan to.

***

I’m finally getting rested after my long year plus. I am laughing more, singing a little, and enjoying the day-to-day moments that I hadn’t enjoyed for a long time. And the writing is not just a challenge, but it’s fun all over again.

I have a work plan for the upcoming year that includes some business blogs that require a bit of research. I’m looking forward to them. You’ll see them come along, and you’ll see the branding book as well.

For those of you new to the blog, it’s pretty interactive. I get a lot of blog ideas from you folks, and I appreciate that.

I also appreciate those of you who donate on a regular basis, either through Patreon or the occasional donation via PayPal. Thank you!

If you can’t afford to donate, that’s fine. That’s the reason this blog is here for free rather than behind a pay wall. Please share this blog with your writer friends. That helps a great deal.

Thanks, everyone, for your support. I’ve been blogging on a weekly basis for almost nine years now, and I’ve learned a lot because of you. Thanks so much!

Click paypal.me/kristinekathrynrusch to go to PayPal.

“Business Musings: Burnout and the Indie Writer,” copyright © 2017 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / xilius.




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31 responses to “Business Musings: Burnout and the Indie Writer”

  1. […] the Oregon coast) and blogger, sharing her advice to traditional and indie published writers on her Business Musings blog and in her numerous non-fiction titles such as Time Management. It was a true honor to include her […]

  2. emmiD says:

    Burn out. Where to start? I spent four straight years writing very little because of stressors in my life. I nearly forgot how much I loved writing, spinning a story, developing characters, world building. Coming back to it was a relief, but crawling out of the hole took another couple of years.

    Indie publishing has given me opportunities to publish that in the 90’s and early 00’s I never thought I would have. Traditional publishing was never going to work for me, and in the worst of the heavily stressed years I would think ‘What’s the point?’. The dark days passed.

    Back in 2013 or early 2014 a friend showed me her Kindle, and I experienced a sea change. Out came three manuscripts that I dusted off as i wrote a fourth, and in 2015 I published all four and haven’t looked back.

    I just finished a novel and am taking a brief break before I plunge into the next. So far that’s working to stave off burnout. 7 books this year is not a level I can sustain, and I know that.

    So here’s my encouragement:
    The sun comes back. It does. Not on your schedule, but the light will rekindle.
    New opportunities will spark your creativity.
    Genre-hopping does help. (I have different pseudonyms.)
    Marketing is a b**ch. It kills creativity. I avoid it, mainly, because it depresses me more than anything else currently does (and I don’t want to return to the cave that leads to Hades.).
    As Kris says elsewhere: Take breaks. Be healthy. Good food and exercise drives creative energy.

    Kris, your advice about exercise, water and breaks, rest days, and relationships (in another blog) is spot on. Everything I’ve read today is spot on. Wisdom is rare; thank you for sharing yours.

    I spent several hours today glomming most of your blogs. This service you provide is also a great help to ward off the burning trolls. Thank you.

  3. […] is also to avoid burnout. If you read Kris Rusch’s post on burnout and the Indie Writer, you’ll see what I mean. Since I never was one of those great sellers, I’m still here, […]

  4. K. Vale Nagle says:

    I’ve been skirting the line because I haven’t had much energy because of health issues, so when I do have energy, I write as much as I can. With my spouse out of town on business Monday through Thursday for a few weeks, I didn’t realize how much work I was doing until my computer broke down. Suddenly I had 14 hours a day where I couldn’t work for 4 days while they replaced the melted motherboard. I had no idea what to do with myself. I still sort of don’t. Given the choice to spend my energy on work or doing something fun, I work. My exercise time at the gym and archery range doubles as socialization time.

    I just got my computer back and it shuts down randomly, so I have another few days ahead of me where I won’t be able to work. Hopefully I find a better way to spend my time. When spending time on “fun” comes from the same tiny pool of energy that “work” draw from, it gets even more complicated. And since writing is more fun than most work, it’s pretty easy to tell myself I don’t need to worry about “fun” when I’m writing full time.

  5. Kris Pearson says:

    I was going pretty well until maybe three years ago – and then – wham! Family death (x 2), serious family illness, nasty family marriage breakup, no less than three house sales to worry about (None of them mine, but you do what you can to help family.) And I stopped writing like someone had turned off a switch. And I pretty much stopped promoting. And I pretty much stopped selling.

    It takes time to recover from something like this, so please don’t beat yourself up too badly, people! If you want to continue writing, you’ll find a way, but that way may be by writing less, pushing yourself less, and smelling a few more flowers. You (and I) are more important than the next novel. And once you realise that, the next novel wanders into your brain…

    • Thanks for sharing that. My mother died this October, and I haven’t even tried to continue work on my current novel. My brain is still not really working again yet, so I am letting myself absorb what happened and heal, which takes time. I am writing poetry (for self expression), and I miss the fiction writing, but I need more brainpower than I have right now. Hearing your experience helps me to be patient with myself. My deepest condolences for your own losses.

  6. writerchick says:

    Hi Kris,
    I just wanted to pop in and say, thanks. I always get so much from your posts and advice, you are a true gift to we of the indie world. I have mixed feelings about this post, as it is a relief to see that my burnout is not just me. But sad because it appears that we are having a mass burnout across the boards. Like others, the never ending election seemed to kick off things for me as well. And I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten past the exhaustion.

    I’ve been working on a trilogy for almost two years now and it feels like I’ll never finish. Although I am making progress. But as you say, the joy…that’s the missing ingredient, at least for me. I like your list. Just today I realized that I have very poor grades in self care and that needs to be rectified.

    I am relatively tough and stubborn too so I feel pretty sure I can survive the burnout and get back to the joy of being a writer and self employed. But I fear many of my friends and colleagues won’t.

    I have a friend who is doing the churning out the books routine – she said she wrote them a while ago and now is just doing quick edits then publishing them – about one every 6 weeks. After reading her first book I see that what she means by edit is probably just a proof read. It’s a shame because the book I read had potential, but she opted for the quick gratification rather than dig in and do the hard work. Now she is doing this routine of joining every facebook group that exists for writers, co-tweeting, continually posting promotions, etc etc – which she tells me takes 3 hours a day, every day. I expect she’ll be feeling burned out soon if she isn’t already.

    On the other hand, maybe it’s working for her, so who am I to say?

    I’m still finding my way on the promotion end and it’s not easy. At all. Though the writing is good and getting better – and for now that means more to me.

    Thanks again. You’re the best.

    Annie

  7. mikah257 says:

    Thanks for this post! I came to look at your website because of your book Women of Futures Past, which I ordered in print so I can share it, along with a download of Domestic Magic. I’ve been reading science fiction since I was 12, but I am not as well-versed as I thought about women in sf. I started writing again ten years ago, then opened a book store, but I haven’t seriously tried to publish. The process seemed too extraverted for me–blogs, speaking, conventions–and required more confidence than I’ve ever had. But your words make me wonder if I can publish in a way that makes sense for me. Maybe? Anyway, thanks!

  8. LindaB says:

    Burnout. A timely topic. I’ve been burned out for the past five years.

    Writing is work, but it can have its fun moments. But too much failure sucks out all the fun and leaves nothing but misery. And I’ve failed.

    But I kept going, thinking that sometime soon everything would come together, and I’d start to make some money from my writing.

    Well, I haven’t. I have eleven books (sweet Regency comedy), the first published in 2009, and I’m still making pennies. I’m not a hobbyist. I always wanted to make money with my writing. I never have, and at this point, I never will. I’m too tired, and I almost hate writing now.

    Hindsight is always 20-20, so I think the problem was too much promo when I started. I didn’t know any better. But all that promo was a total waste because I didn’t get many sales, and the time and effort I spent there sapped my energy and enthusiasm. I would have been better off writing more.

    I think eleven books are enough to know that people don’t want to read what I write. So, I’m throwing in the towel. I’m in the process of pulling the books I still have with a small press, rewriting them (because they’re mine, and I want to, and I’ve learned a few things since then), and publishing them myself. I have two left. I’ll be done within six months, which is when my birthday is. My birthday present is farewell to writing and all the cursed promotion that I hate and that never worked. I’ll close my social media accounts (I HATE HATE HATE!!! social media) and then I’ll find something else to do. Hopefully something that doesn’t take ten years of my life and give me very little in return.

    I regret that I ever started this writing gig. I hope that others can pull themselves out before the death spiral starts. It’s too late for me.

    • Oh, Linda. I hope after some rest and reflection, you come back to writing. It should always be fun, and it sounds like it’s not fun for you right now. Maybe just write some things for yourself without publishing. I do hope you find a way to enjoy writing again.

      By the way, sometimes it takes years to recover. But the real key is finding the fun again. And it sounds like your 11 books were not fun at all. Good luck!

      • LindaB says:

        Kris,

        Thank you for your kind words. You have no idea how few of them I’ve received.

        Writing is certainly not fun now, which in a way is funny (in the non-laughable sense) because I write comedy.

        But, be that as it may, I’m looking forward to my birthday when I put an end (if only temporarily, which I doubt) to the writing era of my life.

        Thanks again.

    • Laura says:

      I hope you see this reply. Your words are my words, except for the Regency bit. I’m in the exact same place as you are. I feel ya. You’re not alone. It hurts like heck to say goodbye to what you love. I’m taking a big long break, gaining perspective. I have plans for 2018, but I’m leaving the option open to quit publishing altogether. I’ll still write because I’ve been doing it my entire life, but I’m done with the publishing. It’s ruined me, at least ruined my love of writing. How weird is that?!

  9. Sally says:

    No more attacks from the No-Longer-Golden Hordes, eh?

  10. […] sé si también habré estado algo quemado, y este artículo de Krystine Kathryn Rusch de hace poco me ha hecho reflexionar al respecto. El caso es que llevo mucho tiempo en el que la […]

  11. Vera Soroka says:

    This makes me think of a writer who is amazon exclusive. She publishes at least two and sometimes three novels a month. I have no idea how she does this. She has done quite well but I would be burnt out just trying to keep this up year in and year out. I wonder how much longer she will last. She does have a strong fan following and as far as I can tell, she does not do a whole lot of promotion. I did see some of her work on the amazon ads. Her assistant takes care of Facebook.
    Anyway, there are a lot out there that have tried to copy her. I wish them all luck.

  12. D J Mills says:

    Yes, I also noticed many of the other students of writing courses I took years ago seem to have stopped producing new stories, or not updated their blogs/websites for months or years, or closed their sites and disappeared.

    I also noticed the expensive “must do” marketing courses are selling very cheaply now. I guess because those that took the courses did not see the results promised.

    I am thankful I found Dean and your blogs years ago and listened to good advice. Write, publish, learn to tell better stories, write, publish, and treat it like a business. Best advice ever! 🙂

  13. Rachel Leigh Smith says:

    I’m so grateful I learned my most important lesson before I ever joined the world of professional writing–my health is priority #1. Always. I have fibromyalgia with adjoining sleep issues, and when I was diagnosed I had gotten so depressed I was borderline suicidal. That shakes you up instantly, and I restructured my entire life so I’d never see that place again. Ten years and counting, and it’s still working.

    I also learned an important publishing lesson early on. When I started the indie road, I had almost five books in my debut series. So I released three of them in one year. Decent business decision. Bad bad bad personal decision. I can’t sustain that. Especially since my shortest book is almost 113,000. Now I shoot for twice a year, but don’t obsess if I miss it.

    Earlier this year, being someone else’s employee started to destroy my creativity. Due to the stress my boss was creating in the office, combined with more health issues I hadn’t been able to see to properly because of the boss’s insanity. I had no choice but to quit. I’m also sick of bosses going insane and setting me up to fail when they figure out I stand up for myself and can’t be manipulated.

    Within a month, I was me again. Now I work 100% for myself, and taking care of my health is easy. When I need a self-care day, I can take one and nobody gets mad. To me, that’s the definition of freedom.

    I see so many romance indies burning out, and it’s so sad. Especially since it’s avoidable. I’m part of a genre authors group on Facebook where several of them have spent this year realizing what they’d set themselves up for, and they’re making changes to be sustainable. I’d love to see 2018 be the year talented indies get off the hamster wheel and rediscover the joy of writing.

  14. Linda Jordan says:

    Hi Kris,
    I’m looking at your list of priorities and I’m torn, as I have been for a couple of years. You put priority 3 as writing new words and 4 as publishing them. I’ve been doing that for seven years now, although I’ve fallen far behind with the publishing part. I’ve currently got five, (and in a week or two — six) novels just sitting on my desktop. They’re in various stages of making their way through to the first reader, or cleaning up, or copyediting. I can’t seem to move through the backlog and I keep producing more novels that add to it. I know, good problem to have. I definitely write faster than I can publish — since I’m doing nearly everything (covers, formatting, etc.) myself and I’m financially far from the point where I can hire anything out.

    I keep telling myself that I should take a few months off writing and spend that time clearing up the backlog and getting books published. I feel bad about those stories languishing on my computer, but then I feel guilty about no new words. Another part of me wonders “What good are new words if I can’t even get the stories out there?” Split personality much?

    So, I keep struggling to find a workable solution. None of this includes the time spent on publishing maintenance (most of which are things I really, really want to do): fixing the website that puked last week, updating old (really awful covers on a gazillion short stories and collections) and everything else on the never-ending list. Oh, and exercise. Sheesh. I’ve only dipped my toe into marketing and realized what a massive time sink that is. So, I’ll continue with the just beyond passive marketing I’ve been doing this year because that’s working and it doesn’t involve massive amounts of time and energy.

    I’m feel like I’ve recovered from being burnt out for the last couple of years, but still panicked about how to figure out a better way to organize and get things done. I’m old enough to realize I can’t do all of it.

    Wondering if you have any thoughts on this. I’d love to hear them.

    • I do have ideas, Linda. Trade services with someone. They publish (or do whatever it is that stops you), and you do something else for them. It doesn’t have to be writing related. It might be weekly baked cookies.

      There are also writer collectives that share tasks. Some might be open to new members. It’s worth investigating.

      If I hadn’t had Dean around, I would have had to hire someone too or figure out how to trade services (depending on the finances) because I would rather be writing.

      I hope that helps!

  15. First off, an observation. When researching whether to spend money on courses with you and Dean I obviously say pictures of you both. I would say, not to flatter you in any way, but how beautiful you look as you as the pictures should you getting older, which I put down to you growing into your skin. Not meant to be anything other that just an observation.

  16. Isabo Kelly says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Kris. I’m looking forward to next week’s as well. I hit serious burnout in the winter of 2015. For the 1st time in my life I didn’t want to write, at all, period, ever again. It was actually pretty scary. And I’ve been working my way out ever since. I’ve had a few life rolls that haven’t made this easy, even backslid a couple of times. I’m getting there, but it’s a process and it would have been better if I’d caught my spiral before I hit full burnout.

    The irony is I’ve never enjoyed the publishing world more! Indie publishing, being my own small press, really suits me. I just need to learn how to do this without destroying my joy.

    Sleep (I didn’t much for about 3 years thanks to new baby and writing), exercise, eating healthy, playing with my kids (they are growing soooo fast!), and doing fun things I enjoy all became a priority–well I have to keep reminding myself to prioritize these things. And it really really helps. Making the writing fun, working on stories I want to write (instead of what I think I need to write next) helps a whole lot too.

    Most of that advise I got from you and Dean. (I reread the section on burnout in the Freelancers’ Survival Guide regularly). So I’ll say again, thanks so much for this post! I’m looking forward to next week’s.

  17. M. H. Lee says:

    Another reason some of those self-publishers may have disappeared is they’ve moved on to new names in new genres. It’s not uncommon for self-published authors to name and/or genre hop.

  18. I’ve seen a few faces on Kindle Boards continuously. I think that other voices have drifted onto Facebook groups. A single watering hole is no longer able to hold the whole community, which is a good thing, if a little frustrating. It’s definitely gotten harder to get a good feel for the whole indy scene.

    I found myself immune to much of the indie hype because a) I knew my writing limitations, and b) I was (and still am) absolutely clueless at marketing. This is why I’ve sought out folks like you, to learn this mind-boggling complex business. I’m happy to report a bigger profit this year, enough to finally take my editor out to dinner. (Belgian, I think. They make wild boar sausage.)

    Because I write so steadily, about a 20-30k a month, writing has gotten easier, not harder. I think that I’ve finally written through all my serious topics, so now I’m drifting back into the action-adventure-comedy triumvirate, and I’m having a blast with my WIP, especially as my most eager fan, my daughter, keeps asking, “when’s the next one?” (She’s been helping me the whole time, even naming the characters.)

    I’ve seen the gurus flip-flopping, and worse, not following their own advice, so I’m just sick of them. It’s okay if you learn and change you mind, but it’s the self-buildup that turns me off. History shows us that speculative fiction thrives on an alchemy, where some series just kick, while other series by the same authors merely do okay. Now that some top selling authors are moving onto other series, they’re finding out that it wasn’t just their marketing and writing that paid dividends, but the right combination of ingredients at the right time by the right author that paid the dividends. If that could be easily replicated, the industry would have been cranking out repeat hits for years. In the end, just like writers in previous decades, they’ll eventually return to their cash cows. (PIers Anthony got it right out of the gate. Milk, baby, Milk!)

  19. When I became an adult, I wanted to write more full time more than anything else. Well meaning person said “You can’t make money writing fiction.” But I was also in Los Angeles, WMP then said, “But you could do it with scripts. Though you’d have to write one a week.” So I jumped in and wrote 1 script–sitcom, one hour show, or movie–in one week.

    I did 40 scripts like that.

    On day, I came back to write, and my brain shut down. Refused to write. I’d gone completely dry. It took two years before I could write anything again.

    I still fight burn out today–but not because of the writing–but to keep my job away from the writing. I’m in a crazy, chaotic job where I have hard stop deadlines I HAVE to meet, so I’m constantly bumping up against these deadlines. And I’ve had a really hard time describing what I do to various boss-type people. Mostly because they think I’m getting too much into the weeds, rather than them understanding that I’m not just in the weeds, the weeds are large mutant Linda-eating things. Changing jobs is really not an option at this point, so I’ve had to push back on it. Things like accepting that I cannot everything done, And it’s hard because I come back from work, and sometimes I’m like, “I don’t want to do anything.” Even on the weekends, one part of me is going, “You can write the entire weekend!” and the other part of me is “Do something fun!” The thing that really suffers is marketing, new releases, and also my ability to get paper books done, since the last two seem to use the same muscles work does. Honestly, I’m single and I don’t know how someone might do a job like this, come home to a family, write books, and market the heck out of them. They’d get pulled apart eventually!

    Cleaning house was hard for me under these circumstances, so I got a maid, which really did help. For some of the areas I’m having trouble doing, I may look at paying someone to do it just to get the pressure off me.

  20. Jean Lamb says:

    The website for the survival guide is temporarily unavailable, but what you say is totally true. Self-care is necessary, and at some point things slow down, and then stop. With me, it’s family health problems (and my insane decision to take a tax preparation class, which shook me out of a torpor and replaced it with shrieking at depreciation schedules). And we’re finally through getting my son moved, yay!

    I never got sucked into that particular rat race, and now I’m glad I didn’t. Ok, it’s because I’m lazy!

    But I could have.

  21. Yep.
    I’m everything you said. (Lost my website last week becasue I didn’t renew it…I didn’t care enough.)

    I thought if I just worked hard enough for long enough I’d figure it out.

    Some days I miss writing. Writing just to see where a story goes. Maybe I’ll get back to it someday. I’ve gotten decent at some self love…eating/sleeping/exercise notwithstanding.

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