Monday, November 16, 2015

On Being Burned Out, Frustrated, and Grateful...An Open Discussion About My Career

While I'm possibly talking to myself with this post as my blog seems to have lost followers in my absence, I thought I'd put it out there regardless. Because a writer's gotta write, right? And I consider it a form of therapy to openly talk to my fans about where I'm at in my career.

Contrary to popular belief or the darkest thoughts of my psyche, I have not quit writing. After several months of putting my craft to work in other avenues in which I usually worked seven days a week and sometimes up to 12 hours a day, I took the months of September and October "off" to help my husband farm. Turns out it was a much needed mental break from writing.  I didn't realize I was completely burned out until I stepped away from it all.

Although some people may think writing is easy and a non-stop fun-fest, it can take a toll on a person - especially when self-employed with ridiculously long days because you're not reporting to an 8-5 job and can type away in the comfort of you home until you're unable to keep your eyes open. And then there's the marketing aspect of being an indie author. Don't even get me started on the business side of my dream career, because I'm clearly not cut out for that kind of thing. I'm unorganized and unfocused, unable to stick to a plan. And the experts say as a writer you have to have a presence on social media. Although it has become an important tool for reaching fans, it's also a place where you learn about the success of others and begin to question yourself and your work.

*Cue depression*

I've been open about dealing with depression in the past and I'm not about to shy away from it now. Around the time I was preparing to help with harvest, I was in a tunnel so long and so dark that it seemed I would never find my way back out. I quit the business side of social media, even unfollowing my dearest of writer friends because it was too painful to see others flourishing when I was floundering. Thankfully I've never been suicidal, but there was a time when everything seemed pretty bleak and I would cry at the drop of a hat. Like many so people battling inner demons, I was able to smile and put on a brave face while trudging through the murkiest of waters. Not many people in my life knew about my struggle.

For the first time in five years, I didn't participate in NaNoWriMo (an annual (November) novel writing project that brings together professional and amateur writers from all over the world). Instead I used this "time off" to evaluate my career. I say "time off" as I was sometimes spending 10 hours per day in the tractor and that can be way more exhausting than one would think. Now that I was able to take a step back and put things into perspective, I'm so incredibly grateful.

I'm sure everything I said above sounds incredibly whiny, especially coming from someone who works from home and doesn't have to meet the demands of a surly boss or punch a clock. Though it's dangerous when you're able to set your own hours in a job you love because there's no one to tell you it's time for a break, it's also incredibly convenient. I'm amazed my friends with jobs can keep up with their teenager's activities and I can't fathom how working farm wives can meet the demands of their husbands. Being married to someone who also sets their own hours gives us the kind of freedom together that most people dream about (aside from the grueling demands of planting and harvest seasons, of course). My days of spending weeks building up the courage to ask for accrued time off are long gone. And I can virtually write from anywhere so long as I have access to power, it's quiet, and there aren't people moving around me (demanding, I know, but I have crazy ADD). In reality, it's the ideal job.

Having gone from a well-paying job to being self-employed almost four years ago was at first a serious blow to my ego. I don't have the kind of salary that a person could live off, but I am making some money. The fact that I have actual fans who buy my books and want to read more really says something. I've wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. I'm not only proud of myself for making my dream a reality, but incredibly thankful beyond words for those who have an interest in my work. I wouldn't be where I am today without them.

It has never been my goal to become famous. I know I won't ever be on the same playing field with the likes of Stephen King or J. K. Rowling as I'm lightyears away from their level of prose. Honestly, I wouldn't want that kind of public recognition anyway. I'm uncomfortable the way it is when a stranger asks me in public about my next book and therefore know I would totally suck if put in a spotlight of any significance. I simply want people to get excited about my books because the endless stories going through my head won't stay silent. I want fans to fall in love with my heroes and get lost in the worlds I create. And hopefully one day my ultimate dream of having a book made into a movie will be realized. *fingers crossed*

Last night I had a breakthrough and, for the first time in months, wrote for several hours straight. So here I am, back in the saddle of sorts, ready to focus on writing and decide what project I want to do next. Hopefully in 2016 I'll be releasing the long awaited sequel to Shymers and the next two books in the Paranormal Keepers series as well as a few other projects, but I still have to work it all out and decide my next moves. Because that's what you have to do as an indie author - make all the decisions on your own. It's stressful as all hell, but I'm still thrilled that I have the opportunity to spend my life doing what I love. If you've reading this and you've read even one of my books, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. It's people like you who have helped to make my life complete!

6 comments:

Clover Autrey said...

I hear you. Writing has a lot of ebbs and flows and can be emotionally exhausting. Hang in there. I think your writing is awesome!

Bronwyn said...

I'm am in this exact position minus the depression and just leave anxiety about a floundering career. I feel ya xxxx

Corrie Hanson said...

Sorry you have been on the Struggle Bus. I wish there was more that I could do to help because I truly believe you are a hidden Jen. It's like Gem but Jen. Get it? LOL! Oye its been a long day.

S.K. Anthony said...

I did wonder where you went! Sorry you were in what I call the funk, but glad to hear from you and that you stepped back and got things into perspective. Being a writer is hard! Add depression and anxiety . . . and well, the break was the best thing. Hugs! And welcome back! :)

emmameade.com said...

Hi Jen. I've been out of touch for a while trying to dig myself out of a writing slump that had gone on way too long. You know I enjoy your work and I'm glad to have read your books and been able to chat to you online. Thanks for sharing this post. Look after yourself x.

Jen Naumann said...

I don't think it's an option anymore to respond to each of you directly, so I hope you're all able to see this message. Thank you for your kind words, Clover, Browyn, Corrie, S. K., and Emma! I've missed my writer friends something awful and look forward to interacting with you again! XOXO

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