I apologize that it's been ages since I wrote here in my blog. I’ve really been struggling the last few months to understand where I am in my career and in my life. We have moved so many times over the last twelve years, in and out of other countries, back into the United States and then away again, that I feel like a child who’s been spinning around – laughing at first and loving the dizziness, and then eventually falling down, nauseous and in tears.
Even though I’ve been a full-time writer since the beginning of 2006 – meaning, I didn’t have an additional/outside job – I’ve only published eight titles. Of that, only three are full-length (75,000, 85,000, and 100,000 words). Three are 10,000-15,000 word “short stories,” one is a 45,000-word short novel, and one is a boxed set. I tend to be quite good at not comparing myself to others – except when I find myself sitting on the floor, nauseous and in tears.
I was super excited to move to Sweden eight weeks ago, so I’m not feeling sad because I didn’t want to move here. But I haven’t had the energy or emotional stamina to do anything. The last couple weeks I’ve decided to apply all my energies to figuring out the problem and fixing it. Eventually it occurred to me to Google “burnout” and see if that was at all close to how I was feeling. It wasn’t close.
It was spot on. (See this article from Psychology Today.)
So now my energies are directed toward healing and recovery. It’s interesting to me how emotional burnout is. I thought it was just something that made you feel drained in the area of your work, and that made you physically tired and needing a rest. I hadn’t realized it could make you feel emotionally empty.
Now that I’ve been able to narrow down the problem, I’ve read all kinds of things that I think might help. Some articles are directed toward rest and light exercise, some are about nutrition, some focus more on the depression aspect and how to get past that, some are on healing the spiritual and so finding the other areas healed as you move forward. (Here's a followup article from Psychology Today on overcoming burnout.)
But what do I do as I’m pursuing healing, before I’ve actually found it? I got an idea a few days ago from one of my all-time favorite films.
Near the beginning, when Sully and Mike are hiding Boo and trying to figure out how to get her back to her own world without getting caught, they are all in Sully’s apartment with Boo coloring on the floor. She starts doing that toddler thing, rubbing her eyes, trying to stay awake, eyes drooping. And Sully gets her to follow him to his room by laying down a trail of Cheerios.
This always makes me laugh! He treats her like a puppy, making a food trail for her to follow and then making a pile of newspapers in the corner for her to sleep on.
And Boo follows him, eating one Cheerio at a time on the path. All goes well until she sees Sully’s big, comfortable bed. Then she leaves the Cheerios trail and climbs up under the covers.
Apparently, Cheerios are the modern-day bread crumbs. 😉
Watching this scene again – I found it and embedded the video here – made me feel like that was something I could do right now. Follow the Cheerios path. One Cheerio at a time. At least until the trail gets to a place where I finally feel like I see something I want.
Right now, I honestly feel like I have no idea what I want or what I like, let alone what I love and want to do for the next ten or twenty years. Am I still a writer? Do I still love it? Or even like it? I don’t know. Apparently, this is how burnout feels.
I don’t have any answers to my problems and challenges yet, but at least I can laugh about the one thing I can do right now: look for Cheerios.
I found a Cheerio when one of my readers told me not to give up on my writing. I got another one when a friend repeated the sentiment. Another Cheerio came in the form of a new friend who loves my new chick lit series idea. Interesting how all the Cheerios I’ve found so far are leading me along the writing path. 😉
What about you? What do you need direction in? Where can you look for Cheerios, for someone cheering you on in one direction or another? Or have you had a negative reaction to something – “Oh, I don’t like that” or “I definitely don’t want to do that”? Those could be Cheerios leading you away from the path that is not going to work for you right now. Only you can know, and it might take you some time and some contemplation. Take the time. It’s worth it.
Follow the Cheerios! 😀