Self-Publishing and Burnout

Once upon a time, I had an idea. It wasn’t like my other ideas. It was bigger and brighter and shinier. A whole imaginary universe went into motion when I sat with my notebook and pen and turned the key. I’d written stories before. Short ones, just a couple of characters, a quick resolution. None of those ideas were like this one. None of them had kept me awake at night; none of them had me leaping out of bed, eager to get the dialogue I’d dreamed down on paper. None of them had me in such thrall that I almost burned my house down, not once, but twice.

As I finished this first novel and wrote a few others, I cherished that joy. It sustained me through some of my darkest times. Nothing hurt when I was writing. My worries melted away for a while, and novel after novel piled up in photocopy paper boxes in my closet. Once in a while I’d dust one off and send it to an agent, and occasionally someone would get excited about it, but nothing ever came of that. So I kept writing.

Then, when self-publishing became an affordable possibility, I began to release them. Online friends helped me learn how to hit all the bases: get the website going, get an Amazon presence, and market, market, market and sell, sell, sell.

I marketed and marketed. I sold…sold…and then, not so much.

Approaching the five-year anniversary of “living the dream,” as we call it in Indie Land, I had a meltdown. I was sick. I lost weight. I was exhausted. I wrote, but I didn’t have the same verve. I keep a folder on my computer named “When I Feel Like Quitting.” Believe me, I dipped into that a few times.

I almost quit.

Then, at the end of 2016, I sat down with a big sketchpad I’d swiped from Art Husband and started sketching out my plans for the upcoming year. I’d been doing this for a while, inspired by Jim Devitt’s blog on Indies Unlimited.

That’s when I had my epiphany. I was in danger of letting everything needed to be a successful self-published author kill what I’d originally loved about the process: the writing.

And I knew that if I let it kill the writing, I’d be sunk. Writing keeps me sane; writing is my release valve; writing saves me from turning into a raging bitch.

So I made lists. A lot of lists. Things I needed. Things I needed to stop. I pulled back on a lot of my commitments, nearly everything that wasn’t related to paying the bills and regaining my health.

I’m ready to dip a toe back in again. I’ve already done a couple of small promotions, and I’m using that same sketchpad to make notes for my next book release, which will happen later this year. But maybe a little less frenetically and more mindfully than in previous years.

And yes. Writing is a joy again. You’re welcome.

Have any of you come out the other side of burnout? What did you do to get over it?

22 thoughts on “Self-Publishing and Burnout

  1. dvberkom says:

    You have your finger on the pulse of indie land. From what I’ve seen and read lately, lots of writers are going through similar stuff. Believe me, I’ve been through burnout, and it ain’t pretty. Whenever that red flag rears its head, I take a break, step back, and drop a bunch of the social media/marketing stuff, cuz I can’t live without writing (love the raging bitch reference btw) The never ending cocktail party that is Facebook, Instagram, et al, will go on happily without moi, and I can always jump back in anytime.

    Trying to stay up on everything (FOMO, apparently many writers experience this insidious “fear of missing out”) and not writing enough is what gets me looking at maxing out the credit cards on some magical trip where I go live with the elephants and leopards and never come back.

    Soooo glad you’re back and healthy and happy again. The world would be a lot less beautiful without your writing.

  2. acflory says:

    Ugh. I had no idea you were going through so much misery. You can’t stop writing. Whatever else goes by the wayside, don’t let it be the writing. Ever. -massive hugs-

  3. karenwojcikberner says:

    Glad you’ve come out of it, Laurie, and I hope you’re feeling better spiritually and physically. You’re an excellent writer, and the world would be more dull without your books. That said, I totally understand how you feel. I dropped out two years ago, after my third novel failed. It got some honorable mentions, but no sales. I needed to recharge. I’ve been writing again for almost a year now, but not fiction. I’ve decided to concentrate on my freelance work for awhile until the fiction bug strikes me again. I know I have a book or two in me yet, but not right now.

  4. Runaway Nuns and Leprechauns says:

    I actually think I’m just starting to find my place in writing. I’ve written quite a bit over the years, off and on, here and there. I haven’t published anything yet but I’m certainly excited at the prospect of publishing. I’m off now to read more about you and to browse around your place.

  5. Jen Maher-Kudrapali says:

    Some people want to write a novel but don’t even know how lols. Always think of the blessings you already have! 🙂 You’ve written so many books already! Just look back and see how far you’ve come. 🙂 I will definitely check out the books you’ve written. Thanks for sharing!

  6. J.R.Bee says:

    I’ve not had anything to market as yet, but the thought scares me. I’m not a marketer, I never will be, and I know this. I like to write when I can, and I like to think there are times that I am good at it.
    Maybe not polished grammatically, but a good story teller. I know this will count for nothing though, because I am not a salesperson, I would be relying on luck alone, and luck alone can only get you so far. I suppose there will come a time when I will have to bite the bullet and see how many teeth fall out, but for now it’s a distant demon hovering over my writerly dreams.

  7. Book Review Directory says:

    Hi Laurie! I loved this article. It can be easy for us self-publishers to get lost in everything BUT the writing. But you’re right; the writing is the root of it all, and it’s something that we can’t stray too far from. You might consider checking out our new Writers Club, by the way. It offers free book promotion now, which is nice to not have to worry about and focus more on the writing.

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