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This is the second of the burn out articles, to read the first, please go here.

woman burn out tired 123rf #11717777_sYou’re tired. You’re stressed. You feel like you’re in a hamster wheel, going ‘round and ‘round with no end in sight. If you were on a virtual treadmill, you’d have gone 1,000 miles by now, and yet have gotten nowhere. Your lack of progress is killing you.

Is that how you feel?

Welcome to burn out in one of its many forms. We call this one “Lack of Progress.”

Generally, when we think of progress, we think of a series of ladder rungs, each one leading to a goal. There might be a lot of rungs, but as you climb each one, you feel like you’ve accomplished something and are closer to your objective. Sometimes, however, it seems like you’re on the same rung forever. That next milestone is just out of reach, so close and yet so far. In the meantime, you’re stuck half way between here and there, which is a pretty frustrating location.

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“Burn out for me is when the well has run dry and my muse has packed up and gone on holiday. I’m stuck in what I’m doing. Mechanically, everything is working. The wheels are turning and I think I’m getting someplace until I realize I’m on a treadmill, so all I’m doing is running in place. If this happens while I’m in the middle of a story, I usually take a break of a day or so, then get back to it through “new eyes.” However, someone once told me that if you feel your story is headed in a flat, aimless direction, you need to give your characters more conflict. Put something in their way so they have to use the qualities you’ve given them to get out of the mess you’ve put them in. When I’ve gone back to a story and done that, it usually takes off and sometimes in a new direction, but at least it’s no longer running in place.” ~Author Kathryn R. Blake, writer of Acting Lessons and more.

Let’s think about this. Even as you’re hanging out, waiting for that spark that ignites progress, you’re doing things. Little things, maybe, but they’re still getting done. Maybe your ticket off the treadmill is to celebrate small successes. “I walked a mile today.” Maybe you also walked a mile yesterday, but today, perhaps it seemed a little easier. You’re thinking you can also walk a mile tomorrow, and feel even better. Or maybe your success is that you didn’t fall off the treadmill. That’s something to be happy about, too.

To feel better about those repetitive tasks we all have to do as we slowly climb the ladder, celebrate small successes. It might be in your career, or your everyday life. Try not to focus on the things you do over and over again, but on the things that make each moment unique.

You have small successes every day. You are climbing that ladder toward your goal. Maybe not a rung at a time, but perhaps reaching is getting easier and you can see that next rung almost at your fingertips. You know your goal, and, believe me, that’s a pretty big step in the right direction.

Keep track of those little victories. The smallest ones still count. If you feel like you’re not making progress, remember that even stretching is progress. And, sometimes even doing the same thing ten times adds a stepping stone on your pathway toward success.

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Anastasia Vitsky, author of Mira’s Miracle and other exciting books, shares: “For me, burn out is when I start doing what I think I should do, rather than what brings me joy and satisfaction. It shows in my writing and other aspects of my work.”

Every little bit of progress you make should be a joyful experience. Enjoy the parts that make you happy—there are plenty of those if you look for them. Take pride and satisfaction in each moment.

Bottom line: note and celebrate small successes. You’ll feel better every day and leave burn out behind.

8 Comments

  1. A good and timely reminder, thank you. A great quote by Kathryn, too. Putting your characters in an improbably or difficult situation can breathe new life into a flagging story.

    I have found recently that the key to managing burn-out is continuing to find new sources of joy. When we discover this joy, even if it’s not always adding to our daily word count, it rejuvenates our desire and drive.

  2. Thanks Trish, Kathryn and Ana. All good advice and this is an important topic. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you ought to be writing every minute of every day, especially when you work from home and there’s no clear work/home distinction.

  3. Love the article, Trish, and not just because you quoted me. Right now, I’m having trouble with prioritization (like reading blogs and Facebook instead of working on my next book). Think you could do an article on that next. No advice for me on that one. I’m off to Twitter next.

  4. Nice and helpful article, Kathryn. When I try too hard to write all the joy is taken out of it and I lose interest. It does help to walk away and think about other things I’ve accomplished even if they’re small:)

  5. Great advice Patricia – I find myself often reminding myself of this. Celebrate the small successes every day, when you have an awesome day, celebrate but don’t change that expectation. I also find, like Kathryn, that when I am stuck, I just have to give myself that day away or go for a walk or something. Time is so limited we feel like we have to sit behind our computers every moment of every day writing. Time and space can give you those ‘fresh eyes’.

    Also, as far as adding conflict, Kathryn is completely right. When I take the lazy route, I always (really every single time) find myself returning and adding in more layers because that is how you make a 3D person and not a flat character (with a paddle in hand ;). Great advice.Can you remind me of this on a weekly basis? Just an e-mail will do…

    • I know what you mean, Natasha. My husband has to remind me constantly, especially when I get a harsh review. Makes me feel like I’m getting nowhere and not making progress to be the best at what I do. But making a cupcake to celebrate buying your groceries on sale can make a difference. 🙂

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