How to Find the Time to Write When You're Burnt Out From Your Day Job (Life)

This post hits a little close to home today. Even as I type this, my eyes are blurry from lack of sleep and stress.

I’ve recently learned that the secret is to be easy on yourself. You may not write streams of gorgeous sentences each time you sit down, but just showing up creates a habit. Once you have the habit established, it’s easier to write down something (anything) each time you sit down.

This is easier said than done, of course. And it’s something repeated so many times it has lost meaning. But maybe just try it and see what happens?

I’ve also learned that the writing life™ isn’t a one-size fits all cloak of magical wonders. What works for me doesn’t work for everyone else (and I’m glad it doesn’t). As similar as we all are, I’m glad my combination of quirks are mine alone. But we all have challenges that keep us from sitting down to write.

After I finished at Hamline, I couldn’t write at all. Or, rather, that’s the narrative I tell myself. I probably did write something, but it wasn’t anything I felt comfortable talking about. It wasn’t something I could be proud about. They were just words that didn’t mean anything.

Some friends from high school visited last fall and one of them looked at me with this strange, excited expression and said, “so you’re a writer?”

And I deflated. Was I a writer?

Yes, I wrote words. I had recently been working on short stories and I had submitted them to writing contests but my rejections on Submittable kept stacking up.

I said something along the lines of, “Well, yeah, I haven’t had anything published, though.”

I was equating being a writer to being published. I hadn’t really even submitted much, had just applied to a handful of writing contests. I hadn’t even submitted anything I felt was truly done. I hadn’t even submitted anything without paying a fee. How could I be a writer if no one was reading what I wrote?

So after the visit, I sat down and churned out some words, essentially pouring my soul into what I wrote. And I found my voice in the process. I was writing words that were mine alone. I was writing from my unique viewpoint. I was writing words that made me feel good, proud even.

I submitted it to 5 online literary journals. I made a pact that I would be published by the time I turned 28 (because obviously these are things you can control). So the day before my 28th birthday, I got an email. They loved my story and wanted to publish it.

The validation from that was eye opening. Someone who wasn’t a friend or a teacher or family had read what I wrote. And they thought it was good enough to publish.

But we don’t need outside validation. I just needed to believe in myself. Believe that I was telling a story that needed to be told. Believe that what I had to say mattered.

So when I’m burnt out and can’t keep my eyes open, it’s okay. I don’t need to write every single day to be a writer.