Remembering Why I Started + 5 Tips for Combating Writing “Burnout”

Honesty hour: Writing has been really difficult for me lately and I haven’t enjoyed practicing my craft.

When I started this blog last July, I was excited to have my own space to grow and develop my voice. In more recent months; however, I’ve felt the pressure to keep producing and pushing content, so that this space stays “current.” I’ve also been obsessively monitoring my blog’s analytics and have felt preoccupied by clicks, likes, comments, and new followers.

As if the quality of how “good” my writing is rests on how many people read and respond to a particular post or don’t. As if this should influence my decision as to whether or not I continue to maintain this space.

Validation culture in 2019 is a dangerous thing for creatives. It makes us doubt ourselves, it impacts our ability to create for the pure joy of doing so, it sparks feelings of frustration, sadness, and even jealousy. It pulls our focus from what’s truly important.

I admit this is something I’ve had to remind myself of a lot lately. I don’t write for Internet validation–though it is nice when my words connect with others and they share this with me–I write because I like telling stories. I write because I enjoy sharing my knowledge and perspective on certain topics (see Music Journalism). I write because it’s therapeutic.

I write because I find happiness in creating. 

And you know what? That’s enough for me.

In thinking about why I started this platform again, I still say that I wanted a space where I could grow and develop my voice as well as hold myself accountable, “show up,” and commit to my craft even when I don’t always feel like it. I’ve done that, and in my opinion, that’s the true measure of my success. (The power of positive thinking, am I right)? Pursuing a creative life isn’t easy–as I’m often reminded–but continually “showing up” and cultivating my craft is how I’m going to become a better storyteller.

I believe in myself and I am my primary audience. If I write for me and with the intent of  becoming a better storyteller–if I just be myself–then I’m confident I’ll connect with people who believe in me and in my words. And if not, then that’s okay, too. No matter what, I always want writing to be a part of my life.

So then, how do I combat writing “burnout” and continue practicing my craft for the pure joy of it? How can you?

First, I suggest finding a platform to practice your craft. That could be a blog, journal, or even a freelance gig at a website or newspaper. There is no right or wrong choice here. Determine what you want to write about and where.

Second, disregard validation. This is a tough one, but if you focus on just the recognition aspect of writing, you won’t be happy. Write for yourself. Write to improve. Write because there’s joy in creating. Believe in your own abilities and grow as a storyteller. If people like what you have to say, then they’ll find you. Just relax and be yourself.

Third, take breaks when necessary. It’s okay to step away from your work if you need to. A lot of the time this is helpful and doing so gives you perspective. Maybe you’re writing something and you just can’t get the words out the way that you want to. Stepping away and shelving your work for a day–or a week–can give you insight on what might not be working and how you can correct that.

Fourth, connect with fellow writers. Do you have friends who also write? Trade anecdotes about how your writing is going over coffee or lunch. Or if you maintain an online blog, seek out writers with similar content. Read what they’re writing and figure out what you can learn from them. They may even offer you valuable tips on how to improve your craft.

Finally, have fun. Writing is no good if you’re not having fun. Take creative risks and embrace your artistic license. Experiment with your style, voice, and form. Experimenting with your art can show you exactly who you are and what you want to say as a writer. It may also help you develop an appreciation for a writing style you previously disliked or never considered utilizing. (For example, I used to hate poetry. Then I read more poems. Soon after, I fostered a deep love for it and now I write poems for fun). You’d be surprised at what can happen. : )

If you’re a writer–or other type of creative–how do you keep practicing your craft when you’re struggling? Do you combat creative “burnout” or seeking validation? What tips can you offer your fellow creatives?

Comment below or tweet me at @cmsellers14

 

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Thanks for reading : )

You Say

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Photo Cred: https://weheartit.com/entry/319461359?

You know when you hear–really hear–a song for the first time? When the lyrics hit you at the exact moment you need them to?

That’s how I’m currently feeling about Lauren Daigle’s “You Say.”

It’s a song I’ve put on during moments of spiritual reflection, a song I find absolutely beautiful, and a song that I didn’t know how much I needed until this past weekend.

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Sunday

I was trying to rest, but I just couldn’t calm down. I had my earbuds in, only half paying attention to the sounds coming out of my phone speakers. A powerful wave of anxiety had taken over and I couldn’t stop it.

It was so loud.

Whatever song I’d been playing finished. I scrolled through my music library and stopped when I came to artists under “L.” I tapped “You Say,” closed my eyes, and tried to breathe deeply.

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough. Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up.

The moment I heard that first line of the song, I felt the tears slip from my eyes. The lyrics described my emotions perfectly.

At twenty-something years of existence and in a weird place career-wise coupled with the pervasive nature of social media and the ability to click through everyone else’s “highlight reels,” I’ve been driven by fear and the pressure to perform lately. I’ve been consumed by it.

And all I’ve wanted is for it–the negativity, self-doubt, what-ifs, and fear of failure–to go away.

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I’ve prayed for this–admittedly, sometimes half-heartedly–but it still remains. And the anxiety still hits–usually when I’m trying to fall asleep or just waking up. But Sunday felt different.

The fear of failure, what-ifs, negativity, and self-doubt–the lies–were still there. But God was there, too.

For the entirety of that song, and even after, I felt His presence. I felt Him saying, “I know you’re going through this difficult time, but I’m here. And I’m bigger than this, than any fear or anxiety or negativity or what-ifs or self-doubt, give these things to Me.”

And I listened to the lyrics and I cried some more.

You say I am strong when I think I am weak.

In You, I find my worth, in You, I find my identity.

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet.

You have every failure, God, and You’ll have every victory.

And I think this was exactly what I needed.

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One of my favorite writers, Hannah Brencher says, “Thank your limp,” or “Thank the thing that makes you need God more.” (A Side note: Go follow her, she is seriously amazing and she writes about a host of topics–faith, social media, mental health, the importance of community–so well). 

I don’t know how you feel about God, reader, but I do know that we each need to be reminded of our own worth and that we were made for more than anxiety, self-doubt, negativity, what-ifs, and fear of failure.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t struggle with these things or that we don’t sometimes feel consumed by them or that we say a prayer and things are instantly better. It means that we’re all human, we’re all imperfect, and we should all be kind to each other. Christian or Atheist, I think we can all agree that love is bigger, louder, and more impactful.

With that in mind, let’s speak words of positivity over ourselves and others, let’s remind ourselves of our worth, let’s lean on God in our lowest moments, and let’s bring His love to everyone we encounter. 

Our world could always use more love.

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In loving memory of J.P. (1952-2019)

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