by Valarie Kinney
I’ve been seeing it quite often lately.
In blog posts, in my Facebook feed, on Twitter.
Writers I’ve been interacting with for a few years on social media, who have stated time and again they would never quit. Writing was in their blood, they said, they couldn’t stop even if they wanted to.
But they have.
These are great writers. I’ve read their work, often reviewed it; I’ve seen their work praised by others.
These are people with solid talent, who once found such joy in setting words down on a page.
They are friends who once chortled with glee upon finishing a new book, and couldn’t wait to show it off to the world. Writers who have been in the field for years, who’ve already jumped through many of the hoops I’m still attempting to locate. People who were at some point able to pay their mortgages and buy their kids braces with the money they made churning out stories and articles.
And they are quitting, it seems, in droves.
The question is, why?
I think a lot of it has to do with burn out. In any profession other than writing, people are encouraged to take breaks. Vacations, even. Most employed people get at least a day or two off each week. They work their set amount of time, punch out, and head home. Or to the gym. Or to watch little Susie’s ballet concert. And that’s fine. Nobody blinks.
But writers, now, we’re a different beast. We are compared to machines. Slow down? Never! Writers write. Every day. How many times have we been told this? We mustn’t stop! Keep writing! Ignore distractions! You’re sick? It doesn’t matter! Write anyway! Your child is desperately begging for your attention? That’s a distraction! Keep writing! You haven’t torn your gaze away from the computer in weeks and you can’t exactly recall what your spouse looks like? Does he even still live with you? You don’t know, but it doesn’t matter! Write another book! Writing is all that’s important!
If we admit we are struggling, that our eyes ache, our heads are pounding, our kids are crying, and we just plain need a break, instead of support from other writers, we often find ourselves on the wrong side of a thorough tongue lashing. Writers don’t get breaks! Real writers write! All the time!
Working all the time, every day, is the perfect lead in to burn out. And it can be extremely difficult to bounce back from serious burn out.
Human beings who work at any sort of job need breaks. Time to remember the way wet concrete feels on bare feet, or sunshine on their faces. Time to look their children in the eyes and really listen to what they are saying. Time to spend with a partner, hold hands, enjoy a relationship with the person you love.
We need to encourage one another in this. Taking a break, focusing on family and friendships, or just taking time out to feed our own souls is not failure. It’s not something we should feel we need to apologize for.
Writers are not machines. We are humans. We deserve kindness and rest, as much as anyone else.
Valarie Kinney is a writer, fiber artist and Renaissance Festival junkie with a wicked caffeine addiction. She resides in Michigan with her husband, four children, and two insane little dogs. She is the author of Heckled, Slither and Just Hold On, as well as the short stories Copper and Ailith in the KAPOW! anthologies by 7DS Books. Narrator for Dragons of Faith.