I have a confession to make. And it worries me a little.
I think I’m burned out.
Not just from the pandemic. Not just from my 8-5. Not just from the months it took to move.
I think I’m burned out from writing.
What I’m feeling is different from writer’s block though. I still have ideas, but I simply don’t have the drive, discipline, or motivation to focus on it right now. And I have no excuses.
When I got word that I won the Children of Steel Short Fiction Contest back in December, part of me felt like that was IT! That was the moment I’d officially “made it.” I’d won a contest, I’d made money with my writing. This was the first step towards becoming at least a part-time freelance, semi-professional writer.
But to be honest it’s been crickets since then — in my head and in the lack of acceptance emails I’ve received from other publications.
To be fair, I haven’t been submitting as frequently as I once was. It’s not because I worry or fear rejection, but rather I’m just plain exhausted by the whole process. Reading the guidelines. Meeting deadlines. Formatting. Emailing. Uploading. Waiting. Logging my submissions and the results.
I’m embarrassed to even admit this, but I’m even finding myself feeling . . . annoyed with writing. I don’t want to read newsletters or blogs. I find that the updates, information, and resources in my inbox from various publications are repeat information to me. I’ve browsed these lists, submitted to these journals, joined these Facebook groups. I feel like I haven’t seen anything new or fresh in quite some time. And I am really, really tired of every. single. event. being. virtual. I get that it’s out of necessity, but I have no desire to stare at a screen for more hours a day than I already do.
Part of me wonders if winning the Children of Steel contest was my peak. What if that’s as good as it gets for me? What if I never get a publisher for Light of the Fire or Rum Buddies? What if I simply don’t excel as a short story or essay writer? What if that thousand-dollar prize is all I ever earn?
Those feelings pushed me to try focusing on something else — querying. I have two novels completed and I’ve sent about a dozen agents my query letter and synopsis for The Month of May. I‘ve had two or three positive, encouraging rejections, but now I’m at the point where I realize I need to change something and/or up part of my game, but how exactly do I determine what that is? I’ve had two other writers look at my query and synopsis for May as a favor — writers I “met” through Facebook groups. Their suggestions were helpful, but different of course. How do I know whose advice to take?
I also have a short list of writers, editors, and agents who will critique queries and synopses for a fee, and while I’m willing to spend some money towards that, I find myself asking the same questions — how do I know which one will give me the best feedback? Who do I trust? Which one do I choose? Obviously I could pay all three of them to critique my submission package, but they’ll inevitably all say something different and I’ll find myself in an even bigger conundrum.
All of these conflicting feelings are exhausting to navigate — and what’s worse, they make me weary of my precious novel, The Month of May. Sometimes I think that May was the first novel that I wrote for myself and that maybe it should never see the light of day. But then I think about how I poured my heart and soul into it and how I rebuilt it from scratch after the great USB crash of 2020. My blood, sweat, and tears is literally in that manuscript and I so desperately want to share it with the world.
Then again maybe May is distracting me from my other finished manuscript, Ocracoke’s Daughter. Ocracoke is on a different level than May. It’s better, sure, but the two are not (and shouldn’t be) in competition with one another. I have a rough query and synopsis written for Ocracoke too, but again, I’m struggling to know how to tell when they’re ready to send out.
And is it a bad idea to query two projects at once?
Whenever I’m overwhelmed by these confusing feelings towards my writing, I find myself wishing I had flesh and blood writer friends. People I could meet up with at the library, at a Starbucks, at a nearby park. People with publishing experience and not just moms and retired teachers who write as a hobby.
I don’t mean to sound condescending towards those writers, but I’ve flitted in and out of groups like that since I was sixteen and I’m ready for something more — I need something more. But every time I think I’ve found a comrade, whether in person or online, it never goes anywhere. I recently signed up for an online writing group and agreed to pay a nominal fee per month to be included in “exclusive” member-only updates and perks. But so far it seems like it’s just an extra newsletter I get every week.
I feel like I’m the new girl in school who is forced to eat lunch by herself every day. I feel like I did back in high school when I didn’t score quite high enough on the AP-English placement test but was bored in basic English class. I feel like Goldilocks searching for that right fit.
I know that most writers go through times like these, and the world is shit right now and I have a lot going on in my personal life, and I’m sure these are all contributing factors. I think I’m most worried that I’ll lose myself as a writer again. I certainly don’t want another ten years to pass me by and realize I’ve not grown at all as a writer. Because all of these complicated feelings aside, writing is still my passion. My heart.