There’s a lull that comes right after the hard push to release a new book to market. I was surprised when it happened with my first book, Ghosts of Seattle. I’d thought I’d be deliriously happy. Thrilled by the final product after a year of extreme difficulties. Instead, I was maudlin and tired. Later I blamed it on the disappointment of the traditional publishing process, but then I self-published Murder of Crows and went through the same post-launch pits. I wept a lot, and slept a lot. It took several months to recover from the burnout.
Sinnet of Dragon’s post launch lull was less catastrophic. I felt the exhaustion, knew there had been strain but I was also in an unusual position in that I’d just left my corporate job and was in the beginning of a new personal Renaissance. My schedule allowed me to sleep as much as I needed, and eat healthy food, and sit by the river. So the recovery from that book was fast, just a couple of weeks of low energy and I was back to full speed.
This time around I prepped for it. The exhaustion is close on my heels. I can feel it. I’m keeping it at bay with caffeine and sugar, which is not ideal, but I need to push it off a couple more weeks until I have a window to take a solid three days to a week of down time. I’m compensating with poor diet now, but during that window I’ll be able to switch over to healthier food, and de-stress by the sea and by walking through the woods, or puttering in the garden.
I don’t know what it’s like for other authors. I can’t speak for the post-launch process for others, but I can say it’s been a rocky road of discovery regarding the emotional rollercoaster of commercially publishing art and creative outputs.
Whether it’s the sleepless nights and hard pushing to break through the final edits, polishing, services wrangling, uploads, battling the impostor syndrome, financial strain, formatting problem solving, working a bill-paying server job, starting a new state licensed grow business, meeting the monthly patron rewards and requirements, and prepping the cottage stead for spring planting—well, it’s understandable there’s be burnout nipping at my heels.
I hate to say it, but, I’m going to say it anyway… many of the authors I know who are able to put out a book a year, and not go through a post-launch dip are being supported by a partner or a publisher. Having that support net allows for a faster recovery and/or less of a drop after the tension line is released. Even still, many will suffer some sadness that the journey they’ve been emotionally invested in during the creation process is at a kind of end.
So how to combat the sadness of transition, and the exhaustion of having pushed so hard to complete a deadline?
My recovery process involves a lot of water. Drinking a lot of water. Soaking in a lot of baths. Sitting in the swing by the riverside, or by the sea. Water is a medium for me, and I don’t know why. I have very little water in my chart, which is mostly fire. Maybe that answers it, after all….
Rest doesn’t always mean sleep, at least not for me. This year has been stressful to say the least. My brain has been on hyperdrive for the last few months of grow operation planning and work, and server work, as well as scheduling and wrangling the final publishing needs for Scold of Jays. This means my thoughts are always burning away, even when I’m trying to sleep.
Rest is a quiet mind. Sleep is important, but rest is even more important.
No problems to solve or chew on. No thirty-step prep to plan for any failure or worst case scenario. No ruminating on failures and cycling on negative energy or patterns. No coulda/woulda/shoulda. Just…quiet.
A quiet mind is hard to learn at first. It’s easy to let a quiet mind be filled with debris and worry, and circular thoughts of wrongs received or committed. But once you can get to a quiet space in the brainpan…well, rest happens so much faster, and recovering physical energy is faster.
A quiet mind sounds like a fiddlehead fern unfurling in a damp forest. A quiet mind tastes like the smell of morning dew on the strawberries. A quiet mind feels like mist settling on the lower pastures with a sunbreak over the creek.
Sleep will happen as it’s needed, but a quiet mind I have to work toward until it sticks. Until I can unwire the spinning top of thoughts, and replace them with the sound of running water. It sometimes takes a few days of staring out the window with my tea in hand.
When do I know I’ve reached recovery from burnout?
When I wake up before the dog needs to go out, and I don’t need three cups of coffee to find my legs…I’m on the right track.
When I find a quiet place in my mind, find peace at last…and out of nowhere new story ideas start to populate the quiet space. When imagination comes unbidden, then my mind has rested as much as it needs from the previous burnout. It may take three days, or three months—but it will happen.
When my body craves salad, fresh fruit, and clean water—and my cravings for starch, sugar, and caffeine are gone. Then I’m on the right track.
When I have an itch to explore, go for a drive to a new location, pack my day bag into the woods, or wander into the city for new adventures—I’m fully recovered. Adventure doesn’t call to me when I’m too tired to answer, it only calls when it knows I’m ready to engage, and I’m prepared to discover something new…then write about it.
And when I’m ready to write, my spirit is back where it belongs and my Universe is as it should be.
There’s no point in pushing creative work before that time. There’s no point in berating myself for not getting more done, or for not breaking into a new chapter when I have an hour to spare. There’s no point in wishing I could be the kind of person who launches a book on a Monday, then starts a new one on Tuesday. There’s no point in trying to rush the re-boot. Just set the stage with water and restfulness, and it will happen in due time.
Do you go through post-launch blues or burnout? How do you cope or rebuild?