writer burnout

(This post first appeared on Substack: Writing Magick with Maggie Sunseri. Click to subscribe.)

It’s been three weeks since you last heard from me, and that’s because I burned out. Hard. On March 4th, Book 3 The Lost Witches of Aradia series, The Illuminated releases, which is exactly 60 days after Book 1, The Discovered, was published. It makes me laugh now that I think back on my original goal, which was to publish all three at the same time back in December. HA. I really thought!

Rapid releasing was a conscious decision I made to maximize the impact of my career launch, as it ensures that readers have a steady stream of content to get hooked on when they take a chance on a new author. I’m glad I did what I did, and I’m so very proud of myself for the countless hours of unpaid labor I’ve put in this past year to make it all happen. But I also recognize that in pursuit of releasing three books, mastering ads and promotions, and learning the ins and outs of the business, my sense of balance has gotten seriously out of whack.

I’m a focuser. This trait is one of my biggest productivity strengths, but it comes at a price. When my brain latches onto a goal, I can work for hours upon hours without a break until projects are completed. I’m exceptionally good at blocking out the whole world until I get something done. I am not so good, however, at juggling multiple projects and goals. I get tunnel-vision in a big, bad way. Anything perceived as unnecessary or irrelevant to the main task at hand gets shoved to the back of my mind, and I can get very, very grumpy if I feel like I have to split my brain in too many directions. The past two months have been extremely taxing. While focusing on the business and publishing side of this career, my creative, spiritual, and social sides were completely shut down.

Was losing balance necessary for this unusual circumstance? It would be easy for me to say yes and to promise myself I’ll be better going forward. But the truth is, there will always be deadlines and ambitious goals. I won’t be releasing at a book-a-month pace for the foreseeable future, thank goodness, but I still have two more books to write, edit, and publish this year alone, and that will need to coincide with strategic marketing plans. If I don’t learn balance now, it’s going to cost me.

The burnout crept up slowly at first. Instead of waking up excited to start the day, I developed an impending sense of dread. I found myself wanting to escape. Which is a dangerous mentality for someone in recovery, of course, and my burnout absolutely coincided with the onset of cravings and sobriety struggles. I started scrolling through social media more, going to bed and waking up later and later, disregarding any and all means of self-care or spiritual practice, and using TV as my only source of relaxation and entertainment. No reading. No time with friends. Everything slipped away. Then when I finally decided it was time to take a break, it was too late. All I could do was binge watch TV and hide, and I couldn’t figure out why taking time off was only making me feel worse. Wasn’t a break what I needed? That’s what everyone was telling me!

Balance doesn’t mean working tirelessly for weeks on end until complete mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion, hoping that one long weekend of doing absolutely nothing will refresh and revitalize. Because it won’t… trust me. And I knew that. I just ignored it.

Balance means creating a life you don’t need to escape from. It means consistent breaks even when they don’t feel necessary, and it means making time for the things that make you feel good and treating them as just as important and necessary as career work. Because they are. Actually, most of our spiritual, creative, and physical needs are far more important than being “productive.” Especially when it’s only by doing the things that keep us healthy and balanced that we’re able to produce anything at all.

I’m on the upswing now. And I watched a lot of good TV. For one, I binged all seasons of HBO’s Search Party, and I highly recommend it. The best way I can describe it is that it’s a dark comedy and crime drama about self-absorbed, entitled twenty-somethings in NYC. There was this particular scene that made me absolutely lose my shit. One character asks another, who became “enlightened” after a near-death experience, “How do you even know how to pick locks?” And she replies, “I can kind of do anything now. I have, like, access to the ancient divine wisdom.”

Áine has entered the chat…

I’m still laughing about that. I’ve also been watching Euphoria, which I enthusiastically live-tweet with everyone on Twitter every Sunday. It’s a party! The point is, a little binge-watching is good for the soul. Just not when it’s the sad, burnt out, hiding-from-the-world type of binge watching I had to do for a few days so I didn’t lose my sanity.

My burnout spiral couldn’t get too crazy though, because The Illuminated is still releasing in two weeks. It’s my favorite piece of writing I’ve ever written, and I cannot WAIT for y’all to read it. I think it’s really where all the mysteries and suspense of the series finally come to a head, though rest assured our witches will still be left with a long journey to travel. There’s a very satisfying ending that I hope will tide everyone over until the release of Book 4, The Hunted, this summer.

Speaking of this summer… I’m finally heading back over to Europe in June. YAYYY! Words cannot describe how happy I am to travel again. I’ll be attending two writer’s conferences, one in Madrid and one in London. I’m beyond excited to see my pals across the pond, but I honestly just can’t wait to get out of my house. It’s been a very, very long two years. I’ll also be heading to a conference in Vegas in November, which should be a very interesting locale for a young, sober person. I’ll be sure to tell you guys all the spicy details of these upcoming adventures!

In the mean time, I’ve committed to writing Books 4 and 5 before I leave. I’ll probably go social media silent for a couple months, but I’ll still check my inboxes every once in a while. I’ll still be writing for this Substack weekly, so you can also reply to these posts by email if you’re subscribed to reach out and chat. Next week I’ll be writing about what makes villains so damn sexy. (Move over Damon and Klaus from The Vampire Diaries and Kylo Ren from Star Wars, Lucius is making a run for sexiest, evilest psychopath.)

(This post first appeared on Substack: Writing Magick with Maggie Sunseri. Click to subscribe, like, or leave a comment. This newsletter is currently 100% free, but if you want a way to support me you could always share my posts with your friends or Buy Me a Coffee. Or you could buy my kinky witch books!)

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