Paul Welch

On Fantasy, Writing & the Journey to Publication

The Importance of Space

I have taken a 3-month break from working on my manuscript. It wasn’t that my life got too busy, as I certainly had a fair amount of “free time” that I could have invested into my manuscript, and it wasn’t because I lost interest in the work. My love of the story hadn’t changed, nor had my passion to become a published writer.

I had burned out.

The expression “burning the candle at both ends” exists for a reason. Sometimes we get carried away and try to do too much. That’s what happened to me.

I was cast in a wonderful piece of children’s theatre that took me to Edmonton for almost six weeks. It was a wonderful two-person play that was high energy and fast-moving and it demanded a lot of commitment and focus. I made a lot of physical and vocal choices, and I did my best to give it my all.

In the professional theatre, you typically work 6 days a week rehearsing to put a show up. Add to that my decision to walk 10 km a day to and from the theatre and we’re talking about a 55 hour/week time commitment. Seems like more than enough, doesn’t it?

But what did I do?

I decided to also continue to aggressively work on my book and learn about the publishing industry. I learned about platform, and the importance and impact it apparently has in the modern publishing world (and I promise I’ll write a blog post on platform at some point.) I learned about writing and editing. I tried to stay abreast of the changing world of publishing – and boy, is it ever changing fast. I read e-books on the craft and the business, and bought a number of fantasy novels to understand what others were doing and how.

It was too much.

Some nights, I didn’t even sleep. I tried to, but my brain kept going and it kept me awake. I’d lie in bed and feel like I was wasting time, so the lights would go back on and I’d get back to work.

I probably spent another 35 hours / week working on the book. On top of my 55 hours / week, the candle faded fast.

So I needed time to recover, and I did my best not to feel guilty about that.

Fast-forward three months to today.

I have just come back from a week-long Artist in Residency contract in Lethbridge where I worked with Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and Grade 1 students on the topic of diversity. Together, we created a play that was 100% developed from their imaginations. And boy, do they ever have wonderful imaginations!

I feel rested and recharged (even though the week was exhausting) and last night I sent an e-mail out to the literary agent who has been reading the partial of IN THE SHADOWS OF THE DAWN inquiring about the status of my book.

All this to say: I finally feel ready to get back to work on taking the manuscript to the next level.

It needs some more editing and I have some ideas of scenes that I think should be cut. There are a couple of thematic moments that I think need to be highlighted a little bit more. And I’m certainly curious to see what 3 months of rest does to my reading of the story. I am certain I am going to see it with fresh eyes and find a number of things that I missed in my previous edits.

So stay tuned! I think I’ve found a new candle to burn.. but this time I’m going to be careful not to burn it on both ends.

Have you ever burned yourself out? How did it happen, and what steps did you take to recover? What lessons have you learned? Please share your stories in the comments below. I’m sure we could all benefit from hearing each other’s experiences!

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2 responses to “The Importance of Space

  1. Novel Girl April 29, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Ahoy, Paul! I burnt out bad. I went nuts building my platform, learning about writing, social networking for authors, and publishing that I had the same experience as you!

    Writer’s Burnout

    It sucks because I constantly have so much work to do writing-related but it could not get done. My mind had hit a wall. No cliche there either. I felt like I couldn’t see above, beyond or to either side of that wall.

    I think I’m over Writer’s Burnout although I get so obsessed by writing, blogging and publishing that it happens to a certain degree every now and then.

    It’s nice to have company in this area though. Keep me updated on your lit. agent situation. I mean it. Email me or Twitter DM me if you want. I’m crossing my fingers for you.

  2. Paul Welch April 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Sounds exactly like what happened to me!!

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