Burnout: When you just need to freaking STOP

In her book, Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson writes about something called The Spoon Theory. She says that each day, we’re given a certain number of spoons. Each spoon represents something you have to do, whether that’s shower or work or eat. Every time you accomplish something, you give away a spoon.

Well, I have run out of spoons, no matter what my dishwasher says.

I began to notice the spoon shortage last week as I prepared for my trip to Tucson where I would be the Mental Health Awareness Week featured speaker at University of Arizona. I didn’t have that much to do really, and yet, everything felt HUGE.

For instance, when I realized my swanky dress I’d bought for the event still had the “you stole this” thingy attached, I lost my mind. Actually going to the store to have the evil magnet removed felt like climbing a mountain. In heels. With an elephant on my back. An extra fat elephant. An extra fat elephant eating chicken wings. You get the idea.

I still had a few spoons left, true, but they were relegated to:
Drink beer
Sleep
Watch the BBC
Cuddle Jake

Every other task? No spoons for you!

The spoon shortage included my writing. I quit working on my new novel because I realized my brain was too fried to plot or develop or care. Every bit of creativity I have right now is going toward prepping and promoting Bite Somebody Else. Even sending We Still Live to new agents is on hold. Okay, yeah, I wrote some Sherlock fan fiction yesterday, so assign a spoon to Smut. (I always apparently have a spoon for Smut. I think one is actually labeled “Smut.”)

At first, I battled with my lack of spoons, but if my mental health speech in Tucson last week taught me anything, it taught me that it’s okay to crash, especially if you’ve been working hard. Too hard, in fact.

In the weeks leading up to Tucson, I would wake in the middle of the night sweating and in the midst of a panic attack. My neck and jaw pain was so bad I started making weird stretchy faces in public to try to lessen the pain. (Picture Jim Carrey in … anything.) My brain was fuzzy to the point of forgetting things, all sorts of things.

The word we’re looking for? Burnout, baby.

Author burnout is bad. You awkwardly apply alliteration in all assignments. Your paragraphs closely resemble a Jackson Pollock painting. You accidentally use the phrase “heaving bosom” and don’t even blink. Which is when you just need to STOP. Not forever, but for a little while.

I think this applies to life, too, not just work. (Nobody wants to start literally looking like a Jackson Pollock painting.) Sometimes, you need to step back. Make a vague excuse about “spoons,” and no one will want to ask any questions. Have a martini. Stand on your head. Stare at pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch laughing. Whatever it takes to slow down the ever-churning engine that is your mind and just stop for a little while.

Perhaps collect additional spoons.

Saturday, I leave for the famed Bite Somebody Pilgrimage to Longboat Key, Florida, and I’m not working a lick. My spoons will be labeled:
Get a tan
Drink rum punch
Laugh your ass off
Swim in the moonlight
Read some smut (See, there’s always a spoon for Smut.)

When I get home, I won’t be quite so burnt out anymore. Maybe I’ll even do a little tinkering on We Still Live or the as-yet-untitled Witch Project. Or maybe I’ll coast on a Bite Somebody Else wave for a while. Who knows? It’s hard to plan my spoons that far in advance.

For now, I’m on a break. I deserve a break. Do you?

(Extremely fitting photo of me by Paul Andrew Portraits.)

7 thoughts on “Burnout: When you just need to freaking STOP

  1. Launching a new book really is like having a baby. Sleep deprivation, panic, etc. I feel your pain (or should I say burnout). Sounds like you have a great weekend planned. Have fun!

  2. Spoons are the best analogy. Have a great pilgrimage! I think we need days filled with a lot of relaxing nothing. It helps me be a little sane anyway.

    I’m very excited about an untitled witch project! 😀

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