You know what sucks?
Doing something that you once loved greatly, and having it feel like a burden.
One time, back in high school, I was sitting on the back of a horse. (Context: I had my own horse, trained other people’s horses, and taught riding lessons.) I spent basically all my free time at the stable, and if I wasn’t working with other people and their horses, I was hopping on the back of my girl to get a ride in.
I loved it so much.
Until I didn’t.
Getting back to the story, I was sitting on the back of a horse, and I was struck with a train of thought that hadn’t entered my brain before. I was TIRED. Did I even enjoy being there anymore? Where was the thrill I once felt every time I had a chance to spend time with a horse?
Eventually I stopped riding and gave up my horse. My motivation for doing so was based in financial and health reasons, but there was deeper reasoning as well. The passion I once felt had died; I was officially burned out.
Fast forward four years.
My response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage kick started my writing career. As time went on, I grew to love it more and more. Slowly but surely, where I was being published started to broaden. Not only were sites picking my work up, but some were coming to me directly and asking me to write for them.
At some point, someone offered me money for words, and I started getting paid to do this thing I loved. And then another person did the same thing. Therefore, I started writing more…and more and more and more. Eventually, this snowballed into a staff writing gig for a website, and attempting to freelance and blog on the side.
Oh, and this was kept up while being a full time student. What could possibly go wrong?
Suddenly, the thing I loved to do so much became a consuming, driving force in my life. Free time became nonexistent, homework started to become a secondary priority, and my friends pointed out how I was rarely seen.
I was right back where I was four years prior, facing burnout. Different passion, same story. Well…sort of.
Right at the point where I truly was exhausted trying to keep up with a rigorous writing and editing schedule, the website where I was on staff let all their writers and editors go, effectively slashing the amount of articles expected from me each week massively.
“I was right back where I was four years prior, facing burnout. Different passion, same story. Well…sort of.”
I didn’t know what to do with myself. So, I cried…and then I stopped writing for a while.
Telling myself I’d pick it up the next week, I put off writing anything I wasn’t getting paid to write. I spent time with friends, slept, and dug into the massive stacks of homework surrounding me. Each time I pulled up a blank document on my laptop, expecting an excellent piece to come from my fingertips, I was left just staring at a blinking cursor.
So, I kept not writing. I went from an average of writing ten to twelve pieces a week to writing a single piece for a client.
At some point, words started coming back to my brain. The blinking cursor on my screen stopped looking like an enemy, and started looking like an opportunity. The passion that almost burnt out slowly started flickering back, and has steadily grown.
What’s the lesson to be drawn from this? Maybe it’s different for you than it is for me. However, the one thing that I’ve learned about burnout is that if you ignore it, it will take you over.
Two similar stories, two separate endings. I rode and spent time around horses nonstop until I couldn’t take it anymore; it’s just now, four years later, that the idea of riding is starting to sound really amazing again. Yet, with writing, I took my workload being dramatically cut as an opportunity to quit doing what I love for a while, and it was a matter of weeks (not years) until that love grew back.
In a society that encourages us to just keep doing, working, fighting, it is often preached that the solution to diminishing passion or love is to simply work to stoke it even more. Yet, in my experience, that is counterintuitive. Passion is a hard thing to conjure, and absence makes the heart grow fonder; maybe the solution is not to do, but to quit for a while.
On the edge of burnout? You can keep pushing until you fall over the edge fully. Or, maybe you can simply decide to quit for a while. You be the judge of what lets your passion flourish.