She says: “I have to get back to real life again. It wasn’t an easy decision, because it took a lot to get to the stage of being a published author. But during my teacher training so far, I’ve dealt with so much – flooded schools, fire alarms going off, children being sick …” And, after living in her own fantasy worlds for so long, it’s this seeming mundanity that Swainston craves. That and “doing something meaningful with my life”. But won’t she miss the writing? “Chemistry feeds that sense of wonder that made me want to be a writer in the first place,” she says. “Besides, I’ve never said I won’t write again, just that if I do write another book, I’ll do it on my terms.”
– Fantasy author Steph Swainston tells David Barnett why she is giving up her day job, The Independent on Sunday
This article has invoked much passion in my immediate circle, as one of the most important discussions of writing to have happened in a long time. And it’s important not only because a writer has up & publicly announced she’s quitting, but because it reveals something I’ve been musing on for years: artistic burnout.
It seems to me often in the writing circles I frequent that I don’t encounter what I thought I would encounter when I started. There’s less of the passion and drive and excitement of pursuit, more of the cynicism that comes from exhaustion and defeat. And although there’s plenty of articles on ‘how to deal with rejection’, there’s less on ‘how to deal with creative exhaustion’ despite this being a likely outcome for the bulk of writers who are a) paid nothing or very little for our writing, &/or b) work our writing around the stuff we do for payment.
Which seems like a hole this blog could fill for the next couple of weeks while I wind down from another novel edit, & wind up for a trip to the World Fantasy Con in San Diego. Hmmmmm.