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Blog Briefs: On Burnout, the wrap party

Burnout happens when people who have previously been highly committed to a job lose all interest and motivation. [snip] It mainly strikes highly-committed, passionate, hard working and successful people – and it therefore holds a special fear for those who care passionately about their careers and about the work they do.


When I started this series, I gave the Burnout blog posts 2 weeks to run. I approached a couple of writing lists I’m on, then did the rest of the invitations by hand, first plumbing my address book and then resorting to that faithful, timeless tool: Google. I found myself on the electronic trails of many writers I admire, from Alain de Botton to Annie Proulx to Mary Doria Russell, Lee Child, Simon Pegg, Tanith Lee, Delia Sherman, Michael Robotham, Tara Moss, Mary Gentle, Patricia Anthony, Peter Watts, Cory Doctorow, Nicola Griffith – some of whom proved elusive on my cursory electronic search. May of whom were findable, but only *carefully* findable – their websites were available, for example, but not their contact details. I imagine this is the price that’s paid for ‘big fame’, but it did make me admire those that still offered up an email address or contact form. I can’t imagine what offers they receive, apart from my own odd little one.

Some of those that *were* contactable had auto-responders on their email addresses, advising that their existing workloads or deadlines didn’t allow them to read &/or respond. It was rather thoughtful of them, I felt, & in-&-of-itself, it spoke volumes about the dangers of burnout in the schedules these successful writers were keeping. Some others took the time to email in person to explain why they couldn’t respond. Occasionally I had the sense that if some of them slowed down enough to even consider how they address their creative workloads, they’d burn out on the spot. More than one hinted at that very fact.

The reasons people couldn’t respond varied from sad, personal reasons to wonderful, deadline-type, exhilarating reasons, offering up a dialogue based on nothing but their goodwill and my random invitation. I admit, I was kinda touched. And it reminded me of the wonder of words – not just the kind of inspiring words Elizabeth Gilbert can put together in an 18-minute TEDx talk, but the wonder of simple words, ‘thanks for asking’ type words or ‘Australia, eh?’ words. It reminded me, simply, of words.

And I was even more impressed – you can imagine – by those that responded in the positive. Pullitzer-prize nominated author Mary Doria Russell wrote a response despite being on the road. Delia Sherman made a glorious & much re-tweeted contribution. After Ellen Kushner pointed out a wonderful blog post by Terri Windling on Autumn Cleaning, we caught Terri’s eye & she named some of her own favourite posts from the series. I remembered that Terri had, in fact, planted the seeds of my journey in 2005 when, at my first World Fantasy Convention, I saw Terri talk about the value of ‘fallow times’. A lesson it may have taken me this long to execute (though at least I knew enough to remember her words).

One of my favourite authors, Jim Lewis, bucked the trend towards optimism (you see why he’s a favourite, eh?). Ben Payne vacillated in style (or did he?), Alan Baxter taught us something valuable about martial arts, Kaaron Warren gave us a new reason to have children, Matthew Cheney charmed us with the value of ‘crazy’ (perhaps inadvertently). And there are so many very wonderful posts from so many generous people who honoured the mandate to answer ONE question in ONE paragraph with a ONE-line bio – with not a dud post in the bunch. All of them were thoughtful, smart posts that taught me something. I mean, ALL of them. And I wanted to link to them all, except I remembered I could just link to the burnout tag on LJ & trust the readers to find the people and posts they needed.

I’m proud to know you guys.