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Blog Briefs: On Burnout, with Delia Sherman

In which a bunch of authors & editors are invited to answer the question: How do you deal with creative exhaustion?

Author Delia Sherman provides a stylish analogy for keeping up your creative energy. You MUST read this one!

For me, creative energy is like an old-fashioned ground-water well.  When the well is dry, it’s dry.  I can dig all I like, and all I’ll get for my pains is sore hands, some very bad prose, and maybe (if I’m lucky) a few odd droplets of notes I can actually use.  Or not.  It’s usually not worth it.  After many years, I’ve discovered that it’s better to wait until some ground water seeps back into the well rather than to try and lick up every drop as it emerges.  That said, there are ways to speed the seepage.  The most important is to read.  I attack my To-Be-Read pile like a starving piranha.  I pick up old favorites and re-read them.  I catch up on old New Yorkers and Liliths and SF Bulletins.  I blog a little more than I usually do, to keep my writing hand in.  And I try not to check the water level too often.  Sometimes, it only takes a week or two for the energy to reach a usable level.  Sometimes it takes a lot longer.  I know there’s enough when I wake up with the solution to a problem that’s been stymieing me or a new idea or character, and the desire to noodle with it.  And then I noodle.  Eventually, I find myself humming along again, pulling out a little more water than is coming in, but trying to keep a balance.  But that’s another post.
Delia Sherman is the author of numerous short stories and novels for adults and younger readers, most recently The Freedom Maze (Big Mouth House, 2011).