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Blog Briefs: On Burnout, with Martin Livings

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

Author Martin Livings offers up THE best advice I’ve heard yet. :) Love it.


Quit.  Yep, you heard me, quit while you’re ahead.  Quitting writing is like quitting smoking; it’s ridiculously easy to do, I’ve done it hundreds of times.  I once foolishly promised a story to an anthology.  I racked my brains for months, wrote about half a dozen starts of stories that were, frankly, utter shit.  Then, about a week before the deadline, I realised I just wasn’t going to be able to do it.  So I quit.  I emailed the editors and told them that I didn’t have any viable ideas for the anthology, that I was very sorry.  I put the job aside and got on with my life.  By the next day, I’d written a first draft of a story for them, and got the final draft in with a few days to spare.  This is definitely a common theme that I’m seeing from these little articles, and I’m as relieved as hell that I’m not alone.  Sometimes you can’t just force the muse, no matter how committed and disciplined you are.  Sometimes you have to fool the little bastard.  And, as creative as it is, it’s not very smart, that’s your job.  So a little reverse psychology can work a treat.  “Oh no,” you tell it, “I don’t want to write anything anymore.  I quit.”  “We’ll see about that,” it pouts, and things start flowing again.  A wise person once said, the best way to write is to write.  But when that fails, the second best way to write is NOT to write.  Oh, and maybe do some silly web comics in the meantime, that’s always fun.

Martin Livings lives in Perth and has been quitting writing for twenty years now.  His collection, Living With the Dead, will be published in 2012 by Dark Prints Press.