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Blog Briefs: On Burnout, with Mary Doria Russell

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

Mary Doria Russell’s first book, The Sparrow, was impressive. It was party mystery, part gothic horror, and part alien contact. Its marketing was also impressive: it sold as a mainstream novel. Oh, & it also won the Arthur C. Clarke Prize. Her next couple of books saw her nominated for a Hugo and a Pullitzer. She took time out from a book tour to answer this question.


I walk away from a project for a while and do something different. Practice piano, trim hedges, do the laundry, clean a closet. When all else fails, I just put it all out of my mind and generally there will be a breakthrough while I’m standing in the shower the next morning. But if the trouble were deeper, I think I’d quit writing novels and volunteer to write grant proposals for community organizations I believe in. Put the talent to work in a different way.

Mary Doria Russell