Creativity Burnout, focusing on the results, not the journey

So far in this series, we’ve talked about fighting creative burnout in a world that’s difficult to survive in. We talked about fighting it in a world that feels like it’s on fire the majority of the time. And we’ve talked about fighting it when the problem is your project. Now we’re at the final post in this series, so it’s time for me to call myself out. (At least, it’s the final post in the series for now. I am open to doing more in this series if there’s a specific creative burnout you’d like me to cover.) Today, we’re talking about my biggest writing weakness. Focusing too much on the results, and not enough on the journey.

So, what do I mean by this? I mean two things, both of which I’m susceptible to. One, we worry too much about meeting self-imposed deadlines. And two, we worry too much about how the work is going to be received.

Let’s look at the two problems separately. 

First, the self-imposed deadline. Deadlines are a beautiful thing, and I certainly encourage every writer to have them. Without a deadline, it’s far too easy to put off writing for all the other things clamoring for our attention. So when I start a writing project, I set what I think is going to be a realistic deadline. Then, I add another week past that. 

Even this is sometimes not enough of a cushion. Because things happen. Some days I can’t work at all. And sometimes the project takes more time than I think it will, thanks to rewrites and freewriting. 

The best thing to do here is not to get rid of deadlines altogether. But instead, see them as flexible. Rather than rushing and putting out poor content, it’s better to give yourself and each project the time it needs to be what it deserves to be. 

However, knowing this and putting it into practice are two different things. And I can tell you from experience that it’s freaking hard when there’s so much pressure to remain relevant. It often feels that if I’m not putting a new book out, a new blog post, a new podcast, a new short story, or a new something you all who read my work are going to forget about me.

These are the demons that whisper to me. I bet you have a similar demon. 

But let’s think about this, without the stress demon whispering to us. I know that I don’t forget about my favorite authors, not even when it’s years between books. When Tamora Pierce comes out with a new book, you want to believe I will buy that sucker. The same for a litany of other authors. 

And the same is true for content creators I follow online. Lisa Jacobs, one of my favorite marketing people, vanished for several years to pursue a corporate job. When she decided to come back to the online marketing space, I was pumped! I bought one of the first courses she offered. 

Also, it’s been years since season two of Limetown. If they came out with season three in 2026, I’d still be there to listen unless I was dead. 

So, I don’t forget about content creators even after they take long breaks between projects. Why should I assume that those who read and listen to my content won’t do the same? 

Next, let’s talk about the fear of how our work will be received. I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t worry that their work isn’t going to sell. This is another demon that likes to whisper to us. No one’s going to buy your book. No one’s going to listen to your podcast. No one’s going to read a long-winded blog post full of too many tangents and stamp collector hate. 

Every single creator has those thoughts. And the scary thing is, they might be right. There is every chance that a creative project might fail. 

If you let those thoughts get into your brain, it might stop you from writing altogether. It might also leave you spiraling, going over your work over and over again, sure that it’s never good enough. Sure that this line will be taken wrong, it’ll offend someone you never meant to offend.

If I may be totally honest with you, I almost didn’t publish Quiet Apocalypse, because I was scared to death that people would think it was anti-abortion. Just in case anyone has that concern, IT IS NOT ANTI-ABORTION. 

This spiral worry that the story isn’t good enough, or that it’ll be taken the wrong way can mean death for your writing. It can drown you. 

What’s the solution? Write for yourself. Write content that you enjoy, and that you would want to read. Write what makes you happy. Because yes, there’s a possibility that you might be the only one who reads it. So you might as well like it. And remember, creating art just for art’s sake is still awesome. It’s still more than a lot of people do. And I have said over and over that writing is its own reward. 

But here’s the great thing about that. You’re going to produce your best work when you like what you’re writing. When you’re having fun writing, it’s going to be more fun to read. 

So take your time. Write what you love, and don’t worry about how it will be received until later drafts. That’s when your marketing brain can come into play. And I think you’ll be surprised to find that the work you did while you were having fun is pretty damn good. 

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