Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Causes of Stress

The other day there was a little blurb in the paper about how stressful being a lawyer is. One sentence really stood out for me: "These two traits in a job -- lack of control over workload and compromised ability to reach stated goals -- are the two biggest causes for burnout in jobs," according to Penelope Trunk, author of BRAZEN CAREERIST: THE NEW RULES FOR SUCCESS.

It strikes me that writers face much the same sort of thing. To be sure, we often set our own deadlines, but there are many times when "extras" come suddenly, unexpectedly and must be dealt with at once: proofreading, art information, a PR opportunity, or another writing opportunity that's too good to pass up.

Couple that with being a mother, and it's no wonder that often, no matter how well I think I've planned my schedule, it gets destroyed. I'm not in control of my workload.

As for a "compromised ability to reach stated goals," I think every writer wants to sell a lot of books, so they can (a) earn money and (b) keep writing. Unfortunately, there are too many variables out of an author's hands to ensure that, no matter how hard a writer works. The market shifts, tastes change, there's a major disaster than keeps people tuned to CNN instead of reading, the cover art is terrible...any and all of these things, and more besides, could happen. Despite his or her best efforts, the author isn't able to reach stated goals.

It's no wonder some writers burnout. In fact, it's rather amazing more don't -- but I suspect that's because authors have something lawyers and others in similar straits do not: we get to use our imaginations and, on the days it's going well, it's like being paid to play "let's pretend." That has to help keep the burnout at bay.


Michelle Styles said...

I often use your mantra -- The only thing a writer can control is her writing.
It helps.
The other thing that helps is knowing that I am writing for an unique subset -- my readers. If I concentrate on giving them a fulfilling experience, hopefully the word of mouth will grow.

Kimber said...

My mantra used to be "well, at least I didn't kill anyone today."
(there have been days...)

Can't really have the same mantra for writing as I tend to kill off characters here and there...

Margaret Moore said...

Many of my characters have come to an unfortunate end. Maybe that's another form of stress release.

Christine d'Abo said...

I also have a day job on top of writing and family, so I feel this all the time. So far, I've been able to keep all the balls in the air. So far...