When it’s time to write, I look at my laptop with dread. It’s been a long day at work, and I’ve taken care of a lot of loose ends since I got home. Not to mention a couple of kids’ squabbles to referee.
By the time the family heads for bed, I’m tired, I’m burnt out. There’s no creativity left in me. Nope, not one spark. The recliner’s looking awfully inviting. And the remote’s not far away.
The thing is, I’ve had too many of those nights lately. It’s not just writing. I edge past my closed Bible, sure that if God has anything to say to me, my foggy mind won’t be able to hear it. Instead of taking my evening walk, I handle some bit of trivia that could wait.
So this time I make myself sit down. I stare at the blank screen. I manage to type out a painfully bad sentence and another. I delete a word, edit a phrase. And a strange thing starts to happen. The words start coming to me, slowly at first, but then a little faster. By the time I’ve knocked out a scene, I feel like a different person. I’m a writer. I’m energized. I can handle this writing gig.
It’s the as-if principle. If you want to get to the other side of burnout, you have to act as if you already have.
Too tired to write? Write anyway. The creativity will come.
Too tired to pray? Pray anyway. God will show up, and eventually so will you.
Too tired to exercise? Do it anyway. The endorphins will pump in, the oxygen will get where it needs to go, and you’ll feel far better than if you’d unwound in front of the TV.
Depressed? Smile more. We think we’re supposed to smile because we’re already happy, but smiling increases your happiness all by itself. Try it and see.
What else would you do if you weren’t burnt out?
Instinct tells me that when I’m tired I should rest. And sometimes that’s the right choice. If you’ve put in a lot of hours or life has just thrown more at you than any reasonable person can handle, a nap or an evening on the couch with your family and a good DVD might be just what you need.
But more often, moving past the exhaustion is the better option. It’s as if nature rewards those who are contributing in some way – building something, creating something, helping someone even if that someone happens to be yours truly.
Once in a while, taking the night off is great, but I’ve found that if burnout persists, the cure isn’t sleep or a vacation. It’s to live as if I were fresh and full of life. And it’s to fill my time with the things that count even when I’m tired.
I’m a writer, so writing is what counts. It invigorates me, even more than eight hours of sleep. That’s why, full of energy or exhausted, motivated or cranky, once the kids go to bed, you’ll find me at the laptop.