Episode 53: Burnout by Expectations


If there’s one thing I want to communicate to writers (and those who just like to dabble), it’s this: don’t quit because nothing’s going like you want. The reason I dissuade the use of “writers’ block” is because that’s not an apt term. Really, the problem is that we cannot write what we want or how we want. This frustration on one specific project may last months, but we can always write something—even if it’s not worthy of the disk space it uses.

Part of the problem lies in our expectations as writers. Goals can and do lead to dissatisfaction and burnout—if they aren’t carefully considered and adjusted as needed.

As for me, I have the goal to become a prolific author who sells a good number of books, which is on my life-achievement list. You may have similar such goals: getting published, becoming an authority in your field, or being a world-famous speaker. Those are great things to keep in mind.

But—here’s the gristle—the things that you expect can drag you down. If you want to complete a novel manuscript in three months, set that milestone and work for it. If you want to get an agent this year, then research and query. But don’t let your expectations become your chains and don’t judge yourself by others’ success.

Set your goals for you by you. Selling 500 copies of your book is a disappointment—only if you were counting on raking in the cash. Getting 25 visitors to your blog a day is terrible—only if you expected to have thousands.

The point is not to be complacent; the point is to learn and grow as you (that is, the person with eyeballs focused on this sentence). Where are you as a writer? Where do you want to be? Yes, it’s good to know what others have done to get where they are, but they’re not you. Plan as you; learn from mistakes as you; and continue writing as you.

Everyone won’t be published—that’s just fact—but you have less of a chance if you get weighed down by expecting to be just like so-and-so. I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream (please do); I’m just suggesting that part of the reason people give up or lose interest is because they do not live up to the same success as other people.

Set goals. Reach for them. And adjust as needed.

By the way, it’s not writers’ block—it’s creative discovery through adjusted expectations.

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7 thoughts on “Episode 53: Burnout by Expectations

  1. Great post, John. Very timely.

    “By the way, it’s not writers’ block—it’s creative discovery through adjusted expectations” really resonates with me. Thank you.

    • It’s part of my campaign to help writers (and myself) focus on productive thoughts rather than the ones that keep us from writing.

      Thanks for stopping by and letting me know.

  2. Absolutely spot-on — and a very practical way to reframe the issue, particularly for those of us who have/get to write as part of our living but who may not always feel up for it at a specific moment.

  3. Pingback: Episode 54: Killing Writer’s Block « More Novel by the Week

  4. Pingback: 2009 Dodge Challenger R/t Burnout…by The Pastor. - Dodge Challenger Blog

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