Reigniting Your Passion for Your Author Career
Do you remember when you first started writing? Whether that moment happened weeks or decades ago, chance indicates you probably started for the joy of it. You had no financial agenda – just fun. If you’re reading this blog post, however, at some point your mind probably turned to monetising your hobby. Then you learned about wordcount targets, consistency and striving until your “break out” moment. If you’ve been lucky and worked hard, you might have even won awards and hit bestseller status. What many authors in this position will tell you, though, is that the thill doesn’t last long. After every success comes an emotional correction.
This return to baseline is human nature. Even if you sustain your achievement, your heartrate and attitude return to factory settings and you soon take for granted success you would once have sacrificed a limb to achieve. Ask any full-time author and they’ll tell you this phenomenon never ends, even after quitting their day job. Yes, they recognise that they have an enviable career. But complacency and boredom ebb back into their lives even after massive achievements like topping the New York Times bestseller list.
This isn’t an author-specific phenomenon, either. A study by Time magazine states that most breakout millionaires experience an increased sense of financial security but don’t feel any happier day to day a few months after their initial spike. Likewise, dozens of media institutions report how common it is for Olympians to fall into a clinical depression shortly after years of hard work deliver them a gold medal.
Staying enthusiastic is hard even when your dream career is going well. Fortunately, you can recognise the symptoms of a slump and work to reverse them. Whether you’ve met your basic needs or are still fighting to reach that milestone, certain actions can help you climb out of an emotional pit and reignite your spark. Using the following tips, you will still slip into periods of complacency and boredom because the human mind can’t maintain a constant high. However, after an inevitable slump, the following tactics will help you reignite your passion for your author career.
Change Your Habits
Listen to enough author podcast interviews or read blogs by prolific writers, and you will eventually touch upon the idea of burnout. If it’s an unfamiliar concept to you, the word essentially represents the consequences of managing an unsustainable workload. Authors who write impressive wordcounts every month for years are prime burnout candidates. Those who crash see their constant drive result in debilitating mental deterioration, often including fatigue, headaches, irritability and a complete freefall in their motivation. This can happen to anyone who works long hours, regardless of whether you enjoy your work or experience success.
The good news is that breaking the monotony and tax on your health is possible. Sometimes, starting a new habit to balance out your day is all it takes to rejuvenate your joy of writing. According to research published in a 2017 article by Psychology Today, “good breaks” – including mild physical exercise, rest, and connecting to nature – can refresh a person’s focus, motivation and creativity. As a result, a daily yoga class or a weekly walk in the forest, free from technology, could be all you need to refresh your frazzled mind and reignite the fire in your belly.
Enjoy Your Arrival
Arrival fallacy, an idea popularised by happiness expert Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph. D. in his book Happier, describes an epiphany many high achievers reach when they conquer a big goal: life doesn’t change. After months or years of striving, they discover that the achievement doesn’t make them any happier. That the fun was in the anticipation of hitting their goal. Reaching it doesn’t make their life worse. It’s just that they constructed an unattainable dream, and the reality could never live up to the hype. But now, without the challenge ahead of them, they lose their sense of discovery and personal growth that captured their imagination.
Facing this situation, many authors set a bigger goal – chase a bigger dopamine hit – but this strategy isn’t sustainable. Always looking up means constantly postponing happiness. To avoid this fate, when you hit your original goal, try shifting your focus from “bigger” to “different”. Rather than setting another distant target, acknowledge that you have enough and look for a way to improve your life now. Aim to learn, grow or spend time with loved ones. Literally write “have fun for an hour” on your to-do list every day. Remember you kept pushing off learning the guitar? Now you have time. What about backpacking once a year? Or visiting friends you’ve neglected? It takes effort to maintain an author business but not as much as it takes to grow one. So, once you’ve achieved your dream, enjoy it. You’ll appreciate writing more alongside a happy, balanced lifestyle.
When many pro authors aren’t “feeling it”, they identify their resistance as an excuse newbies use to abandon projects but forge on regardless, knowing that disciplined authors are successful authors. Experience tells them that their enthusiasm will return eventually if they just stick with it. But what about when it doesn’t? After all, many genres are formulaic and you might be prolific. Having mastered crafting the perfect character and aligning popular tropes in your genres, perhaps your problem isn’t a lack of determination; maybe it’s that your work has become too predictable, even if only for you. If that happens, you have two potential options to get back your writing mojo:
- Set limits
- Change genre
Option one can do wonders. Could you write a zombie novel where every kill scene must contain a new, original weapon found in a garden shed? How about writing chapters from a dog’s perspective where you aren’t allowed to use colours in your description? Facing limits forces you to surprise yourself with creative solutions. Or, if that doesn’t interest you, how about trying to master an unfamiliar genre from scratch to engage your brain in the same way you did when you wrote the first book you published?
Develop Your Business Model
Starting out, lots of us have fantasies about how our daily routines would look if we could ditch the day job and gain complete control over our time. You might want to get up without an alarm and write 5,000 words every weekday, typing away in the corner of a cosy coffee shop. Then you’d set up elaborate marketing plans in the evening that you couldn’t possibly fit into your life right now. This is just as fun as it sounds… for a while. The problem is that writing and marketing alone can get monotonous, particularly if you’re used to a hectic, sociable work life. Indeed, being an author is fun but – like jet skiing – it isn’t necessarily fun for 30-60 hours a week.
If you find your motivation slipping as your author work creeps into a full-time business, you’re not alone, nor are you an imposter. Lots of writers feel this way. And it’s nothing some variation can’t fix. How about:
- Teaching writing workshops
- Organising author retreats
- Public speaking for schools or corporations
- Narrating your own audiobooks
- Creating an online course
All these activities can provide extra income to supplement your royalty payments while giving you opportunities to vary your day and interact with your community. Dedicating part of your time to activities other than writing might seem non-authorial, but your author business model can look however you want. Don’t limit how you spend your time at the expense of your happiness just because that’s what you think “proper” authors do.
Work for Others
It often takes considerable time and effort to build a creative business. Musicians frequently mention their years of gigging to uninterested pub crowds. Comedians bring up times their jokes bombed. Authors talk about the million words they had to write in the dark before they wrote a breakout bestseller. Striving is hard work, but it’s rewarding. Over time, your lifestyle changes until your average day vaguely resembles a dream that once existed only in your mind. That’s thrilling, but what can you do when you start earning good money, get used to your new reality and stop feeling rewarded? The answer: work for someone else.
No, that doesn’t mean returning to the day job. It means fighting a new cause to give you a purpose again after you’ve already met your own basic needs. Think charity. Could you write a book that features issues close to your heart and split the profits with a relevant organisation? What about mobilising your fans to do something good in the world, like planting trees, cleaning their local river or volunteering at a pet shelter? Therapy specialists at TalkSpace claim that “putting others first through volunteerism or making a financial donation can shift our focus outside ourselves.” It promotes pleasure and instigates feelings of connection, which can reinvigorate your sense of purpose.
Being an author might have been your childhood dream, but that doesn’t mean you have to love every minute. Even if your sales, awards and professional connections keep growing, you can’t become more enthusiastic every day. That’s not sustainable. The good news, though, is that moods are cyclical. Whether it’s by taking a break, pivoting your daily routine, learning something new or helping others, given enough time, you can reignite your passion for your writing career.
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