2015 was the year I burned out when it came to writing. I suppose I should have seen this coming, but I was far too stubborn to admit defeat.
In the winter of 2013, I moved to an apartment in the heart of the city. It was a great little spot close to everything. I could, and did, walk everywhere. The apartment was shabby, but I still liked it. It had great lines. Overall, I liked it a lot when I first moved in. It was the much-needed change after a break-up and it gave me some space to really think. I even enrolled in a university course with the intention of getting a diploma so I could move into a new job.
Then it happened. I found out one of my upstairs neighbours was off the deep end. It started when I first took the keys, if you want the truth. The landlady, a lovely woman with a posh English accent, let me know that the neighbour had been having parties and was already warned. Sweet. A landlady who does shit about crap neighbours.
Except the landlady didn’t know the half of it. Over the next six months, my crazy neighbour had parties, engaged in screaming matches with many people, drove drunk and took out my step, invited every loser off of Plenty of Fish over for loud sex, and one night I went outside for a cigarette at 2am and one of her loser friends was creeping around the back parking lot (listening to her orgasmic outcries, no less …)
Shit hit the fan when we got a rodent problem after a neighbour started blasting. My other upstairs neighbour caught a rat, freaked, and moved out, and then came the grad student to rent her apartment. His arrival coincided with another arrival – crazy neighbour’s alcoholic, unemployed boyfriend. The grad student was having none of it. He called the landlord multiple times. For my part, I flat out told the crazy neighbour that getting drunk and throwing appliances at 3am was not cool, but ended up talking to the landlord anyway after running into the grad student.
This set off a month-long war which ended with the crazy neighbour getting evicted and replaced with more grad students.
Right here is when I started working on Uncover Me, the first time I’d attempted to write anything with more than a meh for a year or so, and I wrote Uncover Me in about six weeks. I was just ready.
I finished the book in relative peace. In the end, we were all forced to move when the landlord decides to renovate the building. I moved and started to write what would become The Deep End. I sent UM to Mischief. The editor contracted it right away, and asked for more. Having finished The Deep End, I was thinking about shopping it around, but ended up passing it on to Mischief.
Aaaaand this is where shit went downhill.
See, one of the things that always pissed me off (and still does) is the attitude amongst some authors about being able to produce quickly and still have a life. “If I can do it, so can you.” When one author made this aggravating statement on Facebook, I seethed a little — and then I decided to give it a go. In the post Fifty Shades market, trilogies were a big thing. Mischief said they wanted them, and while I didn’t want to write a continuation, I discovered a way to make my WIP (Holding My Breath) into a part of a series. I went for it.
All through 2014 and 2015, I wrote full time while holding down a full time job and trying to pull off a social life. 1K minimum a day. All total, when I was done, I had ten novels and novellas. My brain was fried. My diet was shot. My social life consisted of hook-ups and fuck-buddies. I stopped reading. My insomnia got worse. My hair started to fall out. I couldn’t stand to talk to people or be on social media.
To make matters worse, I changed units in the building I had moved into and found myself in what one friend refers to as a teenage wasteland. I went from a two bedroom apartment where the only annoyance was the Chinese lady down the hall singing easy listening at the top of her lungs. Now I was surrounded by university students — not the polite grad students from my previous address, but annoying little fuckers out on their own for the first time. I couldn’t think for the smell of weed, the loud music, and the drunk girls coming home all hours of the night. I couldn’t get a second to think straight, let alone write.
Then I got that first royalty statement, and the common sense part of my brain said “OH, FUCK THIS, THIS IS NOT WORTH IT,” and my entire brain checked out.
I’ll be honest here. I did not want to write Cross My Heart and Bleeding Heart. Though my editor later disagreed when I said so, I really felt like it showed in the writing — no where near the calibre of writing of The Deep End and Uncover Me. I also started working on something outside of the genre and was able to write 3K a day minimum. All things considered, I decided I didn’t want to write erotic romance any longer. Aside from the writing problems, I was just tired of hearing about it (this was around the time Fifty Shades movie was out, so there was no escaping erotic romance.) I needed a break, and so when my editor asked about future titles I said I would do it only if I didn’t have to write erotic romance and I could publish under a name other than A.M. Hartnett. He agreed and accepted my proposals, and I got to work.
And immediately I realized I had made a huge mistake. I couldn’t squeeze out any words. I dropped one idea and went with another, emailing my editor frantically about the change. The neighbour issue escalated, with complaints received with a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and I sent another email to editor asking to shuffle the deadline for the second book so I could work on it when I gave in and rented a house. Once again, I was committed to writing books I didn’t want to write. It wasn’t an issue of not writing erotic romance any longer, I just didn’t want to write, period — especially not when I had another non-erotic book to shop around.
So when I got the email from the editor with the news most authors fear — that I was being dropped from the roster of authors at Mischief due to low sales — I actually stood up from my sofa and did a wiggle-dance around the apartment. I then emailed everyone who had been listening to me moan with an email that amount to “FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOM!!!!”
Yep. I was so burned out that when I was essentially fired, I was thrilled. I was off the fucking hook. I proceeded to load all of my ideas from my computer onto a flash drive, and I put it away. I was done.
That was a couple of months ago. Since then, I’ve been putting a lot of effort into not being a writer. When I come home from work, I do what most people do and unwind with some Netflix. I catch up on the news. I go online and look at DIY blogs. And, if I feel like it, I send out some queries for the other thing. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t do it. I’ve got travel plans.
As far as writing goes, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to go back there until I get this latest move out of the way. I still brainstorm and take notes, but every time I sit down to really give it a go I get panicked and start thinking in terms of imaginary word counts and deadlines, and so I stop.
I gave some thought to nuking my A.M. Hartnett stuff completely, but I figure I worked for ten years to get what little I have under that name so I’m goddamn well keeping it and might even use it again once my head clears completely.
I know one thing: I’m not going to do what I did before and burning myself out. I’m not going to put myself in a position where I have to stress out over meeting deadlines and producing something that isn’t crap so it can be sold for less than the price of a cup of coffee. I’m not going to produce, I’m going to write, and I’m going to try to have fun with it again. I’m going to spend some time with other pen names and get to know other markets.
And if I see a writer tell a newb “If I can write 1K a day and put out five books a year, so can you!” I’m going to jump in and tell them they can go fuck themselves.
And I’m going to start blogging again. I stopped doing it back when all this started because like everything else it stopped being fun and started being a chore or another thing I’m supposed to use for promotion. It’ll be less “HEY GUYS MY BOOK IS REALLY HOT YOU TOTALLY WANT TO BUY IT” and more “HEY GUYS I SPENT $600 ON THIS INFRARED HEAT GUN ISN’T IT COOL?”
So that’s that, the tale of burnout 2015. Happy 2016, peeps.