Breaking The Silence About Burnout

It’s been over a month since my last post, and a lot has happened.

The Kickstarter campaign for the Code 45 #2-3 mega-issue was fantastically successful, and we doubled the number of supporters we had for Issue 1 back in March. This is especially incredible considering that we took a chance on running our campaign in the middle of a global pandemic that has created complete chaos across the globe.

It’s humbling to see so many people taking time out of their lives to help us achieve our dreams while economic and social realities crumble all around us, and health and safety are no longer guaranteed regardless of where you might live.

There’s a strong tendency for business owners like myself – writers, whose entire product is their own expertise and professionalism – to put up a front of unflappability, and create a public persona which remains unbothered by the ups and downs of life, no matter how extreme. It’s almost as though any admission that we might be human and fall prey to the same stress and anxiety that affect everyone will somehow cause us to fall in the esteem of our friends, family, and clients.

Over the past month, I have had to come to terms with burnout. The stress of coordinating the creative team behind Code 45 while simultaneously promoting and managing an intense Kickstarter campaign for the book crashed mightily into my decision to take on a huge workload from my freelance writing clients. The latter was a bulwark against losing any potential future income in a landscape where publications and websites were cinching belts and shrinking budgets.

Then there were the two ongoing, financially draining vehicle builds I had committed to many months beforehand, including my Jeep Grand Wagoneer engine swap, which fully transitioned into project hell.

All of this, of course, took place against a backdrop of COVID-19. In addition to daily anxiety about my health and that of my friends and family, I had to come to terms with the fact that the writing business I’ve spent 15 years building could disappear due to factors completely outside my own control.

My struggles are not unique to myself, and I’m beyond fortunate to be able continue supporting myself as a writer when millions are without work and millions more are forced to put their health at risk to keep the wheels turning in a system that cares little for their well-being.

At the same time, discounting the stress I was under led me directly to the situation I found myself in this past August: completely overwhelmed, and unable to continue with the status quo. After denying it for as long as I could, I came to terms with the burnout that was having significant negative impact on my life. Without an honest appraisal of where my priorities really lay, it was going to stop me dead in my tracks.

What was important to me, personally and professionally? What resources did I have left, and how did I want to spend them? And how could I get back to something resembling balance, something I’ve struggled with for years?

Code 45 is central to my current creative focus, and I needed to be able to approach that with a completely clear head. This meant shifting a healthy chunk of time and focus away from freelancing, and moving past my financial fears to pare down my client list to represent the work that I find fulfilling and meaningful, rather than simply profitable.

It also meant being realistic about how many hours there are in the day, and resisting the temptation to fill every waking moment with work. Instead, I’m spending afternoons buried in a book while the sun’s still shining, and actually taking care of all the little chores and tasks around the house and the cars that I used to enjoy, but which had been shunted to the side by anxiety and stress.

Since I made these decisions, the burden has lightened. I have been to the race track with my family and stood six feet apart in the pits as we turned in the last laps of the summer season. I’ve officiated at a socially-distanced wedding for the very first time and married two of my beautiful friends. I’ve danced with joy behind a mixer with one of my oldest and dearest companions while laying down a pair of DJ mixes that brought us both back to the music that will forever bind us together. I’ve realized how incredibly fortunate I am to have a loving partner in life who supports me no matter how used up I feel, and no matter how little sense the world around us might make.

I’m slowly getting back to who I am.

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