Enemies of the Art Part 5–Fatigue

Image of "Patches" via LaurieSanders60 WANA Commons

Image of “Patches” via LaurieSanders60 WANA Commons

We have already discussed four enemies of the art–Approval Addiction, Psychic Vampires, F.E.A.R, and pride. What I find so fascinating is how all of these enemies seem to link together, forming a net that can ensnare us, trapping our muse and strangling her. When we are addicted to approval, we are far more likely to tolerate Psychic Vampires. Psychic Vampires feed off drama, conflict and misery and one of their favorite weapons is F.E.A.R. These types of people love using fear. Why? Because as humans we are wired to combat fear, and Psychic Vampires use this to their advantage.

When we are upset, our brains default to limbic mode—fight or flight. Unfortunately, we can’t operate in the primal brain and the higher thinking centers at the same time. This means that, in the reptile brain, we are prone to making dumb decisions. If a Psychic Vampire can keep us rattled, frightened and upset, we are far more likely to give in, to let them have their way because we are just trying to escape. The really bad part about this limbic mode is it’s great for fight or flight, but creativity can’t dwell there.

This is one of the major reasons that we must clean house and remove toxic people if we want to be successful.

It seems so easy, doesn’t it? When I write this here in black and white, it makes sense. If it is so simple, why don’t we do it? Pride often makes us prone to think we can handle more than is healthy. We aren’t being honest that we need rest, because we want others to see us as strong, or more put-together than we really are.

Another reason for this poor judgement (and far more common)? Plain and simple. We’re tired. Rest is critical for so many things. When we rest, we can calm down. When we can calm down, we gain clarity. When we gain clarity, it’s easier to recognize then remove toxic people. When we rest, we can start to see our agendas more clearly.

Am I doing this for me, or to PLEASE/APPEASE someone else?

Give Ourselves Permission to Rest

In our Western culture we are all go, go, go, go, GO! AND GO FASTER! Vacations are frowned upon. We feel like we need to be productive every waking hour, yet this is a LIE.

Busy work and productivity aren’t the same thing. A hamster can run in his tiny wheel all day long and get nowhere. So can we. We can be so tired we fail to discern the urgent from the important. Everyone wants everything instantly and we need to set firm boundaries.

I’ve had people who just pushed and pushed and pushed to get what they wanted immediately. You know what I had to learn to say?

I AM NOT McDonalds. I have no MAKE-YOU-HAPPY MEALS and no drive-thru.

We have to be firm and be in charge our our own agendas. People can learn to wait. In fact, it might be good for them.

Understand Your Brain

The human mind is essentially a dual-processing unit. It’s always taking in information, sorting, making connections even when we are working on other things. The only way the mind can truly work its magic is if we back off the throttle. Some of the greatest inventions in human history didn’t come while in the lab, sitting at the piano, or hunched over a typewriter. The ideas came during a nap, on a walk or in a warm, relaxing shower. The body and mind could relax enough for the AHA! moment.

It isn’t Goofing Off; It’s WORK

For writers, reading is essential. So is watching movies, traveling, going for a walk or even attending a party and joining in (or eavesdropping) on conversations. This is all the “data” we feed into our brain, the ingredients we give it to mix together to create the magic. Don’t berate yourself for watching a movie or playing with your kids. Great writers LIVE LIFE and that’s why their characters sound like people…NOT characters.

What are your thoughts? Are you chronically overworked? Do you have a hard time just resting? Does it make you feel lazy? Is it hard for you to simply play? Have you overcome these feelings? How did you repair your distorted relationship with rest? What ways do you employ to ensure you are rested?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of February I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

January’s WINNER will be announced Monday.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.


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  1. Ah. Rest. It’s a scary circle that feeds on itself. The stress of overwork increases our need for real rest, but it’s hard to sleep when your brain won’t turn off. So then you wake up too early and you have no energy to exercise and you drink too much coffee and you are always operating in limbic mode, which just perpetuates the problem. Sound familiar? What I want to know is how you get off the wheel!

  2. Great post. I so relate to pride and the hamster on the wheel. I need to reread this about once a week!

  3. I missed out on your earlier posts (Me BAD!) but the tuckered out pussy cat and the “work” of writers hits home, very much so. Some of my best poetry comes from sitting back and observing.

  4. This is a big one for me. I know my work isn’t as good as it could be when I’m working tired and worn out, but I keep pushing anyway. Part of it is due to my own stubbornness. I was instilled with that hard-to-shake eastern European mindset of hard work being next to godliness. And I’ll admit that part of it is due to wounded pride. There have been a couple times when I’ve decided to create a schedule that would allow me to live my life as well as work, and I’ve received feedback from other people that I’ll never reach my goals and dreams that way. That because I want some rest time, I’m putting in the bare minimum. And I know it’s not true. I know how hard I’m still working, and that all I want is a little time to refresh and enjoy my loved ones’ company, but it still hurts and I react to that. But as my husband likes to tell me, a burned out Marcy isn’t useful to anyone. Rest is important. Thank you for the kick in the pants 🙂

  5. The GO-GO lifestyle is especially valid problem when we have a day job, and write in our spare time. Lately I tend to skip TV and computer games to be able to write more. But I find having enough rest time essential to be productive.

  6. My best ideas always come when I’m relaxed: at dinner/happy hour with friends, driving in my car with the radio cranked, when I’m writing a scene in my manuscript, and–surprisingly–the shower! (I think half of my best plot twists were generated from a thick fog of shower steam.)

  7. Reblogged this on Madison Dean Fiction and commented:
    I follow Kristen Lamb’s blog because I think she has a lot of great things to say about writing and using social media as your tool, not your excuse. I don’t agree with *everything* she says, but I’ve learned a lot. She made most of the same mistakes I made in the beginning, and as I set out this time in a new writing venture, I hope to learn from her advice and not repeat them!

  8. Its so important to rest and listen to your body and mind. When I feel myself getting stressed I go off and do something else like find a new wordpress acoount in freshly pressed or from a twitter link. I find when I am walking or pottering around my best ideas come or after a nap.

  9. I needed this today — thanks. Good advice.

  10. So true. Sometimes we need to step back and allow ourselves to breathe. I wrote a post about that very thing for Indies Unlimited recently.

    • Renee on February 1, 2013 at 10:36 am
    • Reply

    Well, I keep gushing and it probably nauseates everyone, but here is another insightful one, Kristen, and thanks. Burnout happens to me plenty. Yet when I don’t write, I feel this enormous guilt, this godforsaken pressure. Inner voice needles: “Write, you slacker, write! Other people actually earn money from this!” Think of the old Snoopy cartoon where he pretended to be the vulture. That vulture hangs over me, and I’m Linus, clutching my blanky, wanting to veg out.

    The attention deficit issue is a killer, I’ll start work on one manuscript and then POP! Ideas explode for another dormant novel, I’ll scribble down notes for that, get bored with the MS I have to finish first – and wind up not completely anything, totally burned out. The nerve endings in my brain are frayed. On a creative high, I don’t sleep at all, I wonder if I have bipolar or if I’m just plain nuts. Sleep, though, keeps thoughts cohesive and ensures I’ll drive more safely.

    Certainly the gadgets and Internet make me feel like I can never, ever catch up. Yet the more I indulge in the habits, the more jittery I get. Then I do the afternoon crash, where I can’t take it anymore. I know of writers who have a working laptop (that is Internet disabled) and a laptop for e-mails. Very smart. I’m like a Pavlov dog, hitting that Explorer icon. I especially do this when I’m stuck on a paragraph or rewrites are tedious – and especially when I’m feeling incompetent. But this habit – clicking on the Outlook icon or Explorer icon every fifteen minutes, makes me feel like a heroin addict and really tires me out. “Just stop it,” my husband would say, but I can’t. I did find working at the library on a non-Internet computer was a boon to productivity.

    In one “Mad Men” episode, copywriter / manager Peggy took in an afternoon matinee and rival Don Draper saunters in (that Jon Hamm, someone turn a hose on me). She said that she was tired and needed to get ideas, and years earlier, he’d suggested she try an occasional movie. Some writer buddies take walks to clear their heads, I find a Jazzercise class invigorating.

    When you spoke of Life, though, that’s very true, too. Our youngest plays basketball and I find it restorative, just to watch him play and make a fool of myself yelling. There, I’m just mom, not some struggling invisible writer who often feels like she’s a hamster spinning on a wheel.

  11. On the treadmill, music pounding, brain plotting, plotting, plotting A dragging body can make my mind and spirit slog too. Oddly, working out, regularly, keeps me in the moment and out of obsessing about garbage. Can it be, we all have different needs and definitions of what constitutes TLC?

    1. I am with you on this one! Some things that used to be chores for me have become essential recovery activities.

  12. You guys sick of this? Well, bear with me because this one is crucial.


    If you see any iTypos, blame the iPad!

  13. It seems weird but I always try to take one full day per week off from my architecture life and my writer life so I can live life. I always feel more refreshed that way and I find that after 10 days straight of working hard my brain just gets fried. Then I lose the next 4 days trying to recover. It’s not worth it.

  14. I’m with Renee, another squealy girl fan moment. I took on way too much in my other lives, trying to make everyone think I was some sort of super star. When the walls came tumbling down I ended up standing in the rubble trying to figure out what the heck happened, with very few people reaching out to take over some of the jobs. I’m still trying to please too many people too often but I’m also gathering the courage to say no more. No more club projects, no more sending out orders for committees because no one else can do it “the right way.” My world can’t come to an end because I crave approval. Especially not when the racing hamsters block out the words that used to come so easily. Time to rest those hamsters, take a deep breath and get back to creating those worlds I love so much.

  15. Ouch, now this one stings – but, that is a good thing. Having been through the manic squirrel cycle of months consecutive 20 hours days, the only result was exhaustion and collapse. On the other side of that, I’ve found a sudden fondness of boundaries – perhaps a point of clarity from being forced to rest for a time. Still can’t say I’m a great sleeper (a skill I’ve lacked since a young age), but at least I make sure I get what I need and don’t stress over the to-do list obsessively anymore. Great post, Kristen.

  16. If you don’t read, if you don’t go out into the world and take a look around, and if you don’t experience conversing with people, what are you going to write about?

    I am so lucky, I am retired and do not have the problem of work interfering with my writing. But, I do have to push myself out in the real world sometimes to clear the head and get new, fresh ideas!

    I enjoyed this piece very much!

    • Lin Barrett on February 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm
    • Reply

    Sufficient rest is a very good thing. Pardon me for a moment, got to saddle up my hobby horse …

    Enter caffeine, stage left, twirling its moustache.

    I know, I know, elixir of life, if I don’t stop at Starbuck’s on the way to work my car will have a nervous breakdown, etc. But:

    Caffeine lasts long enough in the body (about 20 hours from last ingestion) to prevent a person from getting into REM sleep, and that’s where all the good things we associate with sleep happen. That means that unless you limit your consumption to every other day, you NEVER get enough REM sleep.

    People can and do function for years on the stuff, as I did, mostly because of the ghastly headache that results from withdrawal. (Caffeine swells blood vessels. When it is withdrawn, the newly-smaller vessels throb in their channels, which have been crowded aside to accommodate them. Result: pain.) However, there is a common culinary herb that takes it away by using the same chemical pathway — this is also how clove oil deals with toothache. Whole cardamom seeds, out of the pod, can be placed under the tongue. They take a very short time to work, and that ghastly headache at the back of your skull goes entirely away. Entirely.

    So really: think hard about reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake. Your body will thank you if you do.

  17. Your comments are very yogic.
    On another subject — I put the picture in Gravatar, but does not choose to migrate to the icon. Not the first time I’ve tried to do it. Advice?

  18. Oh — there it is. Tech is not my first language. Alas.

  19. In our work-centric culture, rest and relaxation are considered slacking off. There has come to be a certain snobbism in being able to brag about how much you work, what long hours, how many weekends. But pushing yourself you tax your body and head toward burnout, also known as adrenal fatigue, where there is no energy left even to think.

    The problem is the attitude of constantly putting out, go, go and as you say, GO FASTER! I’ve found that I have to actively choose a different paradigm. How can I do less and play more and still get the work done? By doing only the most essential things.

    • Jennifer Smith on February 1, 2013 at 2:27 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve had a hard time with this lately. I know that good writers read, but every time I pick up a book I feel like I should be writing.

  20. No wonder we fail to write many days. Ha!

  21. Love your blog. I’ve been reading it for weeks now and find myself looking forward to it every day. You are so inspiring and motivating. I must say I loved the honesty in your Psychic Vampires piece and realize that I have several hovering around. YIKES! Time to get out the garlic…

    1. Awwww, thanks for such a sweet compliment! *bear hugs*

  22. When you mentioned reading, watching movies, traveling, going for a walk, and attending a party and joining in (or eavesdropping) on conversations, you were speaking my language! If I’m not writing, I would rather be doing all of the above!

  23. Thanks for permission to read, watch a movie, travel, go to party…and eavesdrop.

  24. Fatigue is the hardest for me to overcome. Since having Fibromylagia and lupus, the physical and mental fatigue zaps everything for me. It can destroy my to-do list. I’m still trying to find a balance. Though, when I am having good days, I try to get ahead of To-Dos.

    1. Sending good thoughts your way. My mom has Sjogren’s syndrome that was misdiagnosed as Lupus for about five years, as their symptoms are quite similar. I watch her struggle with finding that balance you speak of because the fatigue is a very real thing. Be kind to yourself and know that as time passes, you get better with the balance.

  25. Your cat looks like it ate too many rats. Mental fatigue is the worst for me in writing. Sleep, of course, is the only rational solution. A good night of real sleep with R.E.M. deep sleep, I usually want to write afterwards. As a child I saw on those Saturday morning “info” with cartoons of Benjamin Franklin taught needing only a couple of hours of sleep with plenty of catnaps along with his early to bed theory to be healthy and wealthy and wise. I like reading world news of articles on YAHOO! NEWS and Internet newspapers like Philstar.com and the Manilatimes.net when my mind is fatigue of new ideas to write on novels and watching the Cable subscription movies. I usually am not into real news event writing, but it stimulates new ideas or a twist of my own fiction.

  26. Oh this one is all me. I work in a go go go environment, long days and weeks, and then I lay in bed thinking how I am going to sell more shoes this year than last, and what training does my team need on such and such. I am constantly thinking and going a mile a minute in my head. But when it comes to sit down and write, I am so exhausted and tired that I always think it’s crap. My goal this year to focus on some of the advice I learned at DFW. James Rollins’ “Give yourself permission to write crap.” And Candace Havens’ “Believe in the magic of writing” and write even when you’re tired. The least I can do is try to get some journaling done because at least that clears my head a little. That and reading.

    And like Gene, I’m practicing boundaries. I’ve already said no and stepped away from some projects to get more writing done. I feel like I have a good plan for blog posts and the next step is to get back on track with the WIP. A few more ducks in a row and then hope to do a Fast Draft session. That is truly a great practice because regardless of what you do get written, it’s still way more than you thought you could do.

    Already looking forward to this year’s DFW!

  27. Rest…still learning how rest at the appointed time. It seems I don’t know what to do with myself in ‘rest’ mode, but I am indeed learning. I always love your posts. You’re like water for thirst to us writers! Thank you so much.

  28. Am I allowed to call my kids the enemies of my art? 😉 Breastfeeding hourly overnight, every night, does not equate to a full night’s sleep even though I’m in bed for nearly eleven hours. Now that my elder is starting kinder, it looks like I’m going to have to go to bed at 8PM just to be able to get up in time to take him to school! I feel like I’m fighting constant brain fog.

    1. Poor you! Enjoy them when they are wee. Too short a time until they’re all grown up. Use a pump and get some rest!

    • lynettemburrows on February 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm
    • Reply

    Well, you got me on this one. I’ve struggled with this one a long, long time. I was brought up with the good ol’ (fill-in-the-blank) work ethic that means if you aren’t working your a$$ off you aren’t good enough. Rest? That’s something I’m trying to learn to do. Thanks for a great post!

    • Genny Lynch on February 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm
    • Reply

    The sun came out today and I took a nap laying in a pool of sunshine. My four cats joined in. The unusual and magical conjunction of a unexpected afternoon off, feeling fatigued and sun on my bed was too good to ignore.

  29. Ironically, I learned the importance of rest when I became ill with a misdiagnosed lung condition 3 years ago, came down with pneumonia, and nearly died. Since then I’ve learned to slow down and manage my health better. Too, I also started battling my guilt…guilt that I wasn’t getting enough done, guilt that I wasn’t helping enough other people (great one for those toxic vampires), guilt over feeling guilty, and on and on. I’m still prone to the self-imposed guilt trip, but I’ve learned to recognize it and have made great strides. You’ve reinforced so well what I’ve been doing right and have given me a huge psychological lift. Thanks.

  30. I’ve been a professional writer for a long time. I’ve noted that my best ideas always come when I’m in bed! Should I stay in bed longer?

    1. Works for me! 😀

  31. My new years resolution was to write 1000 words each day for january, then bump it up to 1200 in february. I wrote every day, then got sick and thursday and firday I didn’t write. Just as the first 1200 day arrived. And today I’m still groggy.
    The interesting thing is, though, as I was lying in my bed and finishing watching Wilfred my mind was free to travel. Suddenly I was having all sorts of ideas. I scribbled a lot of them down, but damn. Sometimes we just need a day off.

  32. Wow, this blog is truly illuminating. Thanks for articulating all the months/years i have spend postponing several writing projects due to excuses ranging from honest procastination to a vague belief that writing can wait but life can’t.
    Look forward to more good posts from you. 🙂

  33. Reblogged this on Of a Writerly Sort.

  34. I pushed myself really hard from June till December of last year and then I burnt out. (surprise, surprise) I lost control and fell into a slump that I’m still clawing my way out of. So now I’m trying to find a shred of motivation and learn about this terrible foreign concept of balance. Yes, balance would be nice.

    Really enjoyed this post!

  35. Reblogged this on Write Me Happy and commented:
    This post has inspired me to look inward and figure out my own struggles. Watch for my follow up post.

  36. There are so many things that can defeat us and our talent has nothing to do with it. .

  37. This really hit home with me. I’m so tired and never feel like I take time for me. But it’s my fault. I overload myself. 2013 is going to be my last overloaded year. I’m not taking on anymore responsibilities and I’m going to be cutting loose of a lot of things. It will take awhile, but I’m hoping that by the end of this year, I will no longer feel that tightness in my chest or the fact that I fall asleep whenever I sit still. It’s time to wind down and I’m going to slowly do this. I want to enjoy life again.

    • Rose on February 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm
    • Reply

    I love “it isn’t goofing off, it’s work”. Too often I feel guilty for taking time to do the things like reading and watching movies. Those things are just too fun to be “work”, but thanks for the reminder that they are important!

  38. Reblogged this on Tamara Morning and commented:
    This sort of validates my decision to take a day off last week. I’m feeling better now. Re-charged. Ready to get going again.

  39. When I taught composition in middle school, high school, and college, I told the students about the “incubation” period. If we try to skip the think-about-it time, you lose some of your creativity.

  40. I’m late to the party, but that is because I was out of town at a Super Bowl Party! Yay for rest! LOL Actually, the trip was a lot of fun and I didn’t do anything “work” related while there. Now I am refreshed and feeling great! I have so much more energy and enthusiasm and can actually focus instead of drifting in the doldrums (where is that tollbooth when you really need it?).

    Thanks for the great posts Kristin! I love the McDonald’s line. I might have to use that. XD

  41. My day job is now history. I thought I’d be able to accomplish so much, but I’m finding it doesn’t work that way. I’d love to just sit back and read and write, but I find myself following posts that are relevant to my new full time career as a writer and sorting through emails that have links that might be useful to me. Many of the links are no longer valid, but I’m getting some interesting and hopefully useful bits of data.

    Back to work. Thanks for the blog.

  42. Your post really resonates with me right now. I’m quitting a job soon that I have given my heart and soul to for 10 years and moving to a new city. Very scary and sad but I have to do it in order to actually be able to rest and build a personal life. The need for approval allowed the psychic vampires in my world entirely too much power. The scariest part of this whole process though is contemplating doing nothing for a little while. I know, it’s a hard life, right? I haven’t done that or even worked part time in twenty years, but I’m looking forward to the journey. I’ll have time to write, read, cook, and sleep and just see what it feels like. Thanks for the blog post.

    1. Oh, writing is PLENTY of work. Just have to treat it just like the old job, only this time, you get to do what you love. Makes the frustrating aspects far easier.

  1. […] We have already discussed four enemies of the art–Approval Addiction, Psychic Vampires, F.E.A.R, and pride. What I find so fascinating is how all of these enemies seem to link together, forming a …  […]

  2. […] Enemies of the Art, Part 5 – Fatigue […]

  3. […] Yes, that includes my mom who’s off to Australia in 4 days. Or maybe I’m just really tired and still clawing my way out from the burn out I suffered in December after 7 months of pushing […]

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