crushing burn-out BEFORE it crushes you

if you're anything like me, you're not unfamiliar with this term.

"a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands."

as writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, more often than not we catch ourselves redhanded: we're the one's creating these "constant demands", but how can we not? whether we are working on a book, or developing a product, or building a business, we are our own bosses: we are self-motivators. does one avoid stress and the burnout that comes from an excess of that when work and home are one and the same? when we can't look in the mirror without seeing our bosses? (haha)

well, i believe that burnout can largely come from viewing our work and ourselves through a skewed lens. see, often we like to put things into boxes.

WORK <-------------is over here, while------------->EVERYDAY LIFE AND WELLBEING, is over here.

much of this concept comes from societal culture that, through day jobs, separates work life and home life. this barrier tends to vanish physically for creatives and entrepreneurs (because home and work are interchangeable), but often not mentally. we see work and life outside of work as two very separate things, but in reality they aren't separated at all. they are very much interwoven.

life, everything that happens outside of our immediate work, like our daily routines, how we talk to ourselves, who we spend time with, what we spend time doing, what we eat, what we do for hobbies - every last bit of that affects and shapes us as individuals, and in turn affects our work. this is constantly happening, for better or for worse. but the good news is that we can harness this and use it to our (and our art's) benefit.

it's never our creative work that burns us out: ever. our writing doesn't give us writers block. our project doesn't stress us out. our creative work has never once burned us out.

(i know, i know - big statements! but hear me out)

we are the ones at the helm: we are the artists. we are the creators. we are the ones in control. being able to identify ourselves and our own ethics as the source - the very root of our burnout is a massive first step in overcoming it; it's not so much our work as it is how we go about our creative work - how we go about life.

here's a true story: there were days i would sit down at my computer to write, completely petrified. this was a defining moment: would i be able to write today - would i feel inspired, write well, and as a result, be happy and fulfilled for the rest of the day? or...would i feel uninspired, be unable to write the way i wanted to, and as a result, feel unhappy and unfulfilled for the rest of my day?

this feeling of anxiety was so real and intense, i would often dread and even postpone sitting down to write because of it.

because of this unhealthy relationship i began to develop with my creative work, burnout would often ensue. it wasn't until i began to notice just how unhealthy this was that i was able to pull back and look at the bigger picture:

it wasn't my writing that was giving me the trouble: it was me. it was my thoughts, my habits, and my outlook - and best of all, there were things i could proactively do to help stop this feeling of my work spiraling out of control.

because our lives and our work are interwoven, what we do all the rest of the time shapes our work. so that means that how i start my morning, how much sleep i get, what i eat, what content i consume, and who i spend time with will all mold my workflow in the short and long-term.

if i chronically don't catch the (at least) 8 hours of sleep i need, if i skip out on nourishing food, or if i physically stagnate by not getting my body moving, i've already taken a few big steps in creating an psychological environment that isn't conducive to creativity.

my creative work doesn't start and end when i sit down at my laptop to write, it starts when i wake up in the morning - actually, it starts when i go to bed.

how much we sleep, how much we exercise, and how we nourish our minds and bodies all play a huge roll in fueling our creative work, and well-being in general.

how many times have we seen the stereotype of the burned-out, sleep deprived student pulling an all nighter at their desk with bottles of five hour energy scattered around them? this is practically the poster child of what it means to experience burnout. and that's because all the right ingredients are there: sleep deprivation, lack of nourishment, and lack of physical movement.

but enough science, let's break down a few super practical ways you can help create a healthy relationship with your work and kick burnout.

#1 (wait for it...) get enough sleep. most adults need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. sleep is a personal favorite of mine - and it's super nourishing to the body. according to a HelpGuide article, "sleep isn’t merely a time when your body shuts off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown." so basically...pulling late/all-nighters may not be helping you "hustle" as much as you think it is.

#2 nourish your body. and I'm not talking about a bowl of cheerios. grab an avocado and some eggs, or a bowl of fruit with dairy or non-dairy yogurt. i'm always amazed (and amused) by how I can typically pin-point some of my roughest, and most "uncreative" days only to find that those were the days i ate poorly, or skipped breakfast. food - GOOD food - is fuel. are you sitting down to write/work on an empty stomach? are you fueling yourself with sugar or processed foods? your brain burns roughly 300 calories A DAY. so if you find yourself beating your head against a stubborn plot hole, or just unable to think clearly, you might be able to actually beat that writer's block by taking a break and making yourself something substantial to eat. i've found a lot of good, healthy recipes here and here. 

#3 nourish your mind. how do you start your day? do you dive directly into work? do you find that your mornings are often filled with frantic energy - pressure to accomplish? how we start our day is important: it sets the tone for the rest of our day, framing up our outlook. this is the moment we're going to look back on at night and either be proud of how we began, or wish we'd done things differently. i highly recommend starting your day with something positive. create a vision for your day - and your life, and keep that vividly at the forefront of your imagination. listen to positive affirmations, watch a motivational video, spend time in prayer or reading something spiritual or uplifting. have good, meaningful conversations. spend time with people you love and look up to. go for walks. meditate. exercise for at least 15 minutes a day.

#4 take breaks. life doesn't begin and end with work; there's so much more. if you're feeling stuck, take a break. do something else. draw, paint, dance, yell into a pillow, go for a jog, go on a trip, talk it out with a friend or mentor - do something completely different. it's amazing what taking the pressure off yourself can do. i know that i often create best when i'm not trying soooo hard. so in a sense? stop trying. create some space between yourself and your creative work and remind yourself that your value is not dependant upon your output.

#5 fill yourself with things that inspire you: literature, films, conversation, places, people, hobbies,  scenery, forms of exercise - identify a few things that make your heart absolutely hum, and turn to those things when you need some r&r and perspective. for me, time spend out in the waves surfing, hiking, practicing martial arts, or listening to a podcast are all things i enjoy: things that help to nurture my creative mind.

#6 stop before you want to. this one has helped me in so many big ways. in the past, i would often write for eight hours a day - until i "couldn't" anymore. until i felt as though i had exhausted every ounce of creative energy i had inside me. some days i still do exactly this, and it can be great fun, but more often than not, what i typically practice is stopping before i want to. when i've written a good amount and feel as if i could go on forever - that's when i stop for the day. see, i think it's so much better for us psychologically to end on a high note and to pick up from there the next day, than to end on a low note and not have the energy to begin again the next time we sit down to write/work on our creative projects. when i feel like i've burned myself out, i will often still feel like that the following day. but when i stop when i still have loads of energy and passion about what i'm writing, that always leaves me excited to write again; i look forward to it. this might be the biggest thing that has helped me prevent burnout.

so those are a few things that have really helped me, and that i hope may help you too, whether you're feeling burnt out now, or simply down for adopting some fun ways to prevent it.

the bottom line? happiness comes first, success follows. not the other way around. i'm still learning this in a million ways, still reminding myself of it, and still making it a daily practice. it's a patient with yourself - be kind.

making stuff is great, yes - we are created to be creators. but it's not the only reason we're here. if we make nothing today, we still live, breathe, and have so much to be thankful for; so much to savor, enjoy, and look forward to. life and work aren't separate...those are just the words and labels we have assigned to them. so let's find joy in all of it. let's allow one to support the other. let them hold hands and harmonize.

you'll thank yourself for it - and so will your creative work.

alright, now it's your turn: what's your one BEST way to prevent or kick creative burnout? comment below and share your thoughts, because i would absolutely LOVE to hear them!

stay stoked!

Resurgence cover reveal!

This is it!! The day is here and I couldn't be more excited. At last it is time to reveal the cover for the third and final book in The Blood Race trilogy, Resurgence! I'm simultaneously announcing this over on my Youtube channel, so I will embed the video below and let that speak for itself. (Don't scroll further until you've watched it til the end or you'll ruin le surprise!! ;)) 

aaaand now, for a closer look...

:') I am very excited about this. 

If you are too as in, you would like to actually start reading this book right right now? HECK YES, let's do that: Resurgence is up on netgalley, and is open for anyone to request to b on my advance reader team! so if you're ready to start reading, go request to be an advance reader - and give me a heads up in the comments below so that I know who you are and can approve you as promptly as possible. 

AND another thing: as you may have just heard in the video, the blog tour for Resurgence kicks off when the book does (Sept. 1) so if you're a blogger and you would like to take part, you can sign up for that right here, right now. I would be absolutely honored to have you be part of this journey! Find the sign-up form for that just below.

Finally, I want to say: THANK YOU. Thank you for being here, for reading, for all of your messages of support, and of course, your readership! It literally means the world to me, and I wish I could take you out for a cup of coffee and just talk for like an hour about how much I appreciate you.

It's happening! So, so excited. September 1st! I hope to see you on my ARC team, on the blog tour, and, most importantly, I can hardly wait to see what you think of Resurgence!

stay stoked!

meditation: a balm for the imagination

to imagine is one of life's greatest wonders. i've been writing fiction since I was a very young kid, and stories always seemed to simply flow like water. i could write as fast and as much as i could imagine - and that was a lot. i was raised on imagination, and because of that i am able to create the worlds i've created and write the stories i've written.

you may be bobbing your head in a nod right about now, your own craft or creative medium coming to mind as you recall all the things that helped spawn your own wild imagination.

however, i think that as writers, creators, and highly imaginative souls, we often face...well, what seems sometimes to be a lack of capacity to "shut off" our imaginations. whether it's feelings of anxiousness, imagining negative scenarios, or simply being unable to quiet our minds enough to sleep. (*overhead finger-pointing to self on all of these*) there's an old saying "your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness" and i think that's highly applicable here.

having imagination is precious, and i cannot stress that enough. i feel such sadness in my heart these days when i see so many young kids on ipads and phones instead of running around outside, or inventing games, or naming trees, or pretending to be dryads, or sword fighting with their siblings. these things shaped me growing up; helped to create the person who is me. i feel blessed to have been born before this age of screens and disconnect, because it fostered the wildfire in my head that blazes still and ever stronger.

but when it comes to feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, or fear, i've come to realize that the imagination can be either a great hindrance, only adding to the inner turbulence, or, as i've been learning over the course of my entire life & recently, a great ally; a friend to remind you to fix your eyes on the steady horizon instead of the storm.

now let me get this out of the way real quick: i'm still learning, i'm a student of life, i do not have it all together. every day is a new opportunity to grow and learn and get back up, and that's what i try my level best to do; and that's exactly what this post is and nothing more. these are trail notes: these are the places i have dusted the dirt off my knees and tried again. i hope maybe it encourages you to do the same. 

i actually almost wrote this post last week and i'm glad i ended up not doing that because within the past week i've learned so much more.

over the past month and a half, i've made meditating a daily practice. and it's changing my life.

meditating was something i had dabbled in for a short period of time a couple of summers ago. i downloaded the app headspace on my phone and would typically punch in for a three to five minute guided meditation before or after a yoga practice. i found it extremely difficult to quiet my mind and sit still.

but recently, spurred by this video, and this video, i decided to give meditating another go. 

i began by once again using the headspace app. i downloaded it to my phone (again) and started meditating for ten to fifteen minutes every morning before starting my work day (typically creative writing). i'd brew some coffee, take a few sips while i settled in, and then, when i was completely comfortable, i would try my best to focus on my breath and let go of everything else: what happened yesterday, what i had to do today, and most importantly any and all self criticism.

i began to unfold this idea that the folks at headspace really like to hammer home: you are not the thoughts going through your head - and you can create distance between yourself and the thoughts passing through your mind by simply observing them as one observes cars passing from a sidewalk. we merely stand and watch. we are not the cars. and we certainly do not need to jump out into the street and chase after any of the cars either. 

there's a definite weight that gradually begins to lift when we realize that we are not thoughts. we are the observer. 

and that may sound a bit lofty and zen, but when you think about it, it makes so much sense, and brings with it this feeling of stillness that's hard to describe. i don't achieve it every single time i meditate, but i've found that the more often and longer i do meditate, the easier it becomes to reach that peaceful state of clarity and stillness.

as a creative, i began to find this practice addictive. it was such a stark difference from starting my day with fevered, anxious energy - dwelling on all the things i needed to get done, how many hours i had, and just how i was going to accomplish it all. instead i was starting my day from the ground up. literally.

for the past month and a half, i've been starting my day on the floor. i fold my yoga mat in half, cover it with a cozy falsa blanket, and settle down in a comfortable seated position.

i began to expand my practice to include some guided meditations, as well as meditating on my own. so far i've found that i like the variety of changing it up, sometimes meditating with headspace or another guided meditation on youtube, or meditating in stillness on other occasions. 

but above all i've found that there is no right or wrong to meditating. it's about finding peace and stillness in a way that works for you, whether that be by sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing, or by envisioning yourself in a particular location, or by focusing on a positive, self-loving affirmation. whether it's meditating for a few minutes, a half an hour, or an hour. it's a spiritual and very personal practice and it should be something that you explore and play with and develop on your own. 

for me, meditation is an adventure. it's about arriving on my mat and being there for myself; providing myself with healing breath, and the sacred space i need to simply be...and to relish in that. it's about letting go of everything that is no longer serving me, and allowing my imagination to envision the good, the positive, and that which i want to manifest in my life.

and if none of that language resonates, meditation can simply be a really nice opportunity to find stillness and breathe. it helps relieve stress and improve posture and lung capacity. all good things. this article delves into the science-based benefits in greater detail. 

through this daily practice, i've found that I feel much more centered and peaceful. my mornings are relaxing and generally free from any stressful energy i would have otherwise brought to my creative writing and the rest of my day. i feel a far greater sense of clarity and connect. beyond that, it's acted as a reminder that the imagination can be directed...that we have the power to step back from our thoughts and to realize that we are the observers. we don't have to let our minds drag us around, giving us whiplash. we are empowered as observers to guide our minds and create a mental environment for healthy, positive, self-loving, and inspired thoughts. i personally believe that as creators this is essential. (and by creators i mean literally everyone because we are all creators.) we live in our heads a looooot. but that's long as we make sure our heads are good, positive, uplifting places to live.

so that's where i'm at in this journey at the moment. it's helped me a lot and i hope that perhaps it inspires you to take a little time for yourself; to remind your soul that it is a creator, not a machine. that you are beautiful, loved, and filled with limitless potential. 

if this post sprinkled you with inspiration to perhaps try meditating yourself, but you're not sure where to start, here's a few guided meditations videos + music channels i enjoy:

have a rest-filled weekend and a beautiful week ahead, sweet soul. be kind to yourself. you are awesome.

stay stoked.

you don't have to make anything


it's okay to not make anything. that sounds funny coming from a creative writer and an entrepreneur, doesn't it? i write books, make films and videos, and other stuff - that's what i do, right?

exactly. it's what i do.

if we were writers, artists, painters, musicians, dancers, and film makers then it might be a problem if we didn't make anything today. because if don't produce whatever it is that we identify ourselves as that means that we've actually lost our identity.

how can we be writers if we don't write? how can we be painters if we haven't produced any paintings in a while?

thankfully we can all breathe a sigh of relief right now, because we are not any of those things.

we aren't writers.
or painters.
or musicians.

we're not artists,
or bloggers,
or speakers
or filmmakers.

see, writing and painting and making music, etc, they're all verbs. verbs, lovely, lovely verbs - and yes, each of which deserve to be celebrated and treasured! But they are not nouns. They are not definitions of who we are.

if you're used to introducing yourself by stating your profession or what it is that you do, it may have just felt a bit uncomfortable for you to read that last paragraph. that's completely normal...just embrace that for now and stick with me. ♥

when we begin to uncurl our fists and let go of these verbs that we use to describe ourselves, we begin to land in a new place - a new point of view. we begin to see ourselves and our art differently.

let me explain.

on days when i am a writer, i can physically feel a low grade anxiety bubbling on the backburner of my mind as i sit down to write. as i sit down at my laptop, i can't help but find myself wondering "will i be able to write today? and if not...will i be able to feel happy and fulfilled for the rest of the day? how will i be able to be happy if i can't write?"

as a writer, my identity, and thus happiness, is wrapped up in my ability, or lack thereof, to produce writing. when i can't write i feel burned out, frustrated, and unfulfilled.

on the flipside of that coin...

on days when i am a living, breathing, unique being (which btw is every day, even if sometimes i forget to be aware of it), my mind is typically much calmer as i sit down to write. i feel relaxed and i don't really care that much about whether or not i'll be able to write. if i do, great! if i don't, great! either way, i find that i am happy, whole, and fulfilled, because ultimately...

i am not a writer. 

i write.
it is an action,
is a gift,
a passion, a pleasure, and a delight - yes.
but it is not an identity. 

i am. 
without action, or creation, or production of any kind,
i still am exactly who i am.

the most freeing feeling lies in the revelation of your own value apart from anything your could ever produce with your own effort. sitting in stillness with the sun on your face, without moving a muscle, you are worth more than the most immense treasure. you are invaluable.

and so it is okay when you do just that: when you make nothing. on days when the inspiration may not be present, or when you may need to or want to do other things, don't ever feel guilty - be empowered as a unique and beautiful creator. respect and enjoy exactly who you are today, without needing to make anything. making something is beautiful but it isn't necessary. whether you write or draw or make content you will still be who you are.

and you will be you beautifully. you are great at being. you were made for it, in fact. so roll your shoulders back, stretch, yawn - take a deep breath, smile. feel your lungs fill and expand with air, feel the energy flowing throughout your body. Rub your thumbs slowly over the pads of your fingers. Closing your eyes, gently whisper: thank you.

thank you for these hands. mmm, these sweet, creative hands. they can make so many beautiful things. they can bring dreams into reality. i love these hands. but these hands are still beautiful even when they are not making a single thing. 

this mind is beautiful even when it's not thinking about anything more than the birdsongs.
this body is beautiful even when it's not working out, or dressed up, or working hard, or rushing around.
this mouth is beautiful even when it's not speaking any wise or grand words.

i am beautiful because I simply am.

stay stoked,