Becky Allen Books

YA fantasy writer. Not a morning person.

Recovering from Burnout: 2019 by the Numbers


Hello, friends! First, a bit of housekeeping: as is probably obvious at this point, I have stopped pretending that I want to blog. I like doing this annual post about word count, because it’s the sort of thing I find interesting to read, but other than that I plan to only use this place when I have actual news.

That said, I have started sending a monthly newsletter-type-thing! It’s usually personal essays, which is something I challenged myself to do last year because I’ve always found them intimidating, but I’ve mostly really liked writing them. So if you’re interested, sign up here — and you can peruse the archive, where last I year I shared a lot about recovering from burnout and rediscovering my joy in writing.

Now: onward!

Me at my desk (with a cat)
Also in 2019, we bought an apartment and I have a real desk to work at now!

2019 marks the fifth year I’ve tracked my writing and done a summary of it.*  Back in 2015, Bound by Blood and Sand had just sold. I spent the year doing revisions with my editor, and writing my first draft of Freed by Flame and Storm. Since then, the amount of time I spent writing each year plummeted, as did my output. Writing felt like an obligation, something I had to force myself to do, for a few years there, bottoming out with a project I ultimately trunked in 2017. In 2018, I spent more time but wrote fewer words on a new project, and ended the year with a short, terrible draft that had some good concepts but needed to be totally reworked.

Which brings us to 2019. I spent the first six months of the year doing that reworking — producing another short draft, which was a definite improvement, I knew still lacked something. I let a few people read it, got some really encouraging feedback from my agent, and in late July I started reworking it again. And yes, that means drafting from scratch for a third time.

I never finished that draft. I talked about it in more detail in my newsletter (did I mention you should really subscribe to that?) but essentially, as I got close to the end, I finally realized it wasn’t going to work any more than the first two versions had, because it was really only the beginning of a story. It was painful and frustrating but I also freeing and exciting. I spent November outlining what that full story would be, and in December I started drafting yet again.

So that’s where I am now. Let’s look at the stats.

Writing sessions: in 2019, I did 120 writing sessions, which is way, way up from the last few years… in fact, it’s the most I’ve done since 2015. My average session length was 47 minutes, and in total I spent just over 93 hours doing all this work. And to be clear, “this work” includes drafting (83 sessions), but also outlining (17 sessions), rereading (11), researching (5), and a few other miscellaneous bits.

Word count: In 2019, I wrote a whopping 124,398 words, split between the various drafts I mentioned above. That is more than twice what I wrote in 2018. In fact, it’s actually the most I’ve written since I started tracking in 2015, which is honestly wild to me and not what I expected at all. I averaged just shy of 1500 words per drafting sessions, which is actually exactly what I’d expect. (My general writing pace has remained steadily around 2,000 words/hour for years now.)

Incidentally, of that 124,000 words, 25,000 of them were written in December, the work I did after I realized I was going to have to start from scratch yet again.  When I said was I excited by my November revelation, that’s what I meant. I’d love to take this momentum and pace into 2020, but we’ll see!

Honestly, that sort of sums up how I feel about the whole year. I try not to define myself in terms of productivity (as a writer, or in other facets of my life) — my worth really shouldn’t be determined by how much I produce, jeeze, capitalism is the worst. But it’s also hard not to feel that way sometimes. I had a rough few years, and that was reflected in my greatly reduced writing time and output, and in turn that reduction made me feel even worse.

The struggle really bottomed out in 2018 and I was able to start recovering by the end of the year. Which meant 2019 was better to begin with — and through the course of the year, I paid a lot more active attention to my wellness. Especially over the summer, I finally recognized the burnout I’d been dealing with and took steps to mitigate it. I experimented with my writing process and repaired my relationship to being creative, at least a little. It feels more fragile than it used to, but maybe because of that, it also feels more rewarding. (Stage whisper: subscriiiiiiibe.)

I don’t know what 2020 will bring. I certainly have some goals, as I mentioned above, and I feel like I’ve given myself a good foundation to build on. Here’s hoping, and happy new year!

* Here are my posts from 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.

Leave a Reply