I think I might experience burnout differently from the rest of you, and that’s why I’m here.
Case in point, one of the big events in my college years, was getting involved in atheist student groups. These groups experienced very quick turnover, with people often disappearing after their first year or two of participation. But I stuck with it an unnaturally long time, longer than any of the other students could imagine. 9 years! And I didn’t quit because I was burnt out, I quit because the group dissolved. And it’s not like I was happy with the group; on the contrary, I was perpetually annoyed with them. When I finally left, it felt long overdue.
So you might say I have a problem, and the problem is that I don’t burn out. At least, this is my worry. If I notice that I’m tired of an activity, I wonder if that means I’ve been tired for a long time, and if I should have just stopped a long time ago. As a result, the way other people discuss burnout, and the way I personally think about it, are incompatible. Whereas other people seek the strength to continue doing something they want to do, I seek the strength to realize that I want to stop.
Aside from the student groups, another thing I have done for a very long time is blogging. I’ve been blogging for over 11 years. No, I’m not about to announce the end of my blogging! I really like blogging, if you couldn’t tell.
I think what makes blogging such a sustainable activity for me, is that it’s not one specific thing. It’s a medium, through which I can express almost any of my other interests. And believe me, when I started blogging, I was not writing about the same list of things that I write about now. From a certain point of view, you could say that I was “burnt out” on my old topics. But I think what really happened was that there was a potential to get burnt out, and it did not happen because I had the freedom to let my interests naturally develop and change.
Of course, blogging does come with constraints, mostly self-imposed. Over the years I have found myself straining against one constraint or another. For example, in my earlier years, I used to think a lot about the front page. The front page would show my 7 most recent posts, and I wanted to make sure each of my 4 main topics were represented among them. My current view is that this was a bit silly, and detrimental too, because it made me feel obligated to cover the same topics even when I was tired of them. Another example is that I used to apologize when I had to take a break. This made me hesitant to take breaks in the first place, which would occasionally be a source of stress.
Other kinds of constraints I think are solved by having more than one blog. For example, when I got into new kinds of music, I didn’t think I really had the audience for it on my main blog. The solution was to start a hidden blog. I also worry a lot about content granularity, which is a concept I recently wrote about. The short version is that I have a desire for my blogs to have a somewhat consistent size and quality. So if I ever want to say something short or fluffy, well I can put that on my other blog, the one on Tumblr, and so everything works out.
And I have one last example which is particularly significant. Around 2012 I was wanting to blog more and more about ace topics at a level of detail appropriate only for ace readers. At first I separated that content with its own tag, but eventually I launched The Asexual Agenda and put it there.
So for me, The Asexual Agenda was a solution to one of my problems. I needed a specialized ace blog so that I could have more freedom to express my authentic interests through blogging. But it’s a double-edged sword, because there’s the risk that I’d lose interest in the specialized ace blogging.
This has definitely happened at various points in time. For example, in last half of 2017, I was having a difficult time–I was writing my Ph.D. dissertation. And well you know, if I got tired of working on my dissertation, I didn’t have the freedom to stop doing it. So, I think many people in a similar situation would feel burnt out and temporarily stop blogging. Well I certainly felt stressed, but I still published over a hundred articles in 2017, go figure. What did suffer, was my blogging on The Asexual Agenda, which was relatively sparse throughout that period.
But even if ace blogging is not evergreen, I feel like it’s a broad topic that permits many different angles, and that’s what keeps me coming back. In early 2017 I was talking about fiction. These days, I’m enjoying some more research-oriented topics. A lot of things end up sitting in my drafts bin forever, but you know what, that’s fine, there are other things to do.
I don’t know if I should be giving any kind of advice here, when I started out by saying that my experience is probably different from yours. But if my experience is anything to go by, my suggestion is to avoid boxing yourself in, and consider completely different angles you could be taking. And perhaps I am mostly saying this for myself, but there is also utility in letting go.