For the Love of Books: How to Give Thanks When You’ve Burned Out

With Thanksgiving only days away, I’ve been thinking about what I’m most thankful for when it comes to my professional life. I have some awesome coworkers, a list of super talented authors, and I get to work on books every day. So in some ways, that list of “thankful” items is a mile long.

But as everyone in the book business knows, ours is an industry of exhilarating highs and devastating lows. It’s an industry of two steps forward and one step back. It’s an industry where every yes seems to come with a no.

The reality is, publishing is not for the faint of heart. The success of any book is based on the ability to merge business with art, consumerism with creativity. It’s a difficult balance to strike. On top of that, rejection follows us at every stage of the publishing process. Authors are rejected by agents. Agents are rejected by editors. Editors are rejected by pub boards. And all of us know the pain of putting an amazing book out into the world—one we all poured our hearts and souls into—and watching that book be rejected by readers.

It can be hard to push past the setbacks and the rejection and the self-doubt. It can be even harder to admit to ourselves that while we may be in our dream industry, we don’t always feel like we’re living the dream.

Look—I love what I do, and I’m so lucky I get to do it. I could happily edit books until the end of the world, but there are some days when this job feels like work…like 60 hours a week, dream about it in your sleep, can’t ever get to the bottom of that to-do list work.

And yet, like almost every other author, agent, and editor I know, I’m likely to put every spare moment of my free time into my job because I am passionate about books. We all work hard, we all burn out, and we all keep going, even when it physically hurts to look at another word.

That’s where I’ve been lately. At the burned out but gotta keep burning ’cause the fire can’t go out stage. But as I sat down to think about what I was thankful for, I realized I’m in this business for three really important reasons.

First, I love books. In one way or another, books have shaped me into the person I am today. I can trace my formative moments to stories or authors who made me dream. I was a reader first and foremost before I ever even thought of being a writer or an editor. That love of the written word can’t die—it can’t go away. It has been part of me since I read that first life-altering book.

Second, I want to share art with the world. So few people get the opportunity to help someone else share their story, and I get the honor of doing just that. I get to help people deliver beauty and humor to readers, to connect with them through shared grief and fledgling hope. I get to work on incredible books with incredible artists and be a part of that journey every day.

And third, I know that stories can change lives, mindsets, and, little by little, the world. We can come away from each book as a different person than we were when we first picked it up. We can learn about the human experience on every single page, and have a chance to grow and learn and improve by interacting with a work of art. How could I ask for more than that?

So even though there are days when I’m tired or frustrated or even a little bit heartbroken, there is so very much to be thankful for in this crazy world of publishing.

4 thoughts on “For the Love of Books: How to Give Thanks When You’ve Burned Out

  1. Sara says:

    Reblogged this on Adjunct Thoughts and commented:
    Even though this post is about burnout in editing and publishing, I found that as a teacher, I could relate. I do love my job. I love the written word and I love helping learn how to better use to express themselves and make themselves hear, and it is important to be thankful I get the opportunity to do that when I am buried under a mountain of papers, emails, and students who don’t always want to be in class.

    Thank fully, unlike editors, I get a month off between fall and spring semesters to recoup and start fresh. Of course, right now, I’m counting down the days til that break…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stephanie Morrill says:

    “It can be even harder to admit to ourselves that while we may be in our dream industry, we don’t always feel like we’re living the dream.”

    I’m so thankful I work with you. Because yes. Yes, yes yes. Even when I’m in the groove with writing or editing, playing in the back of my mind is all the other things I’m supposed to be doing: When was I last on Instagram? I need to get that blog post drafted. Every other writer is doing X, Y, and Z to promote their book, and I haven’t done any of those things for the last few weeks. Should I be doing those things? When would I have time for those things, since I’m supposed to be editing right now? And so on.

    It’s hard to feel like you’re enough and that it’s okay to not cross everything off the list. I hope you’ll have time over Thanksgiving to rest. You deserve breaks, Jillian.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Stephanie Morrill says:

        You’re so sweet to say that. Comparison is what usually pushes me over the edge into burn out. It’s useful for me to see what other authors are doing, but it’s also hard to not get wrapped up in feeling like I should be doing All The Things Right Now.

        Liked by 1 person

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