How to Turn Full-Blown Exhaustion Into a Writer’s Retreat

When we first moved to Finland, I wanted to treat it as an extended writer’s retreat. Katie was going to be gone a lot of the time. I didn’t know anyone, and didn’t speak the language. The weather is cold, and it’s dark for months at a time. This was going to be the perfect opportunity to embrace my introverted nature. I could dig in, tune out, and focus on writing.

Of course, the internet is still a thing that exists. Most of the people we meet here speak English, because it’s a university town with a high foreign population. I’m still an irredeemable workaholic.

I know that a lot of people don’t understand what I do for a living. Those that do tend to ignore me, or not take me all that seriously. I’m a small fish in a small pond. For a guy that no one’s heard of, though, I’ve published over 50 best sellers in my niche (we can discuss my need to constantly bring that up another time). The rent gets paid and we have food on the table. Katie and I do a weekly podcast, I write this blog more regularly than not, I publish a monthly zine, and put out two new books a month. I work hard, whether people grasp that or not.

Last week I crashed. Hard.

Tuesday I put the new issue of the zine to bed a day early. I had the next book 95% done, with an eye on releasing it Friday. Wednesday morning Katie and I were going to run errands and go out for lunch. Except I had an incredibly hard time waking up and being more than minimally functional.

Understand, that is not normal. I suffer from insomnia, so I’m wide awake no later than 6 in the morning. Sometimes 5. Occasionally a bit after 2. It might take me a cup of coffee to be completely alert, but I’m out of bed and on the go long before Katie’s alarm goes off.

We got the errands run, but I was more or less a zombie. After lunch I came home and crawled back into bed for another four hours of hard sleep. Definitely not right.

Thursday my eyes were strained. Everything was blurry and I had that specific type of headache that I know means I’ve been staring at a screen too long. This set in about 10 minutes after I started working, so that day was neither productive nor fun. I was still tired, and no amount of coffee or power napping was snapping me back into shape.

I think it was Friday that Katie noticed that my left eye was bloodshot. It might have been Thursday, I don’t remember. I had slept hard on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and it still took me longer than usual to get up and around. I was thirsty all the time. My muscles ached. I was more irritable than usual. What I thought were allergies turned into a chest cold. I realized that what I was experiencing was exhaustion.

With the exception of a few needs, and a handful of wants that I can undertake at my own pace, I’ve taken the long Easter weekend off.

Looking back, I realize that there was nothing stopping me from taking that writer’s retreat when we moved here. Unplugging from social media is only as hard as I allow it to be. I’ve got curated lists of music to listen to, books to read, and movies to watch. There are projects that I’d love to take a deep dive into. A lot of the things that I do on a regular basis aren’t necessary. I can pare my life down to just the bare minimum required to pay the bills and practice self-care. I need to do that for a while.

I’m not making any declarations as to what I’m going to do. Right now is not the time for me to make any decision on the fate of projects. I am going to take things one day at a time, one hour at a time if need be, and figure it out as I go along. I need to step back a bit and regroup. I’m taking a writer’s retreat that’s going to last as long as it needs to last.

2 thoughts on “How to Turn Full-Blown Exhaustion Into a Writer’s Retreat

  1. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) I wonder how you get all you do done. This is how. Not that you need it, but let me add my RN two cents here and say yes, go take care of yourself, dude.

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