Exhaustion: A Sign of Fulfillment (or Lack Thereof)

Why are you tired?

In the past several days, I have learned there are two types of exhaustion.

You’re either tired because you’re unfulfilled, or you’re tired because all your dreams are coming true.

I’m referring to creativity in this case, of course. At the end of a long day of creating things you have very little mental or emotional attachment to, you feel drained. As if all those hours have depleted all your strength and willpower, both physically and mentally.

But when you spend an entire day actually doing what you love, in a way, it fills you with more mental energy than you had when the day began. Physically, you might feel run down. But your mind still races at light speed. Because it is happy. Because it is satisfied. Because it likes doing work, and if it’s allowed, it wants to do more.

A writer spends many months, many years, feeling tired because their job sucks. Because their email inbox is full of generic rejection templates. Because no matter how hard they try, it seems like nothing ever changes.

Not all of them ever make it out of that constant state of exhaustion without quitting first. But many do. Many somehow make it to the other side.

And those who make it feel tired, too. But not because their job is awful or because they feel like giving up. They feel tired because hard work is tough on the body. They push through it – because even when you’re doing what you love, you have to – but it’s much less debilitating.

I am not here to praise exhaustion and mega-stress, as so many often feel the need to do. Burnout and anxiety are not fun. I know that better than anybody. You need to know your limits and you need to learn not to cross lines, because if you overwork yourself and push yourself over the edge, the success you’re building is going to crumble.

Being tired is not something to complain about. In many ways, it’s a warning sign that you’re wasting time not doing what you’d rather be doing. In many others, it’s a sign of fulfillment: that small reminder that you worked hard today, you made a difference, you did good – and now you can rest.

Being tired, yet fulfilled, deserves that kind of reward. Writing is exhausting, even when you’re enjoying it. That feeling that you are – finally! – doing what you’ve always dreamed of doing is just enough to carry you through the day. But you are allowed time to sit back, to reflect, to play video games for four hours straight – whatever helps you de-stress and help your brain start to recharge for whatever might be in store tomorrow.

There are two kinds of exhaustion when it comes to creativity. As writers, throughout our lives, we experience both of them.

Appreciate the days you’re tired because you worked hard and loved it. Embrace the days you did things and could barely stand it. That is how you build up the resistance and discipline necessary to somehow, someday, make the leap from “I write because I have to” to “I’m writing because I choose to.” Every day, for the rest of your life.

How do you get there? It’s different for everyone. Everyone’s success stories are different. I can’t wait to tell my story someday. But until then, I have to go write some more – because I want to. And then, to bed!

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

4 thoughts on “Exhaustion: A Sign of Fulfillment (or Lack Thereof)

  1. I relate to this. Sometimes you hang in there for so long that when you finally accomplish what you set out to, that’s only when you allow yourself to rest. Your mind then shuts down and that’s the good kind of tired I guess. But it’s worth it!

    1. It is worth it. :) It’s a big leap from working as an unpaid writing intern to, well, wherever you want to be in terms of a writing career. It takes some people a very long time to make it work for them, but all that hard work counts for something in the end, even if it’s in a very small way.

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