Saturday, August 8, 2020

Quick Thoughts - Burning

So I think a lot about burnout, in part because it means so many different things. There’s a general idea out there that burnout is what happens when you do too much for too long. You’re a rocketship on your way to Mars, and something...goes wrong. A part of you flares and goes dark, and there’s just. No. Easy. Fix. The aftermath can be intense and prolonged. Typically, in the spheres that I follow, people talk about creative burnout, where after pushing and pushing and pushing something just kinda stops. And there’s no forcing it back.

I often wonder “Am I burned out?” and then quickly react in a couple of ways. The first is bristly. Of course not. If I were burned out it would imply that I might be doing too much, and I don’t really have a problem doing too much. Some days it’s the opposite. Many days doing too much is my coping mechanism, because doing too much doesn’t leave me time to worry about money, or the myriad things I should be doing to get my life “in order,” whatever that means. Doing too much has been my brand since forever, a chronic overachiever with a desire to be seen, to be appreciated. A middle child cliché with some late blooming queer thrown in for good measure. I’ve never had a problem with doing too much. Right? I could keep going forever.

Most days, it ends there. Some days, I can see through that, which is normally when the gaslighting starts. I can’t be burned out because I don’t have it that bad. Because I can do so much. Because I can still manage times of creativity. I can still write fanfic. I can still get stories published. I can’t be burned out because This Isn’t What That Looks Like. Check and mate. Of course, then I have no idea what this is. The tired and the constant guilt and worry. The struggle to get work done and the inability to let anything slip. I’m just a mess, I tell myself often enough. Do I need a better description than that?

It’s just strange to be in a place where you can indeed keep doing this thing and enjoy it, and enjoy that you’re good at it and that people appreciate it. I can write a pretty good review. I can remain open to stories and engage fully after years of pushing myself to defy people who say that my style of reviewing can’t be maintained. After five and a half years, I’m just going to put it to rest the idea that this kind of work is impossible. Difficult, sure. Undercompensated, sure. But fuck, I’m a Millennial, what isn’t? What I do isn’t really about the money, which came as a literal afterthought because I did and continue to desperately need money. I’ve always done it because I like to, because I’m good at it, because people appreciate it. I’m a fan of short SFF, without reservation. I still believe the most innovative work is still being done in this area, and I have never regretted my reading habits.

I’m burning. If it feels like a battle sometimes, to keep on top of what I’ve decided to review, then I feel like Goku screaming, bright with energy. And every time I get kicked the crap out of, I just have to get back up and keep going. There is no end to short SFF. And there comes a time when every blog, every project ends.

I’m also afraid. I can’t deny that I love what I’ve done here. If I’m back to doing it a month after I say I’m pulling out my tail, it’s because I love what I’ve done. Reading and reacting to the stories, getting to spread my appreciation for all the wonderful work being done out there. I love it every time someone tells me that I wrote their first review. Whenever someone tells me I got their story. Whenever someone says I pointed them in the direction of something they loved. That’s a fantastic feeling. I’ve tried my best to be a champion of short SFF, because I believe in it and love it, and ngl having been recognized for that with Hugo nominations and kind words has meant a lot.

I don’t think that I could just walk away from doing this work. But I do think that I need to dial it back. Maybe way back, and take stock of things I’ve been putting off for years.

I don’t know if this is burnout. Truly, I have no idea. One of those things I’ve been putting off has been looking into therapy, which ngl has been part of what I’ve used reviewing in lieu of (probably not the healthiest thing but what the fuck is healthy anyway?). Maybe someone will be able to tell me. What I do know is that I want to see what happens.

Now, I’m also something of a collector. Comics, CCG, books--collecting is something that appeals to me. It’s satisfying. It’s part of why reviewing has been something I’ve enjoyed so much. Gotta catch ‘em all! Seriously, understanding that about myself has made it easy to see how I’m able to do things like review as much as I do. It’s viscerally satisfying. And exhausting. And again, it’s a coping mechanism. Woo.

I know that this is going to be weird. And I’m worried about disappointing people who look forward to reading my reviews, and who look forward to having their work reviewed by me. I’m worried that I will miss more work that I would love. I am a ball of emotions and inner voices that make stepping back from what I’m doing review-wise SO HARD. I want to apologize. I want to negotiate. I want everyone to reassure me it’s okay, no one hates me, no one is hurt. I want to say I’ll still be here, doing some of this work. Just differently. Just...

This is going to be weird. I wish I had the freedom to just do reviews and write. Unfortunately, reviews don’t pay that well, and I work full time, and it’s just not in the cards that I can do everything that I want. So I have to figure out what I want most. And to do that I need to step back. Redistribute the fire.

Because I am burning. But I’m not out yet.

Change is coming. I’m still working on what the actual details will be. Starting in 2021, I will not be covering whole issues, and what reviews I do write will probably be short, more recommendations than anything. I'm thinking I might get back into writing a monthly column, but that too is something I haven't quite figured out yet, and will likely involve reaching out to see where I'm at with certain other blogs. I’ll be filling out details with that closer to the end of the year. For now, the scream continues. Hopefully my power levels are off the charts. My plan is to finish 2020 strong. I’ll still definitely be putting out a recommended reading list and doing a full Sippy Awards (probably sometime in February).

I want to thank everyone who has liked or supported what I’ve done with Quick Sip Reviews. The blog will continue, probably, in some form or another, for a while yet. And we’ll just have to see what happens next.

Sorry for this long rambling post. Again, blogging is how I process, how I cope.

Anyway, I’m setting a date. I’m putting this into the world as a sort of accountability post. Cheers!


  1. Just wanted to say that your reviews have definitely enhanced my enjoyment of reading short SFF. And I often think about your enthusiasm and positive approach to stories even when reading those you haven't reviewed. So I'm all for whatever changes you need to make here -- take care!

  2. Your work means so much Charles. And it's really impacted and made a lot of difference in a lot of lives of writers of short and later long sff. We will always love and appreciate you, whatever you do from here on. ❤️❤️❤️

  3. Your work is incredible and you should feel no shame or fear about needing to scale back. You've got to do what feels right because the last thing anyone wants is for your to burn out. Looking forward to what the new shape of your project will be.