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How to Deal with Creative Burnout: A Personal Journey


I just returned from spending four days at the 2024 San Francisco Writers Conference, my fourth attendance in six years and my inaugural year as the new Director of Technology. The experience, though always transformative, compelled me to confront a silent battle I've waged within myself: creative burnout.

Writing my first novel, Nothing Left But Dust, a historical fiction exploring a young girl's tumultuous survival through the 1906 earthquake and fires in San Francisco, was an emotionally taxing experience spanning seven years. The completion and publication of such a heavy narrative left me in a state I had anticipated but was scarcely prepared for: a profound burnout. Following the launch, I found myself retreating, unable to muster the enthusiasm required to promote this work I deeply believed deserved to be read. The aftermath was a blend of guilt and depression, a crippling cocktail that thwarted my attempts to fully engage in new writing projects. Sparks of excitement for new projects ranging from sci-fi to modern commercial fiction were eclipsed by my intense guilt for letting my first book down. I was a writer that could not write.

It wasn't until the conference that the realization hit me—I had been entangled in burnout for ten months. I couldn't get my creative footing because I felt the guilt of unmet expectations. I couldn't take action until I dealt with the guilt, and in order to do something about the guilt, I needed clarity. I found that clarity amidst the whirlwind of talks, panels, and private conversations. Before long, the path forward appeared like a glowing yellow brick road with buzzing neon arrows—it's time to face my fears and delve into telling my own story. It's time to write my memoir. 

This epiphany was not a solitary strike of insight but a series of repetitive hammering against the back of my skull that reverberated in my soul. Every bit of wisdom gleaned from every speaker clarified the message. The Author Influencer by Rusty Shelton pushed me to reimagine my approach to visibility and influence. DIY National Book Tours & Speaking Engagements to Promote Your Book with Joey Garcia and Leslie Kirk Campbell, alongside Pitch Media Outlines & Promote Your Book with Marinda Johnson, Erika Mailman, and Josh Fernandez, provided actionable strategies for stepping out of the shadows and back into the spotlight where I belong. Yet, the keynote speech by Maia Kobabe touched a chord deep within, a reminder of the power of personal stories and the importance of sharing them with the world.

Welcome to SFWC 2024

My journey from burnout to revival wasn't easy. There was fear, pain, and doubt. It was raw. There were tears, and I'm not really a crier. Breaking free from my overwhelming burnout was like escaping the gravitational pull of a black hole—I recognized my cycle of despair and hope, of loss and rediscovery, from a new perspective of clarity and purpose. And I leaped into action.

In recognizing the depth of my burnout, I've come to understand the necessity of not only setting clear goals but immersing myself in environments that challenge, inspire, and refocus my energies. Building a platform on social media and securing more speaking events are now not just tasks on a to-do list but integral steps in sharing my story, my journey, and my drive to help others struggling with resilience.

To those who find themselves in the throes of creative burnout, remember: it's okay to spin, to feel the guilt, to cry. But amidst the chaos, listen for your spark. Fan its flames, and let it propel you forward. Your story isn't over; it's simply waiting for its next chapter.

A heartfelt thank you to Rusty Shelton, Joey Garcia, Leslie Kirk Campbell, Marinda Johnson, Erika Mailman, Josh Fernandez, Maia Kobabe, Lissa Provost, Laurie McLean, Gini Grossenbacher, Amanda Traylor, Georgia Hughes, Audrey Tati, Nick Shebal, Mark R Clifford, Professor Sol Smith, and everyone else who was part of my experience at SFWC. Your words and guidance helped me find my footing and illuminated the path for countless others navigating their own creative journeys.

As I embark on the journey of writing my memoir, I'm reminded of the power of our stories, the resilience of the human spirit, and the transformative nature of our words. Let's write, share, and heal together.

Melissa Geissinger at SFWC 2024


  1. Curtis on March 17, 2024 at 4:52 pm

    So good meeting you yesterday at Redwood Writers breakout session. (I’m glad you’ve recovered enough from the burnout to the brilliance of your presentation.) I appreciate your comment about respecting documented history while crafting your characters within the period. Dan Brown does that in Origin so convincingly that you can use google maps to follow the characters’ steps.

    I’m looking forward to reading but also hearing the story while I drive back and forth to work. In my own book the audio version is like a whole new experience that adds such depth. Once I complete my follow-up book that is on my website, I will work on my WWII historic novel.

    • melissa on April 24, 2024 at 5:38 pm

      Just saw this comment, Curtis! Thank you so much for your engagement and for coming to my book signing at Barnes & Noble! Wishing you the best on your literary journey!

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