AMA: “Do you ever worry about burnout?”

“Do you ever worry about burnout?”

Theo S.

Hi, Theo. That’s a great question. Burnout is something I think about a lot because I’ve had to deal with it over the course of my career, especially during my early days here in Nashville.

In 2012, when I signed my first publishing deal, my calendar began to fill up with strangers’ names — people with whom I’d be cowriting.

Cowriting is great for different reasons, but one reason—and I’m only half joking—is that it’s the relationship-building equivalent of five coffee dates. If you have coffee with a stranger five times, they are most likely now your friend.

The downside of cowriting is that it is exhausting.

Imagine getting coffee 20 to 25 times a week for three years, the term of my first publishing deal, and then signing another one to do it all over again, and then again after that. If you’re not careful, you become an emotionally unavailable zombie.

Thankfully, I have a great partner, my wife Heidi, who helps me be more self-aware, and we’ve learned a lot about mitigating burnout over the years. Books have also been immensely helpful.

A good practice you can do, and something I wish I would have done a lot sooner, is to jot down all the activities that seem to drain you of energy and all the activities that seem to give you energy.

I’m an introvert, so hanging out with people for extended periods is draining. But because my job often involves this very thing, I had to look at a more granular level and figure out what parts of hanging out are exhausting.

For example, I was constantly cowriting with new people. When you haven’t met someone before, you can’t just jump straight into writing a song with them. You need to get to know the person and establish enough trust to collaborate well. So, for all of those sessions, there was about thirty minutes to an hour of pleasantries. That takes up quite a bit of energy. Once I realized that, I relayed it to my publisher and they were more careful about how many new cowrites I’d take on per week versus folks I’d previously written with.

Burnout is a real thing. It’s not a problem you can solve by pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. So whether you’re a songwriter, employee, entrepreneur, or whatever, if you’re burned out, that’s okay.

I highly recommend auditing yourself for a few weeks, taking notes when your energy is up and when it is down. You’ll likely notice a pattern. Once you do, you can be more strategic in how you go about work (and life), and hopefully burnout is much less of a problem in the future.

Thanks for the question, Theo!