Skip to main content

WRITERS ON THE WEB: Step Off The Hamster Wheel

Rebecca Norris encourages busy writers to avoid burnout, step off the hamster wheel, assess their progress, and set new goals for the rest of the year.

Rebecca Norris is a writer, producer, web enthusiast, and creator of the award-winning web series Split with her production company, Freebird Entertainment. Follow Rebecca on Twitter at @beckaroohoo.

Click to tweet this article to your friends and followers!

If you’re a Type A perfectionist/over-achiever/insomniac like me, you probably don’t stop very often to catch your breath. I hold down a busy job in development, easily putting in 60+ hours a week between the office and reading at home, in addition to teaching classes, script reading and consulting, and writing and producing my own work. Every time I finish a project, I’m right on to the next one. I’ve often had 3-4 projects going on at one time, in addition to the full-time job.

hamster-wheel purple

I love what I do, but c’mon. It’s clearly way too much.

I realized recently that with all the go-go-go, I haven’t taken a moment to step off the hamster wheel long enough to see what I've actually achieved. Nor have I really spent any time outside in the past two weeks. Nor had an appropriate amount of sleep. I’ve also been eating an ever-increasing amount of cookies. Not good.

Does this sound familiar to any of you? Does it ring true for your own life? Perhaps your circumstances are a bit different—you might have kids, or a parent you take care of, or you’re in school and working full-time. Whatever it is, many people I know, including myself, are on the burnout spiral, running on adrenaline, our adrenal systems sputtering and about ready to quit.

I love creating content and writing scripts—it’s my passion. But maybe passion can be streamlined a bit, to fit in with the reality that we’re all human beings that need to sleep and eat?

For this article, I thought it would be a smart idea, instead of charging full-steam ahead with the web series production process, to actually stop and breathe for a moment. We’re halfway through the year—can you believe it? It’s a good time to take an inventory on the progress we’ve made over the past six months. Pat ourselves on the back for all of our hard work. Then we can go about setting (reasonable and do-able) goals for the next six months.

Clearly I need work on the reasonable and do-able part.

Note: These do not have to be huge accomplishments. For some of us who are crazy busy, even writing a few pages a week is a big deal. So give yourself props for whatever progress you’ve made toward your goals, and then challenge yourself to reach even higher next time.

I’ll start.

Accomplishments over past 6 months

  1. Completed and posted season two of my web series SPLIT.
  2. Got accepted to LA WebFest and KWebFest in South Korea.
  3. SPLIT won an award at LA WebFest, and was nominated for 3 others!
  4. Wrote treatments for a new feature screenplay and half-hour pilot.
  5. Wrote a half-hour TV spec.
  6. Spoke on 3 panels.
  7. Started teaching classes.
  8. Wrote a large chunk of my book proposal.
  9. Held a private screening and party for my new feature CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SUNSHINE.

Goals for next 6 months

  1. Learn to meditate.
  2. Get outside more. Meaning more than just running outside to grab lunch at the office.
  3. Finish book proposal and submit to book agents.
  4. Submit SPLIT to 2 more web festivals.
  5. Submit my feature film CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SUNSHINE to 10 film festivals.
  6. Write the half hour TV pilot.
  7. Write a first draft of the feature screenplay.
  8. Write a treatment for new web series idea.
  9. Get more sleep.
  10. Stop eating so many cookies.

Note: I failed at #10, as I ate a cookie while I wrote this.

And wow. I forgot some of the stuff that happened earlier in the year. I actually got more done than I thought I had. And the next six months are going to be about taking care of myself as much as taking care of business.

So now I’m challenging you to do the same. Take a breath, smell the roses, and give yourself kudos for everything you’ve accomplished so far. And if for some reason you feel that you haven’t accomplished what you wanted to, then just focus on the goals for the next six months and strive to do better.

By the way, The Writer's Store has an amazing FREE resource called the "Don't Break The Chain" Calendar, based on Jerry Seinfeld's writing method. You download the PDF, and get to mark a nice fat red X on each calendar day that you write. The idea is to complete a "chain of x's" where you write (or work on your producing projects) every day. It's a great visual way to encourage you to work toward your goals!

Now I'm really throwing down the gauntlet, people! Let's commit to work on our projects, even if it's just ten minutes a day, every single day, and have a calendar full of red X's by the end of the year!

Want to share your accomplishments and goals? Feel free to write them in the comments section. Sometimes sharing them in public can help give you the kick in butt you need to accomplish them.

Let's do this!

Get more web series advice in Rebecca Norris' webinar
Writing the Web Series