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Dry spell combined with writer's block.
Any relief possible? Is burnout imminent?

 10:43 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

For the past month I've been experiencing a dry spell.

I am just having trouble getting 'into' designing web pages. I also have found myself not interested in learning new computer stuff like PHP and MySql....not to mention that I'd just love to learn Linux/Red Hat or one of those flavors....but can't find the initiative to do it.

By the time I'm done doing my daily routine of basic maintenance-I'm just not interested in doing a whole lot more. (I might mention that web-stuff is part-time for me. I have a 40 hour job at a family business.)

The web has been kind to me...but I just feel so overwhelmed all the time: "Just finished learning HTML?...goood!...now learn CSS, cause HTML is 'old'." or "You're using FrontPage? Get real and learn a REAL program." or "This tag is now depracated...replace it on all your websites."....and on and on

I'm tired. My mind is numb. I feel there is no 'carrot'...just a long long stick.

Learning the basics was fun and exciting, but the intermediate sessions are getting tedious, and I just don't have the 'drive' ritght now.

Is this typical? For those of you that do this full-time?

If it did happen, what did you do to get out of it?

Thanks in advance.



 10:59 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

>what did you do to get out of it?



 11:11 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

A months worth of chocolate for me is already into $50+...:>)

I tend to go through 6-10 mini candy bars a day.

Doesn't help.:(


 11:28 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

ScottM, you just described my situation to a 'T' :(

Best I can suggest is mutual butt-kicking?


 11:36 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)


You raise a very good question. I remember a quote of Woody Allen's (about directing) that has always stuck with me for times like these:

"Eighty percent of success is just showing up."

I think it's more like 90 % :)


 11:40 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

I take two days off, with no laptop, no Palm, no cell phone and sit on the back of a horse. I take a couple of books, my journal and a pen. Kinda just let the horse wander.

I work a lot of 20 hour days sometimes for weeks at a time. It pays great dividends to get away from it, entirely away from it. When all you have with you is food for three days, a bedroll, a couple of books and some blank pages, no one to talk to but the horse, priorites have a way of making themselves known.

Don't listen to that voice that says, "I can't afford to take two days off". Sometimes you can't afford not to. Just find something that you really like to do and indulge. When you come back to the grind you'll have a better perspective.

Every now and then it is necessary to take more than a few days, plan for it. Don't set the goal as completing a job, but rather work toward some time off.


 11:40 pm on Oct 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

Scott, I was kidding about chocolate - kind of. I limit myself to 3 mini chocolates a day. ;)

I actually wrote about almost this problem back on August 9th, regarding Overcoming Writers Block [webmasterworld.com] in our Content forum.

There were some wonderful replies with a lot of insight. But what you're describing goes beyond that, it's a full-fledged case of Webmasteritis.

There was a lot of truth in the replies that definitely applied and helped, but what I've had is actually as broad as what you've got. It's a combination of burnout along with a writing block, a problem I isolated as being indecision about the proper "voice" to use when writing, perfectionism (nothing is ever good enough - which artists and painters also have) and after reading the thread a few times and a lot of introspection, realized that one underlying aspect was related to not wanting to do what I was doing and not doing what I actually wanted to be doing.

I don't know if any of those reasons apply to you, but I think they're all separate yet related factors that might have to be dealt with one at a time.


 12:22 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

When all you have with you is food for three days, a bedroll, a couple of books and some blank pages, no one to talk to but the horse, priorites have a way of making themselves known.


a problem I isolated as being indecision about the proper "voice" to use when writing, perfectionism (nothing is ever good enough - which artists and painters also have)

Both seem to be zeroing in on the problem. I am finding the day-to-day stuff so tedious...I just am not wanting to do it anymore. Perfectionism is a trait that rears it's ugly head in my life toooo often. Indecision is haunting me. CSS? oh..oh..maybe yes...maybe no...I can't decide. Priorities? What priorities...it's all priorities, isn't it?:>)

That seems to be a significant problem. Prioritizing my time. Perhaps I could find a nice resort to visit for a few days and get some perspective.

Lord knows, they owe it me.


 12:34 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I go through these stages every three month or so. Every little routine thing that I did seem like a torture. After trying to work for five minutes, during these dry spells, I find myself reading about dolphins on some Japanese site for 3 hours, with nothing accomplished.
I am in the computer industry for a year and always learn something new. The first time the dry spell hit me I tried to drag myself through it, forcing myself to do what has to be done. Only what happened is - I lost more value time and desire that gained in profits and knowledge.
Some very intelligent people designed our educational system where a period of learning follows a long vocation. Your mind and desire needs to rest. If you eat lots of chocolate you will not want to eat more and if you will eat, chocolate will not taste the same. But if you wait long enough your desire for chocolate will return and so will your desire to learn and work.
don't take a day or two off, get away completely. Forget that internet even exists. Do not go back to it when you decide it is time, let it call you. Enough time will pass and you will find yourself sailing full speed again to new shores.


 12:50 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I find myself reading about dolphins on some Japanese site for 3 hours, with nothing accomplished.

That is so true!


 1:08 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

>... not wanting to do what I was doing and not doing what I actually wanted to be doing.

I think this is HUGE.

I've been in this exact situation. After I left university (I actually had to drop out after health issues) I had a job for ten months, an interesting job which I was good at and with people I liked. But I hated it more and more to the point that even thinking about going to work would leave my mind in a red haze of anger and frustration. After blaming everything about the place and the people and the work I realised that what it came down to was that I wasn't doing what I wanted and loved. Simple as that. This was a rather extreme case so I took kind of extreme measures, I left my job and went back to university. This has put us under a lot of financial hardship and the work is physically and mentally harder too, but it was worth it. I wish I'd done it sooner.

I realise that not everyone needs to make such a big change, but then I'm guessing not everyone hates what they are doing as much as I did. But the thing I learnt from all this is that I'll never be motivated to work and learn unless I'm doing something I have a passion for.

Sometimes it only takes a small change in focus to bring that passion. When I was bored with lab work I reminded myself of the research papers which will one day have my name on them (which is one of my long term dreams) or when I'm struggling with starting an essay, I make a list of all the things I'll learn and what I can then do with that knowledege. I'm sure there are different things other people do to get the same effect.

Knowing what you want to get out of your work and your life is, in my opinion, the first step towards being motivated to do anything. This is where the advice about taking time off comes in, it's much harder to figure out what it is you really want when you're surrounded by bits of code and half made webpages wanting your attention.


 4:12 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

This is very huge. Unfortunately, my current job is the "no interest" and my web project is my all encompassing interest. But my web project isn't quite able to support the family yet. So I show up for the real job, log into my home server and tinker.... here's hoping I don't get caught.

But even the web project gets overwhelming. I go with my son on a Boy Scout camping every month, sans electronics, and I love it. Let the world go to pot for a few days, it won't miss me.

I just hope the power doesn't go out on the server while I'm gone........

Usually a customer complaint will be a good kick in the butt to get moving again.

But if your income doesn't depend on your constant vigilance to the web, don't fret it. Just let it go, and come back to it if and when you feel like it again.

My violin is still in the closet from 3 years ago......

Just not ready to pick it up again. Soon.


 4:57 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>But if your income doesn't depend on your constant vigilance to the web, don't fret it. Just let it go, and come back to it if and when you feel like it again.

Heya TXBakers, just a quick note. Even when your income does depend solely on the web and all that the web implies, it still pays to take a step back and let the world go to pot every now and then. ;)

A painter that locks himself in his studio to paint forgets what sunlight really looks like, a poet that stops hearing words forgets what they sound like...

I never suffer from writer's block, I just go to a coffeeshop and eavesdrop on the stories. Later I write about it. There is no way I could write if I shut myself in my office and just "concentrated" on writing. Play hooky. Run through a sprinkler with your suit on. Take a walk in the rain. Whenever you feel 4 wall closing in, get outside them for awhile. Even if that means neglecting your "sponsibilities" for a day or four.


 5:36 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Last time this hit me really badly was not too long ago, at the end of my senior year of college. I'd lost all interest in my CS major, felt sick every time I had to sit at a computer, and dreaded the thought of working in my chosen field.

Given my situation, I had to wait a few months and finish out the classes, but what actually got me out of my funk was a month in Haiti. (For credit, no less.) No phone. No e-mail. No laptop. No palm pilot. No calculators (not even a 4-function). No radio. The only things I brought with me that drew current were a flashlight, my camera (manual-focus, film), and a minicasette recorder so I could journal even if my tendonitis flared up.

Came back with a much clearer head. Moved in with my best friend (we're married now) and started a couple projects that I actually enjoyed. Much better.

If you happen to speak Creole and have the money for such an excursion, rural Haiti might be a good pick, but I think the magic part was the long list of 'no's. The journal helped, too. And I do think that immersing yourself in a foreign culture for a while has a wonderful clarifying effect upon ones thoughts, if you can afford it.

brotherhood of LAN

 6:01 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I feel as long as I remember the good things I pick up here and site making, then they will have their uses at a later date. Everyone seems to be able to *want* to build a webpage nowadays. Seems only a select few can.

I do agree with you ScottM, it reminds me of a poster on the wall at my old college, showing all the components of Linux coming from the "shell" and sprouting outwards like the head of a tornado...out to HTML, CSS, PHP and all the not-so-complicated languages.

I'm guessing that over time everyone finds their niche, because after looking at all the languages in that poster, I don't have enough lifetimes to be good at them all :)

As long as traffic numbers go up and money keeps filtering in - then I don't have a problem with at least attempting to understand the ones I already use.

Someones gotta be making mucho money on the net...its just a matter of knowing who they are and learning what they know :) and maybe even what conferences they go to?


 6:06 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I seem to also go through this periodically. I always counter it by changing my circumstances, going on a trip, going back to college, leaving college, working full time, working part time, working crazy hours, barely working. It goes on.

Now I'm tired of change and finally realized I have to figure out where this boredom & burnout is actually coming from.

Taking time off is definitely a good thing, but I think it pays to understand the "why's".


 9:34 am on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm right with you on this one Scott.

This industry changes too fast - there is always something new to learn and its real easy to feel overwhelmed.

I have a seriously long list of things I want to learn, PHP, Linux, Perl etc

Bottom line is, I can't. There aren't enough hours in the day, and it stresses me out trying.

I think part of the pressure comes from seeing so many people who seem to know so much more than I do.

One of the good things about PubConf was meeting people in the same boat and realising that everyone was an expert on some things and a newbie on others.

I'm gonna refocus on learning the stuff that I enjoy and ignore the rest.

(oh yeah, and I'm gonna take a week off sometime real soon - honest;))


 12:54 pm on Oct 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks folks for all the replies. It seems this is not a new problem to many of you. That alone makes me feel better.

It sort of reminds me of when I got my first 8-track recording studio (To record demo-tapes of our band.) I spent an entire month learning what each little knob did-and then tried to use it/them on every song. It was lousy. I was so overwhelmed by the opportunities, I forgot what it was like to play good music. The band suffered. We broke up.

Lesson learned: Just because there is a knob... it doesn't mean you have to turn it. You don't even have to use it. You must resist turning that little red, pretty glowing knob. The one that says, "Turn me..and you'll know everything!". Nope, I'm not going to turn it. Even though it's flashing in a nice strobe, and it gets bigger and bigger and hands out candy. I'm not touching it. Even the rainbow sticking out from it is not going to lure me in. So it promises three wishes? I'm not going to wish for anything. Well maybe just one...as I reach for that knob....


Thanks again folks.

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