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Cover image for How Writing Helped Pull Me Out of My Burnout

How Writing Helped Pull Me Out of My Burnout

phizzard profile image Phil Tietjen ・4 min read

Since there are varying degrees of burnout and how some people go through burnout, I'll start by warning you all that I cannot think about burnout without thinking about the best racing game series of all time Burnout. Now that is out the way I will describe my recent burnout.

Being in web development can be a little exhausting at times, with there being so many different things to learn from languages to frameworks. It can be fairly easy to fall into thinking you need to know all of them or at least all the things that could be relevant to you. I primarily like to work with React; for those of you unfamiliar with React, React is a Javascript library for building UI created by Facebook. It's a very popular library that has a lot of support and the API has evolved a lot over the years. The upside to this is that the library keeps changing for the better. The downside is that you need to keep up with the new changes as they come, however that alone didn't cause my burnout.

I had gotten to the point where I was very comfortable building React applications. After some years with the library I had moved over to their newer hooks API, messed with some server rendering, tried out some frameworks that use React like Next.js and Gatsby (I've opted more towards Gatsby and built some projects with it), and finally, after avoiding it for so long I looked into Redux for global state management.

Here's Where the Burnout Begins

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After juggling all these extra things on top and busting out a few side projects to have as some portfolio pieces and moving into a new job, I felt pretty burnt out. I allowed myself to turn off outside of work and just relax with my family and play video games, which were all good ways to spend my off time! Unfortunately, during this time whenever I felt like jumping into learning something or starting a new side project to level up, I ended up with 5 barely started ideas, with no plan or vision and found myself frustrated every time I attempted to learn new skills or sharpen existing skills.

I was still able to function well at work as things ramped up, but I was very aware that I was missing some enthusiasm for expanding my knowledge, while also being very aware of all the things around me that I could be learning.

Here's Where the Burnout Affected Me

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This continued for maybe a month and a half long and I was even starting to question my adequacy as a developer and my abilities to learn. This didn't help as I also tend to get a little imposter syndrome when I start a new job. At this point I'm thinking maybe I should try learning something completely different like C++, Rust, Go or maybe try and hop into hobby Game development. This lead to me bouncing back even harder than before, leaving me frustrated after wasting an evening away or retreating to play some video games.

I decided to take a seat back, I knew of a little something called Dev.to and that people like to write stuff on it, so I made an account and decided to check in on articles from time to time. I eventually decided to start writing rough ramblings about my experience I had leading and building a large web application I had no business doing and it felt far more passive and relaxing; zero frustration. I kept this up and eventually I formatted it into a way that was readable and decided to publish my first article!

Here's Where the Burnout Started to Fade

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When I published my first article, I assumed maybe like 5 people would click on it and skim through it. There are so many valuable articles to read so what are the chances mine will be read, maybe I wrote a bad article anyway.

Instead, while it didn't blow up, relative to my expectations it did. Over a weekend I was met with email notifications of reactions and comments, every comment I read was nice and productive. With such positive feedback and a small following, I felt that my mind opened up to other topics I could write about, and this is where things started to open back up for me.

The more topics I thought about writing lead to me thinking more critically about how well do I know things that I do comfortably and where my gaps are. I started to research more into these areas, applying this better understanding into drafted posts that I hope to also publish eventually.

While going through all this research, I felt that enthusiasm come back into learning and it felt great. I enjoyed my time a lot with Gatsby and with their theme workflows being in production, I was able to jump into a new side project with enough steam behind it to hopefully make it through.

I now feel very excited about all the open paths I have in front of me to continue leveling up as a developer. I even stopped for a moment to set up goals for myself for the rest of 2019. If I can complete a small amount of those goals before the end of the year I'll be happy.

I have to give a big shoutout to the dev.to community for being so great and to the contributors of dev.to for building a platform where new member's posts are not drowned in the content and remain visible.

If you're comfortable to talk about it what experiences have you had with burnout? and what helped you come out the other end? are you still having issues with burnout? Let me know in the comments or message me privately and I'll be happy to talk about it with you!

I'm also on Twitter if you want to follow me or chat on there. I sometimes post things there!

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phizzard profile

Phil Tietjen

@phizzard

I'm a Senior Developer and Co-host of Friday Night Deploys Podcast. I'm also a dad that likes to play video games and lift, always failing to keep it real with the kidz.

Discussion

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Just want to show my appreciation for how the Burnout titles suited the flow of your article perfectly. I am personally in the "Point of Impact" stage of my burnout... About to take a 2 week holiday abroad then it's time for "Takedown" haha

 

The burnout series will always come through for you, unless you want a new game :(

Glad you liked the read!

 

Thank You for sharing your story, I'm always deeply moved when reading such honest and personal depictions of something that has become way too common in modem times.

Being in web development can be a little exhausting at times

This is a massive understatement :), and I utterly feel your pain. It is as palpable as it can be, and your choice of words is a remarkable representation of endless loop of vexation.

Here's a little poetic expression of my repressed wrath stoking the perennial ember of madness.

When programming slowly starts to posses your dreams, the moment of clairvoyance approaches rapidly. A single glimpse of not so distant dystopia brings you face to face with a screaming banshee, your future self. The fading ember of zeal which once fueled your existence is now departed. As you stand on the cusp of madness feeling shivers traversing down your spine, the elusive demon slowly ravages your mind until there is but a void. The foreboding daydream or premonition of the past, the lunacy has set in and shackled your intellect with perpetual doubt, your bespoke abyss. --vimmer9

I also wrote something similar, maybe that's why it's so easy to relate.

P.S.
Loving the illustrations 👍

 

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the read :D

I also enjoyed your poetic expression you shared.

I only worked from home for around 2 months for my first job shortly after my daughter was born, and it was a lot of days spent in sweat pants tackling bad habits working late to make up for guilt. I'll have to give the article you shared a read! :D

 

I forgot to add that, among others, DEV.to was one of the most notable factors that got me back on track and sparked a desire to explore my writing affinities.

I don't want to mention any names here but having a propper support, professional or otherwise, is more than paramount.

Big Thanks to DEV.to, my wife, and one special person who I connected with on this platform. I tend to think that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes the result is quite liberating and difficult to fathom.

All those bits and byes that constitute our exchange of messages can be both devastating and exhilarating. We should all take a step back before commenting, and think about the person on the receiving end, think about the potentially fragile state they might be in.

Thanks for reading 😄

 

You story, for some unknown reason, inspired me to publish that poem with some adjustments. Brothers in burnout 😉

 

I love that the dev.to is generally a very positive community! Great insight on burnout. It's smart to refocus your energy to something like writing to reinspire ourselves. Also have to agree about Burnout being the best racing series.

 

dev.to has been so far the most positive community I've been a part of so far, it's brilliant!

I'm glad people out there remember Burnout as they should!

Glad you liked the read! :D

 

Depression(*) means loss of connexions, in your case with meaningful work and people. So it makes sense that writing and getting this kind reactions allowed you to get better.

I can't recommend enough Johan Ari on the subject

thelostconnections.com/mobile/

(*) For those wondering, burnout is just an euphemism for depression, easier to use in a professional context.

 

burnout is just an euphemism for depression

I see where you're coming from, although I have to disagree with that definition; atleast for my personal experience with burnout.

I don't believe what I experienced was as severe as something like depression, but I did feel burnt out growing my development skills to keep up with my expectations. That lead to me feeling frustrated and the cycle continued.

From the things I have read and experienced, I think burnout can lead to depression. However, I think depression is a much more complex issue to tackle.

Thank you for bringing up a resource that can help with something like depression, that book looks to be well regarded and I have not heard of it! :D

 

Thank you for sharing your experience. I feel like I struggle in much of the same way. I regularly go through cycles where I feel super guilty taking time to relax or play video game when I "should" be leveling up my real life skills.

I'm currently in the process of setting up a Gatsby blog for many of the same reasons you addressed above. I basically need to prove to myself that I do know things in my domain.

 

I feel super guilty taking time to relax or play video game when I "should" be leveling up

It's a pattern that's too familiar. Staying in that fine line between growing your skills and staying sane is just difficult. I've been thinking of using a schedule these days to stay on track.

Gatsby is perfect for that and the whole framework seems to have a lot of steam into it. My next few projects are Gatsby theme related and it's been cool.

Glad you liked the read and good luck with your blog, you'll nail it!