Asexuality, Writing, and Burnout

A year ago, I wrote a post announcing that I wanted to make 2015 The Year of Writing about Asexuality for Muslims. Over the course of the following nine months, I wrote ten essays for Muslim sites about asexuality, as well as four essays about the intersection of asexuality, Muslimness, and accessibility, with a focus on my experiences at the mosque (see list here).

At the end of November 2015, the site I had primarily been writing for, Love InshAllah, shut down indefinitely. I had had some luck writing for other Muslim sites, but usually not directly about asexuality (hence the focus on my mosque experiences in the other essays), so the loss of Love InshAllah was a major blow to my writing plans.

Several other events around the same time also impacted me, including another Muslim site leaving one of my submissions ignored in their slush pile, some private blogging drama, and dealing with misogyny at my mosque. I was exhausted from several months of juggling a full time job, two volunteer positions, an intensive Arabic class, and all this writing, and so I decided to take a hiatus during December.

As the intended one-month hiatus from writing turned into two months and then three, I realized that it wasn’t just writing on top of everything else that had exhausted me, it was writing itself. Writing about asexuality for Muslims had been rewarding in many ways, but it had also burned me out.

One definition of burnout is putting more emotional energy into an activity or cause than you get back. Many of the essays I wrote were deeply personal, in some cases things I had never talked about publicly before or experiences that had been wounding to me. I’m someone that tends to keep things to myself and putting myself out there like that was often a struggle.

I started writing about asexuality and Islam because there wasn’t really anything else out there on the subject. I hoped that by writing publicly about my experiences, I could carve out an asexual Muslim space where others might join me. I have received a number of comments, both privately and publicly, from other asexual Muslims and that means a lot. But there’s still no asexual Muslim community of any kind, just ships passing in the night every few months.

And knowing that if I wanted to read anything about the intersection of asexuality and Islam, I pretty much had to write it myself ended up putting a lot of pressure on me.

There was also the reaction from non-asexual Muslims. Or perhaps I should say non-reaction. For the most part, I didn’t receive too much negativity from people, and I’m grateful for that. However, I began to notice a pattern after awhile that few people seemed to relate to my experiences in any real way. I was just a curiosity to them, worth a “Thanks for teaching me about this” but no deeper engagement. Discussions that I hoped to contribute to continued on as if I didn’t exist.

I realize that community building and visibility work are long-term processes. But I underestimated how much it would take out of me and I overestimated how much I would get back from it. Hence the burnout.

I’ve taken the extra two months to think about how I can continue writing in a way that’s more sustainable. To reset my expectations to be more realistic.

For most of my life, asexuality has been an experience of isolation and alienation for me. Running into the limits of how much I can change that was a tough experience. I still hope that by plugging away at it, slowly and gradually, I’ll eventually get somewhere.

About Laura (ace-muslim)

Laura is an aromantic asexual, queer-identified, and a Muslim. She lives in the U.S., works in online tech support, and volunteers for a Muslim anti-racism organization. She blogs about asexuality, queer Muslim issues, and other topics at http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com and has written on asexuality for a number of Muslim sites.
This entry was posted in Articles, Blogging, Community, Intersectionality, Meta, personal experience and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Asexuality, Writing, and Burnout

  1. Ah, yes, burnout. I know it well.

    That “If I don’t do it, who will?” pressure, and that sense you’re letting everyone down by not writing. That “Why do I bother if only 20 people are going to read it?” feeling. “I have to do more but I have no more to give.”

    I have been in that state for several years now, and I have yet to find the path out. This past year has been especially rough, with the death of a friend and a persistently nagging arm injury making it difficult for me to feel like doing anything at all, let alone write something.

    Projects and ideas have been piling up, and so now I have the added problem of figuring out what exactly I should work on when I manage to find the writing drive. Coming out tips? Info for someone who thinks their friend may be ace? Random thoughts about activism vs. “activism”? A takedown of that “1% Statistic”? Small, focused pages about specific topics aimed at search engine queries? Huge, multi-post series that covers every aspect of the subject of asexual men? Any number of other things that exist as scribbles in a notebook or lines in a Word doc? How can I begin when there’s so much to do?

    A big part of the problem is that so much of what we (ace activists in general) do, we do alone. There’s no safety net, there’s no co-ownership, there’s no work sharing, there’s just exhaustion. I’m starting to see that change, but even when there is collaboration, there’s still that one single person driving it, and if that person steps back, the whole thing collapses.

    • “A big part of the problem is that so much of what we (ace activists in general) do, we do alone. There’s no safety net, there’s no co-ownership, there’s no work sharing, there’s just exhaustion.”

      That, exactly.

      I actually have a number of ideas for essays and projects, some that I even feel excited about. But finding the time for them and then the motivation and emotional fortitude to actually see them through, that’s something else.

      It does help in a way to know that I’m not the only one experiencing these things.

    • luvtheheaven says:

      Ah that dreaded 1% statistic came up in the Aces NYC article limited to in the newest linkspam: “Only 1 percent of the world population identifies as asexual in one of the few studies published on the topic by Dr. Anthony Bogaert, a psychology professor at Brock University in Canada.” Err if you ever do a takedown I’ll be the first to cheer you on.

  2. Captain Heartless says:

    Yeah, I’ve basically been burned out for years now.

    I found if I have in person ace friends I tend to not burn out, but that’s become impossible as I’ve left school. That and I feel that the aces I meet in person now tend to be more towards the orientation=behavior kind, and I’m just sick of fighting that. So having to fight a two front war with the rest of the world and my own place in the community, I’ve ended up with no community and plenty of burn out (I’ve tried finding support in other LGBT and poly communities but they aren’t better- I have plenty of friends, but no community where I actually belong).

    There’s just not enough of us, and too much to do. I keep hoping one day someone else will start getting a good ace community going in my city, because I don’t have the energy to do it alone.

    • I identify a lot with this. There’s a meetup in a city in my area, but it’s not actually feasible for me to attend it. Without that, I don’t have in-person ace friends (I have no idea what this would be like, as I’ve never experienced it!) and when I depend entirely on online communities for support, disputes in the community or just feeling like what’s being discussed isn’t useful for me, are really difficult and leave me feeling isolated.

      I also definitely feel out of step with a lot of Muslim communities, both locally and online, in large part because of being queer, so that isn’t much help either.

      I’m not sure what the solutions for this are, and I suspect that a lot more aces are burned out than have come forward in community spaces to say so.

      • luvtheheaven says:

        Laura, i appreciated reading the things you linked here when you posted this. I wish Love, InshAllah had worked out for longer. I am sorry you feel such burnout but I think i understand why you’d feel this way, you actually explained it really clearly here, and you most definitely aren’t the first person to experience it in general, even if your specific situation is unique. I am glad it seems, reading the comments, to be at least a small comfort to you to know you’re not alone in this feeling as a blogger.

        I always love reading what you write about asexuality , and aromanticsm, and even about being muslim, I do, but like Siggy (below) the further removed from your experiences I am, the less I feel I have anything to say in a comment. I truly appreciate reading and observing though, learning, even when what you write has absolutely nothing to do with asexuality. 🙂

        Shifting gears a bit, and why I was replying to this particular comment, I know it likely won’t be a real solution for you, but on the off chance that the problem is that the meeting locations/times of a local ace group are not ever accessible to someone who relies on public transportation/busses, that is something you can often message/email/contact the person in charge of organizing the group and mention to them, and they might realize that you’re not the only person they’re not accomodating and try harder to include people who don’t have a car. I know at the Washington DC based meetup I now attend frequently the organizers also try to accommodate people who live further away from that one city – who perhaps live north of Baltimore, MD or hours south in Richmond, VA – but sometimes they need to be reminded. Same goes for any other specific thing the members need – metro access being a common one, but possibly even just the time of day or day of the week needing to be adjusted.

        It’s not going to be really possible if the local meeting group doesn’t have a email address or way of contacting them listed, but if it’s a group on meetup.com, for instance, that would be a potential option. And from what I’ve gathered about both how other ace groups in the USA function and how the other non-ace local meetup.com groups I’ve attended work, it certainly feels that trying to accommodate as many potential members as possible is often an important goal for the organizers. If you raise your concerns or wish to attend but reasons you can’t, 9 times out of 10 they will care.

        I have no clue if this is even relevant to your situation, so I apologize if this is not helpful in the slightest, Laura.

        (Also, apologies for any typos. I’m on my phone and have been fighting with autocorrect this entire comment, lol.)

        • Thanks for the response! The main problem is that it would take me about an hour and a half each way to get into the city on the bus and I’m not motivated enough to be willing to put in that much effort for a meet-up. The city is the most central location for them to hold it, and the easiest for people who live elsewhere to get to. I don’t think the community is large enough to support smaller “local” meetings.

          redbeardace is actually active in the group and he read and responded to one of my earlier posts on Tumblr about the meetup so I know that these issues are on their radar.

          I think the only real solution is for more people to continue to identify as ace so that there can be more extensive meet-ups in more convenient locations for a wider range of people.

          • luvtheheaven says:

            Good to know! Yes I think you might be right.

            (Sometimes I do put in about that much effort to go to my own local meetups, I don’t mind over an hour each way of travel as long as the meetup itself is plenty long, preferably some kind of event that is more than just a meal at a restaurant or something. But yeah, as the communities grow – I’ve noticed in the almost 2 years I’ve been attending Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic meetups that it’s grown a lot and meetups that once were more likely to only attract 8 people are attracting like 20 people! 😛 I hope it maybe is growing in a similar way across the country where you live, too. I hope soon it will become more feasible for you.)

  3. Elana says:

    I don’t always comment or really respond because I often feel like I don’t have anything sufficiently worthwhile to contribute, but I do really appreciate all of you who write about asexuality and do activism on all our behalf.

  4. Sciatrix says:

    I’ve been burned out for a long time, too. One thing I tell myself that if I’m doing it, someone else who might ask themselves “if I don’t do this who will?” has an answer to that question–and if I wasn’t doing it, someone else would step up. It’s actually worked reasonably well. I might come back to blogging eventually, but I find that building my own offline communities is way better for me right now when it comes to return on investment.

  5. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    When I started blogging in German, it kinda felt like talking to a wall, too. I remember it being very frustrating – only real life ace friends and visibility efforts kept me going. It took a couple years to gather any kind of momentum online, which is a long time working without any support. I’d have given up, too, I believe.
    Also, I notice how, now that we have more German ace bloggers, my frequency of posting has reduced quite a bit. I’m spending more effort on my writer’s blog these days.

  6. Siggy says:

    My writing tends to venture into the abstract–the philosophy, the linguistics, the politics. Some people think this is hard to do, to extract the general lesson from the personal experience. I dunno, I’ve been blogging for eight years, it comes easy. What’s hard to me is responding to other people’s experiences. I often feel like there’s nothing to say, lest I draw further attention to the sheer distance we have.

    I’m sorry to hear that Love, InshAllah shut down (I had previously missed that detail). That seemed like a pretty good deal.

    • The site was basically run by one person, and she wasn’t able to keep up with it due to personal issues. It’s possible she might start it up again later (the hiatus was never publicly announced, though all the writers were informed), but it doesn’t seem like that would be any time soon.

      I think that abstract writing could be easier to do, as long as you can come up with ideas. I’ve sometimes written this type of thing but I usually don’t come up with ideas for it on my own; if I write that type of piece it’s usually in response to somebody else. I’m also pretty burned out on any kind of community “meta” debate right now.

  7. elainexe says:

    Ahhhhh yes. I definitely know the feeling. And I also so often want to connect with people but it’s my own self that gets in the way, when just communicating takes a lot of energy. I love so many of your posts but often don’t have the brain for comments.
    I also have like….40 drafts for posts lol. Most things I end up posting are things that I write in one sitting, because otherwise mental health things make it hard.
    I guess I end up thinking….well, I feel guilty I can’t post more. I want to contribute. But it’s true, it’s not something you can do on your own, to make a community, with robust discussions/discourse. Or with two people. You need effort put in from many sides. I think about this a lot for my family since it seems like I’m the only one who wants to do things together. I try hard to organize activities but you really can’t sustain such a thing coming from one single person.
    I do find enjoyment in finding as many Muslim ace posts as I can though, even if it’s not community. And it turns out a lot of them aren’t in ace spaces. They’re in Muslim LGBTQ spaces. Or POC LGBTQ spaces.

    • I really love your ability to find Muslim ace posts. I don’t have the time or motivation to spent too much time looking for content if it doesn’t come up on my dashboard, so I’m grateful to others who do.

      I’m also glad for your presence in ace spaces, as it makes me feel a lot less alone. I hope others will step up as well.

  8. whitewheats says:

    Hi Laura,
    I have recently discovered your posts (both here and on Tumblr) and more recently have decided to try contributing to the ace Muslim community. It hasn’t been long since I began identifying as ace, as I am relatively young and previously never saw a purpose in dwelling on my “absence of sexuality”. However, after reading your posts and entering the adult world myself, I realized that it is precisely this absence that will influence the course of my life (not that this specific description of sexuality will apply to all aces). I haven’t seen a single other person so far write so passionately and personally about their experiences as an ace Muslim; I don’t think I’ve yet found more than 5 on the internet! I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to yearn for a community for so long and contribute so much, and know that there are other ace Muslims out there, but see such little input from them. I saw an older post on your blog called “Building an asexual Muslim community” and I was thinking of writing on Tumblr (whitewheats) about the topics you proposed. I hope that by doing this, I can contribute in whatever small way to the Muslim ace community while learning more about myself. I’m not really sure what to say other than to thank you for everything you’ve done for the (small but hopefully growing) Muslim ace community online! Insha’Allah, more of us will gain the courage to speak out about our experiences, which will both help us create a sense of belonging and educate others about our identity.
    Manon

    • Salaam Manon,

      Thank you so much for this lovely comment. It means a lot! I’m looking forward to reading your posts. Responses like yours are exactly what’s needed and I hope your example will encourage others.

      As an absence of some sort (usually of sexual attraction), asexuality can sometimes be difficult to pin down, even in the best of circumstances. I thought for a long time it didn’t play a big role in my life – until I realized that I had actually shaped my whole life precisely so that it DIDN’T have to play a big role. Sometimes the influence is more subtle than we realize.

      I went about a lot of things the hard way, because I had no clue back then that asexuality was a thing so I was just muddling through on my own. I hope that by writing about this, it may make it easier in some way for younger aces, whether Muslim or not, to find a good way to navigate their asexuality.

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  12. I can definitely relate as an asexual trans person who studies mathematics the need to carve out a space for oneself on the Internet. I too have felt burnout regarding it as a result of being the only person on the Internet writing a blog that talks about the intersection of being transgender, asexual, and the pursuit of mathematics. Regarding my blog, I also had to deal with people being interested in what I wrote but not really wanting to create a discussion out of it. That also hurt a lot as well, especially since the ace community as a teenager (the resources and communities were all in the big cities, and of course I am from a very small town) was virtually non-exsistent for me as well. It’s great to see someone with a similar experience as me. If you want to talk sometime on AVEN or something, I’d be glad to add you to my list and message you to talk about the similarities that we have.

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