After another burnout from overworking, a new clarity shone through my misery: I didn’t want to live like this any more

One morning in late September, I woke up just before dawn still at my computer. I had been attempting an all-nighter, my fourth or fifth in six months. As the sky started to lighten I went to bed, setting an alarm for two hours’ time; then I started up again, racing to meet a noon deadline. By then I had been working most of the last 24 hours, and most of the last six weeks.

The crash, when it inevitably came, was more of a hard stop. At around 11.30am my hands froze on the keyboard: I simply could not type another word. Trying to will myself on was a surprisingly physical sensation. I was pushing on a pedal that had got me this far – and finding, with mounting distress, that the tank was bone dry. Closing my laptop felt like a failure.

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