The blood, guts and glory of creativity.

June 25, 2012

Recovering From Creative Burnout

I have been learning so much about the process of creation and how painful it can be. This current stage I find myself in - the recovery -  has been extremely difficult. I emptied my own well to achieve an amazing amount of work in a short period of time, while stretching myself to full capacity in order to keep some uncomfortable experiences at bay. Now the project is over and I'm tired and can't keep the walls up any longer.

So I'm left with an emotional hangover and a big case of the Burnouts. I'd much rather move on and throw myself into another project and just PUSH, PUSH, PUSH through, but the consequences of the inevitable nervous breakdown VS the discomfort of learning something... I'll take my lessons.

LESSON 1: Burnout

Primary Symptoms:
1) Emotional Exhaustion: Feeling Drained.
2) De-Personalization: Feeling Detached.
3) Diminished Personal Accomplishment: Feeling Not Good Enough.

I built an emotional force field around myself this year to preserve some sanity and now I can't warp speed. The dilithium crystals just can't do it, Captain.

It's frightening when your instinctual drive to communicate is squashed and you find yourself staring at the wall in your underwear with unopened mail piling up and no clean socks in your drawer (thank God it's Summer!). It sucks to spend good sunny days indoors crying in the shower and having your world shrink down to the five people you can count on most (who still tolerate you) while you feel like your skin has just been pulled off and everything hurts.  But this THING has a name and many people suffer and recover from it.

Here's a practical guide to burnout remedies. I quite like these suggestions.

LESSON 2: Vulnerability is Key 

To be honest, I think vulnerability is a dirty word and I like to avoid it at all costs. However, I think it may be the key to overcoming and preventing burn out.

Artists are given the call to re-tell the experience of humanity in various forms and we feel the most gratified when a reader/viewer/observer relates to it and agrees, "Yes, that is love," or "Yes, I too felt that pain." It's why Adele sold all those records. We've been there,  felt that.

ART is about CONNECTION. Art requires vulnerability. Yet we artists often conceal our vulnerability by ignoring our limitations or in reaction to not being treated with kindness, respect, or appreciation. We shut down (writer's block) or push ourselves to the grave (burnout).

If we can someone remain open - and trust me, I am so far from figuring this out - maybe we can learn to preserve ourselves.

LESSON 3: You feel like shit because shit is happening!

Sooner or later, you get to hear the whole ugly truth. The politics, the betrayals, the side-deals, the power-grabs, the smoke & mirrors, the real reasons... you can fight it or you can leave without saying goodbye (Momma Jane's best "F.U.").

And so there is a great benefit in the down time. I'm trying my best to take space and rest without personal judgement of myself, pursue laughter and lightness, and assess what's happened to make some tough decisions about where I need to go next.
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  1. "...Artists are given the call to re-tell the experience of humanity in various forms and we feel the most gratified when a reader/viewer/observer relates to it and agrees, "Yes, that is love," or "Yes, I too felt that pain."..."

    Heck yes. It's hard being (I use "being" rather than "working") in a business that relies on others feeling things through the conduit that is your vision. It's such a vulnerable place to be, and regardless of how YOU feel about your product, all that can ge heightened or taken away at any given time based on what others have to say. I feel your pain!

    The lows suck, but the highs are worth it.

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