I’ve been struggling to create during the last 14 months. Looking back over the newsletters I have produced so far in 2021, I realize that I have also been struggling to diagnose my problem. Yes, there’s a global pandemic that’s causing a lot of stress so it’s to be expected that my creativity has fallen off, but my newsletters thus far have really been pep talks to myself to try and get going again. In January, I tried the approach that 2021 was a new year and it was time to have a fresh start. I wrote about the power of creating in February and March. Last month, I discussed how to spring clean our To Do lists to clear the clutter from our brains that could be getting in the way of making. Yet, here I am now in May, no further along than I was a month ago. I’ve had some bursts of creativity and I’ve gotten a few things done that had been on the pile for a while, but the time when I felt wildly creative and was working every day, seems so far away. So, what’s up? Burnout.
Burnout is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I manage a team of people in my other work life and have seen a lot of articles from my employer about spotting and managing burnout. It finally dawned on me that I might also be suffering from creative burnout. One of the articles I read (“5 Steps for Women to Combat Burnout” from Harvard Business Review) lists three questions to test if you have burnout:
- Are you regularly physically and emotionally exhausted?
- Are you more cynical and detached than usual?
- Are you feeling like you’re not contributing anything meaningful, where you once were?
Yep, I check all of those boxes and that must be why this feels more than just a creative slump that I can talk myself out of.
How do you fix burnout? I have read plenty of articles about that too, but they have been less helpful. Most recommend taking vacation days, which doesn’t exactly apply to creative burnout. I’ve been on vacation from my creative work for months. Exercise is also recommended and that does make good sense, especially when you think about the number of artists throughout history who included a daily walk as part of their practice. But I’m not feeling very motivated to do that either. So, here’s my plan to tackle my creative burnout:
- Practice Extreme Self-Kindness. I’ve already been cutting myself a lot of slack and I’m going to let that line out even more. If all I can get motivated to do is to sit on a chair a read a book, then clearly that’s what I need most.
- Do Something Interesting. It’s time to switch things up and find something new and different. I pulled a book on illuminated letters off my shelf, bought some new pens, and I’m going to start playing.
- Plan Something to Look Forward To. Now that I’m getting vaccinated and I’m starting to feel safer out in the world, I’ve booked a long weekend at a fiber arts workshop at an inn. I didn’t even care what it was; I booked the workshop on offer the weekend I wanted to go and July can’t come soon enough!
Maybe my prescription won’t be enough to cure my burnout, but it certainly seems like a good place to start.
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