You can’t draw water from a well that is dry. Creative burnout happens in a person when they have pushed themselves to the limit one too many times. The act of losing creative inspiration is not an old wive’s tale. This reality can hit anyone one of us at anytime. Whether you have a desk job you fall deeper and deeper out of love with or you are a painter that has lost his spark, creativity does not discriminate and can choose to escape us at whim. This exodus can happen at the most inopportune times. Just when we have agreed to four more projects and we need inspiration, you can hit the road block and the detour begins.
The well has run dry because you have chosen to ignore signs of exhaustion and stress for too long. Driven, goal oriented people have a bitter sweet ride. They believe that an individual should work as much as possible to achieve their goals. The same drive that leads them to success can cause their own personal breakdowns and ultimately sabotage their efforts. You want to be at the head of the class with all of your ducks in a row but that won’t happen if your human psyche is pushed beyond it’s limits. People have to learn how to say no and welcome balance in their life. If you have been going strong for days, weeks or even months on end, the work can wait but your mental, emotional, physical, and creative health cannot.
Knowing your limits and boundaries will help keep you clear enough to be productive in the future. Instead of opting for the sleep deprivation of another late night, choose a more healthy activity. Every time you read a good book, watch a movie with a friend, or take a walk through the woods you replenish your personal well. This act of restoration is different for every one of us. Trips to the beach might not be your thing but learning a new skill could enhance you as a person. The time spent enriching your life will refill your resources.
You have to take time for yourself and get enough rest. Rest doesn’t exactly mean sleep. It also means time without demands or expectations. I think people get so caught up with being successful and most of that pressure is an invisible obsession they have placed on themselves. Humans are extraordinary beings that can run on empty – but only for so long. Eventually your work gets stagnant and time spent avoiding a healthy lifestyle starts to show. Other signs of exhaustion are when you withdraw from activities, become irritable and are difficult to be around. This type of person is not the first person I want to collaborate with!
Personal creative and productive resources also burn out from unrealistic goals. Goals are there to motivate us and they are allowed to change. That is not considered a setback or a failure if you rewrite your objectives. When we avoid setting healthy goals, they tend to jump rank and come before people we love and ourselves; this results in burnout. We eventually end up having a relationship with our job and not the people that matter. When you die, is your job going to attend the funeral? Is your computer going to miss you? The people you forgot about while trying to meet quotas and gain success will be the casualties in this equation.
Ok – if any of you know me you are right in thinking that I need to take my own advice. But it is hard. Being on my own I have no one to fall back on; no one to share the burden; no one to back me up when I want to call in sick for a mental health day. I have to be the one at the end of the day to do the chores, work the job, pay the bills, make the music, write the blog, etc. If I stop – who will do all of that? Particularly in Nashville, I feel like if I lose someone’s attention for just a second, a younger, more talented “artist/singer/songwriter/dancer/you name it” is going to come in and I will be old news. Down time even makes me feel guilty.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this for a pity party or to say “woe is me.” Just know that everyone is different, therefore we all reach our limits at different rates and for different reasons. So as much as I am writing this blog to all of you, I am also knocking on the door of my own heart.
Two things to remember when trying to achieve balance and refill that well:
- Don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up when you take time off
- Personal enrichment time, whether spent alone or with a loved one is a requirement for a creative mind
As we approach this weekend, take stock in your life. Think about how much time you have spent being too worried to stop and rest. Think about how that is detracting from your life. This weekend is fall back for most of us, we gain an hour. Take advantage of that time and fill up that well. Spend at least one hour a day doing something inspiring. Whether you read a book, learn a new art, go for a walk or laugh with a friend… the work will be there later, but you may not be. If you don’t want your creative/productive well to run dry, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!