On Creative Burnout (#SFWApro)

I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about creative burnout and self-care. Because I think sometimes we all push ourselves too hard, and we all deserve a break.

There’s nothing wrong with stepping back from our work once in a while. Digging into one’s soul to tell stories, craft images, or to create anything, can be an exhausting process.

But life takes its toll on all of us. Health concerns, financial worries, family obligations, other full-time work … they all put stress on us. Mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I sometimes feel as if our field puts too much emphasis on the need to make measurable progress every day. Write “X” words every day. Post a certain number of tweets. Produce, produce, produce.

Artists are not machines. We need to recharge. To rest. To think. To dream. Sometimes, what we think is “writer’s block” is more than just a sign of a problem with our project: in some cases, it’s a warning of burnout.

Too many of us have been conditioned to stigmatize the idea of stepping away from our work, not just for a day, but maybe for weeks, or months, or longer. There are those who make us feel like failures if we do.

I’ve been my own worst critic in such situations. Beat myself up emotionally for not working when what I really needed was to embrace the downtime. I needed time this past year to process bad news on multiple fronts.

What I’m trying to say is, cut yourself some slack. If you can afford to do so, be willing to walk away from a blank page. Self-care — whether physical or psychological — is not sloth. Downtime is not a sin.

When you’ve healed, when you’ve regained your strength, your focus, your time … you’ll know it. Your muse will return. Ideas will flow again. But first you need to care for yourself and those around you.

There’s no sure-fire, one-size-fits-all formula for recovering from burnout. Maybe you need medical care, or talk therapy. Or the right chat with a friend. Maybe you just need time and solitude.

But when it comes to survival, you owe it to yourself to be a little bit selfish. As they say on airplanes, put your own mask on first before you try to help others. Catch your breath.

Remember: the creative life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Pace yourselves, my friends.

#SFWApro

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