I didn’t expect the creative burnt out to hit me right after my holidays in the Netherlands, when I was happily drawing the people I saw around my one sunny afternoon in Vonderlpark in Amsterdam. Let’s rewind a bit. Since early 2017 I was able to juggle several jobs and a full-time PhD plus volunteering in projects that I love (such as Lancaster Litfest, Northwest Literary Arts), hiking, illustration and a social life…
But then, after eight beautiful days in the Netherlands when I finally felt I could breathe – and my tress levels returned to normal – coming back to my hectic routine was a bit more difficult that I had anticipated.
I know, I know. Some artists never experience such a thing. I was chatting over coffee with my friend Yvonne Battle-Felton and she just frowned when I mentioned the word ‘burn out’. It’s not there for her, and I think she’s lucky but hey! I have it. Perhaps I will learn how to avoid it soon.
When you don’t want to come out to bed because you have so many things to do that you know you won’t be able to do them all – so why bother?
When you write a to-do list and after all day working hard you have barely ticked a couple of items – and you’re not even near the end.
When you stare at the writing on the page, or whatever you are making and you hate it, plain and simple.
When you just don’t feel it. The spark, the duende, whatever you call it. It’s not there. And all the energy is gone. And you don’t even remember why you wanted to do so many things.
When you feel like a fraud. Like a failure. Like someone who doesn’t deserve the things you have.
So I’ve been banging my head against the wall (quite literally) because on top of my creative burnt out I haven’t been able to secure a permanent job for the academic year ahead. I have some hours of teaching there and some illustration commissions there but it’s not enough to count on getting on this winter.
But. In the middle of this storm – or shall I say the absence of air, because it feels more like not being able to breathe – there have been some interesting messages coming on my way, and I wanted to share them with you.
- The pomodoro technique. The first days I was almost unable to focus or write a decent sentence. I would just stare at the screen crying inside and wondering why I was doing a PhD. However, when I was having lunch in the staff room at Lancaster Uni, a friend came by and we talked a bit. Now, she once gave me advice on getting the PhD done. She said: ‘Do it the best you can in the time you’re given’. Since then, those words have turned into my personal academic mantra. This time she suggested I tried to focus on my writing just for 25 minutes (and then take a rest of 3-5minutes). I’ve heard of the pomodoro technique but I had never tried it before – I didn’t need to, I’m usually pretty good and filling in the page. This time I did. And oh girl, it worked. It felt so good. Like icy water on the hottest day. I got the first draft of 2 chapters done thanks to it.
- This episode from the Creative Pep Talk Podcast by Andrew J Pizza. I loved it. It’s so fun and at the same time so intimate. It felt like being listened to by an old friend who gets exactly what I’m going through. And it also focuses on the solutions.
- This video by Fran Meneses. She’s my old time favourite youtuber artist and someone I really admire and respect. All her stuff is so full of good vibes and honesty. It was very encouraging to hear her talking about her difficult moments as a freelancer – especially because she’s someone who is making a living fully on her art, which is my aspiration. I felt so identified, as I’ve been freelancing for almost two years now. I’m still a baby-freelancer I suppose but it’s comforting to see I’m not alone in this!
- This episode for the Being Boss Podcast. I cannot even explain how much I love these two ladies without even having met them for real. They are so inspiring and bossy and confident and great. I loved hear them talking about how to get the job done even when you’re not feeling it. I also really liked this other episode about self-care – something I’m not that good at… (Weekends? What’s that?) But perhaps if I took a break more often, i wouldn’t experience a burnt out like this one…
Ultimately, I think it’s about three things: confidence, resilience, and moving forward. Have you ever experienced creative burnt out? How do you deal with it? An uncertanity? Let’s share!