Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Artists all suffer from a sudden loss in motivation. One day you are absolutely crushing it, cranking out fantastic work, and then you go overboard. You completely burn out. The thought of trying to write one more paragraph physically gives you stomach pains. A paintbrush no longer belongs in your hands, but in the jar on your desk where it shall remain for days forward. Your creative mojo has come to a halt, and you don’t know how, or if, you will ever find it again. Sound familiar?
Some weeks I’m on top of the world, others I become the Procrastination Princess (patent pending) and waste more time than an antisocial teen with a Netflix addiction. This is where I’m at right now. I worked so hard over the holiday season, and as a result, I found it really hard to get back on my grind in January.
Every avid procrastinator knows that our best friend is pressure. Sometimes that’s the only thing that will get me out of my rut. I’ll wait for someone to text me saying they need a last minute birthday gift and then BAMB - I have no choice but to grind when Dwindling Time (that ruthless bitch) pays a very necessary visit.
But what if you don’t have Time breathing down your neck?
For starters, I let the burnout take its effect. I step away from my paints and brushes completely. If you also need to do this, don’t worry - you won’t completely fall behind, and work won’t pile up uncontrollably. At first you’ll feel a weird range of emotions. Personally, I feel relief that I have a break, guilt that I’m taking a break, anxious that I’m not working, happy that I have this time, shame for wanting to stop painting at all, etc.
Eventually, this emotional rollercoaster ride comes to an end, and I experience a much needed “mindset reset.”
Allowing myself to live life without art serves as a reminder that art isn’t a chore. It’s something that enriches my life in a way nothing else can. It’s not strictly a service I provide for others, but something that ends up giving so much back to me.
This leads to the second phase of a burnout recovery - remember why you started. Don’t half-ass this part; really do some introspection here. Think of why you chose to pursue the work you’re doing. If you’re scrambling to remember why you started, this possibly indicates you may not need motivation to keep going, but motivation to make some changes. Maybe you’ve experienced a shift in values without noticing, and your work no longer aligns with these current values. If that’s the case, congratulations- you just made a pretty epic self-discovery, and you’re on the road to an even greater level of self-fulfillment.
On the other hand, you may be like me, who remembers the reasons why I decided to pursue a career in painting, and realize you're exactly where you should be.
I started because painting is the only time I truly feel confident. I remember the feeling of creating something with my own two hands and exceeding my own previous expectations of myself. I consider the countless hours nights that trickle into early morning that I’ve dedicated to painting. I think of the smiles, sometimes through happy tears, that I’ve received in reaction to my work. And above all I remember that because of me, there’s some extra color in this world.
In summation, everyone experiences burnout. Everyone needs a break. But fear not and don’t be discouraged because you have so much more to give. Understand burnout happens when you're putting in hard work; you just have to accept it and take it in stride.
You’re not done yet - not even close.