thoughts on creative burnout

Apr 28, 2008 | Entrepreneurship, Life in Progress

loving sundays. loving them.

did i mention that a few weeks ago i was experiencing a bit of extreme burnout? i hadn’t experienced this sort of level before – the kind where i absolutely dreaded the idea of doing anything that had to do with painting, blogging, writing, and art business stuff (marketing, planning, producing, etc). it was harsh, this feeling of wanting to give it all up – to return to my life before all of this: to a full-time dayjob, to workouts and dinners after work, to more free time, to weekends again. so yes, i was done and done. in the depths of my heart i knew i wasn’t really done and that i didn’t really want to give it up. but i also knew i needed a bit of rest. so resting is the gift i’ve given myself these last few weeks, and oh my, it feels really, really good. this burnout thing was totally new to me – the trueness of being totally uninspired/tired/blah was asking me to pay attention, to not force anything, to let. it. go.

what i’ve learned in the last couple of weeks is this: that i am not alone. that there’s a lot of creative burnout out in the world. that we need to give ourselves permission to not only feel it, but to sit with it, face its direction, acknowledge it, then take action. for me, taking action has meant rest. it’s meant removing the internal pressure to create, to make, to produce. it’s meant being with my friends, spending great amounts of time with john, reading, watching movies, doing the dishes – slowly and peacefully – same goes for laundry and other mundane chores. it’s meant simply being happy in a space where i’m not doing, creating, planning. most of all, it’s meant pacing myself so that my days feel more fulfilling and not all work.

so yes, not only has creative burnout given me permission to rest but it’s also gifted me with a bit of perspective. life feels a bit slower now – even with inspiration and art life reemerging this past week or so. i feel more blessed. more grateful. more appreciative of all that has come my way. in the end, there is growth in everything..even burnout. thank you, burnout. you rock.

what burdens/burnout/mishaps have gifted your life in unexpected ways this week?

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (24 comments)
  1. justagirl

    Yeah I know that feeling well, and it sounds like you are doing the best thing you can do, resting, mentally and physically. Then the feeling starts to seep in, that you need to create, make, do something. And slowly but surely it all comes back better and clearer then ever before.

    I have been on holiday for the last few days showing an uncle the sights of our country… good fun, but am keen to get back to creating again… maybe.


  2. PixieDust

    What a well-timed post… mine was more a frustration-burnout… trying to market my little corner of Etsy, trying to figure out how to get my art out there, blah, blah, blah… it was maddening over the weekend… but sanity (kind of) prevails and I’m smooth sailing again…


  3. Michelle (a.k.a. la vie en rose)

    amen…i am applauding you…for writing this post…for sharing your truth…for knowing when you need to rest and take time to fill the well…for honoring yourself and your need to nuture your creative self through not creating…

  4. Molly Kate

    Wow Kelly! I love that you can now say that burnout rocks! I love that you found the beauty in this. It reminds me of one of the podcasts on Creative Thursday about Sensitivity. You live your life and art flows from it. I’m glad you got to rest and enjoy life and art again.

  5. Danita Lyn

    Hi Kelly, I so get what you are saying! Since I got home from Art Fest, I haven’t been able to work in my studio. I was running at full steam for weeks leading up to Art Fest, then was completely fulfilled, yet drained from Art Fest. When I came home all I wanted to do was rest. So I have. I just recently posted my pictures from Art Fest on my blog, because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it before. It is OK that you need time to rest.

    Someone I met at Art Fest told me that we have to allow ourselves the down time…give ourselves permission to ‘not be happy all the time’. She said we go through life reading books that say…’You know that you create your own happiness…so you ought to be happy.’ And then, when we aren’t…we wonder….what is wrong with me? Why am I feeling this way? Well, don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with ‘creating’ some down time too! Enjoy the refreshment!

    Danita Lyn

  6. Anonymous

    Thank-you for your post, Kelly. We often talk about ‘going with the flow’ but less about ‘going with the ebb’. Ebb-and-flow is the pattern of all creativity: am just learning myself to appreciate the non-flow bits. So here’s to ‘ebbing’! Alexa

  7. Kelly

    great post, kelly. i gained a similar perspective from illness. i’m in my fourth week of battling pneumonia… finally feeling better this week only to have one of my 4 1/2 year old twin girls come down with it. but it has forced me to slow down, which i don’t do nearly enough. i guess your body, your heart and your mind all try to tell you when you need a break. sometimes we just have to take a moment to listen a little more closely. i’m glad your time off is rejuvenating you!

  8. Shonna

    Enjoy the relaxation! I can’t wait to see what artwork comes out of it! I’m sure it will be amazing. -Shonna

  9. Marilyn

    I guess we all get it – burnout, I mean. You are incredibly talented. Saw your studio in Cloth, Paper, Scissors. You make such great art in that little tiny space, when so many others have such state of the art studios. Mine is like yours.

  10. Lisa

    What a great photo! Oh to have a place like *that* to go on Sundays!

    This week I’m feeling like my feet are stuck in the mud. No, really, like my head is stuck.

    I’ve just become a Certified Wellness Coach. The place where I’m working part-time has advertised our new program and calls are flooding in. I’m excited about this new possibility and taking my life in a direction I have longed for…for years.

    But, on the other hand, I’m having trouble switching gears. There’s a lot of prep work that needs to be done and guess what? I’m the one who needs to do it. But I cannot seem to motivate myself to put in the time necessary. Ugh. It’s quite frustrating.

    This is a great opportunity! And *totally* the direction I want my life to go. But something feels as if it’s holding me back. HELP!

    P.S. Today I took a 3-hour nap πŸ™‚

  11. lori

    Thanks Kelly for writing about this, sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one experiencing it. And I totally understand hitting that wall, where the ideas and motivation are gone.

    I’ve taken that much needed rest and it has helped, thanks for helping me to look at the down time as a blessing and stop stressing about it.

  12. Jennifer Jeffrey

    Thanks for talking about this…

    I sometimes get to the point where I hit a wall, and the ideas simply don’t flow. Then I have to step away and totally unplug.

    I’ve found that it happens more often when I let the weekdays bleed into the weekends, when I don’t “cut myself off” from writing for at least 24 solid hours.

    With this gorgeous spring weather, I’m going to try to really make a commitment to 24-48 hour OFF blocks, which I hope will allay burnout…

  13. Rekoj

    I totally understand. It’s normal and healthy as long as you allow yourself the breathing room. It’s healthy that you have recognized it for what it is and have given yourself the break you need.
    I had it recently too – after Artfest I was going and going and going and then suddenly last week smack! right into a wall. Not a loss of inspiration really, but of motivation. I’ve got unfinished paintings sitting around! So this weekend I let myself give into it. I napped and read and walked and it was just fine. Still haven’t shaken out of the unmotivated headspace but that’s okay.

  14. odd chick with a passion

    I think artist are very intense people for the most part. We cannot remain at a high level of intensity and not feel stress, just as you would in a job that required and involved your complete and heightened attention.
    Even when you have down time you can enjoy knowing that you have inspired so many others to create.

  15. oddchickwithapassion

    I think artist are very intense people for the most part. We cannot remain at a high level of intensity and not feel stress, just as you would in a job that required and involved your complete and heightened attention.
    Even when you have down time, kelly, you can enjoy knowing that you have inspired so many others to create.

  16. Teresa ~ French Poppy

    I know exactly how you are feeling. I took a year off from working at a “real job” and concentrated on art. Now I find I am ready to go back to a full time job and concentrate on art during free time. It’s not uncommon for artists to have 2 jobs, their art and then another outlet. πŸ™‚


  17. Carolyn

    since having the baby i’ve had to learn and adapt to a new way of working… often in spontaneous short 20 minute spurts (that’s as long as she’ll nap during the day!) I feel my art has been under going a transformation for the better because of it: I can’t overthink things and I’m learning to embrace spontinaeity. I don’t fight little “burnouts” when they happen, I feel they are my body and brain’s way of reminding me to take care of myself, to recharge and refocus. Sometimes I’ll bust out my “anything” sketchbook” and let my pencil or brush wander unconsciously, or sometimes I stay away from it all together.
    I hope that you will come to embrace these “burn-outs” and emerge from them renewed and refreshed.

  18. Lelainia N. Lloyd

    Yes, it’s totally cyclical. You cannot remain in a high level of creativity 24/7. You need time to fill up your creative well and burnout is your mind’s way of saying it needs to switch gears for awhile. This is normal and healthy!

    THe funny thing is this usually send people into a tailspin, where they panic and think “What if I never create another thing?!?” If you can just relax into it and give yourself permission to take a mental break, you will find that eventually your muse will return.

    Rest, relax, enjoy Kelly!

  19. Cath Sheard

    Mum has spent the last week in the resthome while we get the kitchen renovated. So instead of doing “stuff” in the evenings, I have been visiting her (and sneaking our small dog into the home too). It has meant I have rested, which has been nice.

    I picked her up after work tonight, so life returns to normal. It’s more work having her here, and I do get tired, but it is also a blessing. So many women do not get to share their Mother’s golden years, and we have become very close in the 8 years my DH and I have been nursing her.

    Enjoy your well earned slow down, be in the moment in all you do πŸ™‚

  20. crafty

    Creative Burnout ….I wish, mine is more social burnout which I’ve been suffering from for the last 20 years !!!!!!!!!!!! 3 kids in 3 years, no-one to help. To save my sanity I do some arts and crafts but lately with 3 teenagers and hormones going loopy I can’t get it together to even do some arts and crafts…….they make me so mad that I can’t think straight….but at the end of the day as long as they are all healthy that is what counts.

    Kelly you will have a wonderful time once you get out here to Italy that I’m sure your muse will give you ar eal jump start once you see the scenery that will be awaiting you.
    crafty joan in italy

  21. Danita

    I totally get you Kelly. I’ve experienced the same kind of burn out in the past and I came to the same conclusion. Sometimes you have to quit. And after you quit, if you really, really love what you do, you come to the conclusion that what you want to do is create… and create is what you do.. but with a fresher perspective…
    I’m glad your time off paid off πŸ™‚


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HelloΒ + welcome!

I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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