I recently took a break writing these creativity essays. I partially paused the essays so I could meet the deadline for my latest book. But the bigger factor was that I was in the messy middle of creative burnout.
I had lost my way with these essays. I had forgotten their purpose and why I write them. The essays shifted from something I enjoyed writing into something I dreaded writing. And the process of writing them evolved from reviving my creative energy to sapping my creative energy.
Eventually, I realized I was burning out. It’s easy to become frustrated and angry when we face burnout. But creative burnout is actually a powerful tool that helps us recalibrate ourselves and our art. We don’t need to fight it. We need to embrace our creative burnout and listen to what it’s trying to tell us.
Creative Burnout Helps Us…
Remember Who We Make Art For
During my break, I realized I had stopped writing for myself. I became more concerned with what you, the readers, might need to hear, rather than what I needed to hear.
But the truth is, I have no idea what you need to hear or what you’re going through. I only know my own artistic issues and how I’m experiencing right now.
My creative burnout reminded me that before, I had always written these essays as if I were writing to myself. I wrote with the intention of telling myself what I needed to hear at that particular moment. But somewhere along the way, I forgot who I was writing for.
“All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.”David Bowie, musician
I can’t write about your experience as an artist, or tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing with your art. I can only write to myself about my own experience and assume that it will resonate with at least a few people out there who are going through something similar.
Creative Burnout Helps Us…
Remember Why We Make Art
I also realized that I had forgotten why I write these essays. I had begun to believe I wrote these essays to help other artists. But when I’m really honest with myself, that’s not why I write. That may be why I teach, or why I run an artist community or other Might Could initiatives. But it is not why I write these essays.
“Always remember that the reason that you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself or how you coexist with the rest of society.“David Bowie, musician
The real reason I write these essays is so I can organize my thoughts and work through my own creative struggles. When I stay true to my Who and Why, I feel creatively refueled after writing. My thoughts become organized, my mind calmed, and my heart clear.
That’s what purpose I aim to fill with these essays: I want to share the messy middle of the creative process. I don’t want to just share the highlight reel—I want to share the whole, real, experience, all the frustrations, blocks, and burnouts.
Because when I’m in that mess middle, I don’t actually want or need to be given advice. I really just want to know I’m not alone. I want to know that other artists struggle sometimes like I do.
Using My Creative Burnout as a Tool
My creative burnout has helped me remember that my mission is to share my experience as an artist and give you a safe place to share yours.
This realization helped me get my essay-mojo back and also led me to start a weekly Art Therapy Talk in Might Could Studiomates. Every Thursday, I pose a therapy-ish question, asking members to share their experiences, and I share my own as well. Members have the opportunity to reflect on their own struggles, sharing in a safe space with other artists who have gone through or are going through the same things.
I think that kind of experience is way more valuable than receiving direct advice on how you should make your art or live as an artist. Because I can’t tell you Who you make art for or Why you make art.
Only you—and your creative burnout!—can lead you to discover, remember, and get back to making the art you want to make.