Creative Burnout

For as long as I can remember I have needed to be creative and as i’ve grown I have found ways to express my creativity and fill that need, through dance classes, youth theatres, through my studies, through creating my own work, through producing others works, supporting others, or watching. I have found many different ways to fulfill this need to create. Along the way I have discovered a love of producing, of bringing people’s stories to life, working on something from that very spark of an idea all the way to the show reports once the final curtain drops.

Along the way there has been encouragement from teachers giving me the tools to explore more and other artists that I have either just known or had the privilege to work with. There has also been a lot of negative people, people who don’t look passed their own success or people that just didn’t understand that need to create.

I went from dance, to youth theatre, to college to undergrad, to masters and then had a little over year of working on projects that either overlapped or were back to back whilst also working a job in hospitality, because we all know that making money in the arts is not the easiest, especially when you are at the beginning of your career. Anyway I had this incredibly amazing and busy time where I was constantly on the go and constantly knew what my next project was!

Then I stopped.

For the first time in years I stopped. There was a gap between projects and it hit me that i had been non stop since god knows when and my brain and my body felt so broken and battered. Whilst every project I had worked on had filled me with excitement and allowed me to develop more as a creative and work with some incredible people at incredible venues i was exhausted. Then once I stopped it was like my mind had just had enough, as hard as I tried I couldn’t get my head in the game, i tried so hard but nothing worked, creatively i was just burnt out.

I felt guilty and worried because I wasn’t doing anything, I was surrounded by people with exciting plans and projects and I was doing nothing, I could do nothing! Even watching productions became difficult because i was jealous! I was jealous that I couldn’t do that anymore and then the guilt set in again because I wasn’t even trying. I was so scared that I would get forgotten and that all the work I had done previously wouldn’t matter anymore because I was out of the game, I wasn’t working on anything.

I kept seeing projects that I wanted to apply for and I would just stare at the applications and my mind would stay blank, I couldn’t bring myself to apply for anything. I wanted to, more than anything i wanted to be a part of something, to create something but I just couldn’t do it.

I was terrified that this was it, that I was done I had no creativity left in me and i’d given the world all I had to offer.

Of course that wasn’t true, it isn’t true! However at the time I got stuck in this place that i just never thought i would come out of. Eventually and only recently, i manage to heal and i managed to clear my mind, i was able to start thinking about things again, i was able to watch things and feel excited by it. I was excited by the prospect of being able to create something again.

I am slowly getting back into things, i know now that what i needed was rest, i had worked so hard and so much and on so many different things and whilst it was incredible it was also exhausting. I was so worried about losing my spot and the connections i had made that i wouldn’t let myself take any time i had to be constantly working on something but i also had bills to pay so anytime i wasn’t in rehearsals, on set etc i was at work.

Anyone in the arts knows that there is not a lot of money in it, especially in fringe productions and new writing, there is also very little to no stability. Because of this producers, directors, writers, actors, stage managers, technicians; basically anyone who works in any creative profession is having to work another job in order to ensure that they can pay their bills.

I have worked with so many other people in creative environments that are in rehearsals all day and then going to work an overnight or spending all day at work and rehearsing all evening and weekend. Even though we were all constantly exhausted no one’s energy ever dropped, it was just what you had to do you had to give 100% to everything all the time. I know so many people that were like me, they just worked non stop and because of this we all just accept it as normal, this is what we have to do to get to where we want.

It is such a dangerous idea to have, that you have to keep working non stop and not ever giving yourself time to rest, that if you stop you might miss out on the next project or that your credits or your cv won’t be relevant enough.

You have to take time to rest, you have to take time to let yourself relax or you will end up breaking and so many people do, they keep going and they keep going until they physically can’t anymore. There is that old saying “The show must go on” but you know what sometimes it shouldn’t, sometimes the show should take a night off and issue a refund.

We need to start acknowledging creative burnout, we need to realise that it’s ok to take breaks, it’s ok to need time for yourself and it is ok if you don’t know what the next project is. You don’t have to feel guilty for not doing more, you have to realise that your mental and physical health should not suffer so that you can be creative!