Burnout is defined by Dictionary.com as:
1. A fire that is totally destructive of something.
2. Fatigue, frustration, or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity.
Both definitions have merit. We each have our own perspective on burnout and how it has impacted us. It’s a matter of situation, perspective and degree. We often think that the way we experience the world is the way EVERYONE experiences the world. After talking with creatives from many different disciplines and places in their careers, I realized that my experience was just one among many. Burnout comes in lots of different sizes, shapes and colors.
The one thing we ALL agree on is…it SUCKS!
Sometimes the easiest way to discover something about ourselves is to see it in the life of someone else. What follows are just a few personal descriptions of burnout shared by creatives just like you and me. See if any of these personal, varied and unique comments ring true for you.
“What is most personal is most universal.” —Carl R. Rogers
What is most personal…
“The word “burnout” sounds so final. So hopeless. But I think that a creative professional starts to wilt like a morning glory bloom at noon when the end product of his labors no longer resembles anything he truly cares about. Or when he is no longer doing work that requires or incites the creative neurons of the brain to fire.”
“Burnout happens when your work becomes routine. I despise the phrase “it is what it is.” On the other hand, I am a proponent of the proposition: “If it ain’t broke, break it.” When you become convinced that something is routine and anyone can do what you’re doing, the inevitable question is, why should I be doing this? And nothing can cause burnout faster than that.”
“Unable to perform the necessary tasks to complete a project. Tired. Dog tired. Depression may occur. Looking at a “blank canvas” and it remains blank. For. a. very. long. time.”
“Being unable to produce what is expected of you or what you expect of yourself creatively.”
“With passion for our craft comes pride. The fear of rejection or a negative reaction can break down our confidence and the ability to think creatively. Sometimes it seems we’ll never hit the mark and self doubt settles in.”
Did you catch a reflection?
There are as many definitions for burnout as there are people experiencing it. Each is unique, and yet, somehow familiar. So much of what we perceive to be personal pain and struggle is actually part of the universal experience. That’s why programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and others like it have been so successful over the years. It’s not that misery loves company but that hurting people find strength and hope amidst common suffering. Once we realize that we are not alone in our pain, it becomes easier to believe that, together, we can find a way through the darkness and back to creating again.
For more on burnout, check out my book Burnout Sucks!