I have a confession.
Between writing for 8 Women Dream, keeping up with my personal blog and business, navigating a divorce, and trying to be a good mom, I struggle with creative burnout. I love what I do. I’m blessed. I try to appreciate that I’m living what most people would call a dream.
But creating the artwork I do takes immense energy and diligence. With love, I embed a bit of my soul into each photograph, each brush stroke. Every blog I write is researched and written to help others. Whether I’m posting photos for photographers or writing about self-esteem for women, I hope the blogs will resonate with you. But just because I show up each week doesn’t mean it’s effortless.
Artists and writers are familiar with creative burnout. We seek to avoid it, seek to destroy it when it arrives unwelcome, every creative dreads it. Some weeks I am inspired and the blog pours forth with a mission from my head to my fingertips. Other weeks I worry that THIS will be the week I can’t find anything of value to say or post. On the weeks I worry, I read.
Hunter McApline an inspiring woman I know through Facebook, recommended an amazing book that I think every woman and girl should read:
She writes about learning to let our inner voice guide us. It’s imperative we offer ourselves the same empathy and understanding we offer close friends and family. Most of our upset and numb feelings come from ignoring a core part of ourselves and putting others’ needs before our own.
Part of me wants to shout, “But I’m really, REALLY good at that!”
In reality, I can only go for so long while ignoring my own needs.
So this week when I struggled to find a topic to write about, I tried not to let my fear of creative burnout stop me. I sat quietly and tried to figure out what I needed. I practice quite a few things to prevent creative burnout including taking breaks, changing from writing to painting to photography and reading. But sometimes even following all of the known tips doesn’t stop the dreaded burnout.
After using Helene Brenner’s tips to acknowledge how I’m feeling without judging myself I started to realize: I needed some positive feedback proving I’m ACTUALLY helping.
We always want feedback, but we will wait forever for others to grant our unspoken wish. I know that what I write comes from my heart and has a place in this world. But I also need to know that it’s helping even just one person. My creative burnout is usually linked to feeling like my art isn’t appreciated for the effort I put into it.
As an exercise, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me ways that my posts, blogs, and/or work have helped them. Most people would not ask. But I knew what I needed and sometimes life is all about asking the right questions.
I was near tears hearing what they had to say.
Suddenly, the shadow of creative burnout was gone. I knew what I would write about. A huge thank you goes out to each of them for opening up. This is why I’m doing what I’m doing.
AnneMarie Anderson is a client and now dear friend. She writes about her experience:
I grew up viewing my appearance as either a source of power or judgment. I’ve been purified of that with the acknowledgment that my worth is dictated by the sole fact that God created me. I can celebrate my appearance and also have a grand sense of humor. The body I was given is not an accident but rather a complement to my mind and soul. I was able to celebrate that with my pinup shoots and the rules you have about no negativity. My husband celebrated with me!
Kristi Siedow-Thompson is a talented creative professional and was integral in making Stark Beauty Magazine a success, though we haven’t actually met yet! She writes:
I first saw Iman’s work when a friend of mine (Laurel Patterson) had some pinup photos done. I remember thinking WOW because she looked so fabulous in her pics. My first thought was “I need to get some photos done, but I’ll wait till I lose X lbs”.
Very typical of most women, I’m sure. However I read something on Iman’s website about not waiting until you are the “right” weight and just trying to feel beautiful now. It took me back to a book I read years ago called “Happiness Now” which basically preaches that idea. Be happy with yourself in the moment, because if you’re always looking for the next thing that you “need” to be happy, you never will be. Honestly, although I’ve not done a photo shoot with Iman, I have done other shoots that I haven’t felt 100% about my body but I really have worked to love what comes out of it. I really latched on to that concept with the pinup photos.
I started following Iman on FB and found that she constantly posts reminders of this concept, and it has helped me daily really focus on feeling positive about my body at any size. I’m pretty fit, but I’m not a small girl. I do have weight loss goals, but these days it’s more for health reasons than beauty.
Also, I love looking at photos of women of all shapes and sizes just looking phenomenal. It’s really great to see so much undeniable beauty, instead of only what you see in the media and in magazines. Women that look like ME, or like my friends, but glamified!
Finally, Iman shares both articles she’s read and articles she’s written that are truly inspiring to women like myself that find themselves struggling with what they “should” look like, and how to internalize their own beauty. Although we’ve never met in person, Iman has been really influential in my personal journey over the last few years and has kept me motivated and positive throughout. She has definitely had an impact on my personal self-esteem journey.
Cathy O’Donnell is a funny mama I look forward to meeting in person. She says:
The women you photograph look confident and happy. It is a stark contrast to the media images that women are bombarded with daily. It has helped me to see that confidence is not just about your body but how you feel. I have found that your posts for 8 Women Dream give an insight to a woman who is following her dreams and making things happen. It is great to see a woman and a mom making things happen and making herself happy.
Here are few tips to beat creative burnout:
1. Take breaks.
Even a few days will recharge your creative batteries.
2. Check in with yourself.
See if another aspect of your life may be draining your creative spirit.
3. Be kind to yourself.
Creative burnout does not equal failure. It’s normal.
4. Make sure you’re doing something you truly love.
This may mean taking a job for purely creative reasons vs making income.
5. Know that it will pass.
We all have needs we don’t acknowledge. Give yourself some space to find out what you need and then ASK for it or make it happen.