Tuesday, June 18, 2019

This is what burnout looks like... when the love and inspiration of dance deserts you

I can't help but jump back to this scene in the movie Beetlejuice...

Set scene:  Adam and Barbara are in the waiting room with the receptionist, surrounded by others clasping their numbers and waiting to be called on.  Action!

Adam:  Is this what happens when you burnout?

Receptionist:  That is what happens when you burnout, that is what happens when he burns out, and that is what happens when they burnout.  It's all very personal.  And I'll tell you something; if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have had my little (epic) meltdown.

Obviously I took some liberties there.  As I don't have grammarly to check my grammar, I looked up burnout in the dictionary:


burn·​out | \ ˈbərn-ˌau̇t  \

Definition of burnout

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.
also the point at which burnout occurs

2aexhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration
ba person suffering from burnout

I like definition one the best, "the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion".

Whether you've been in dance for six years, ten years, or six months, burnout is real.  That feeling you get - the high when you perform a dance you're proud of, those bursts of creative energy that keep you working on a dance for all hours, the thrill of performing at your favorite venues...it can be intoxicating...and it can be addicting.  Burnout can take many forms, and like anything it can be slow and gradual or it can hit you like a ton of bricks.

Suddenly, you may feel like you're in a rut - creating the same thing over and over again.  Maybe new ideas are no longer coming to you.  Maybe you've committed to perform x times a month and are constantly chasing your tail getting acts finished - working by deadlines.  Maybe you've created such a regimented process that it feels like you're building a car instead of creating art.  It was a long time before I realized that my checklist and logical mind was overpowering the freedom to follow inspiration.  Everyone feels burnout differently, perhaps skirting the edge or reaching that point that dance has lost its magic.  Almost inevitably you reach a moment when you ask "why am I doing this" and doubting yourself and your own abilities.

One of the references I love best is this:  Creative energy, that thing that drives us and helps us create these new ideas and express ourselves through our art, is like a well of water.  We use it as we create and it replenishes itself.  How?  how we feel, our happiness, the support we receive...and over time.

Over time.  That phrase hit me over the head like a ton of bricks.  Creativity needs time to replenish.  How much time?  That depends on you - what drives you, what fuels you, what you enjoy, the balance in your life, and a million other factors.  Only you can know.  So what is burnout?

"Burnout means you’ve pushed your creative energy beyond the point of recovery...A person who has pushed their creative well too hard for too long will, like its watery counterpart, one day find it empty."  (link below)

Ironically, I began this post while I was in the midst of a full blown burnout - a complete loss of inspiration.  It is only now that I'm able to finish it as I continue my new beginning, my renewal.  Everything you read here.  That was me.  I know many others who have reached a similar point, or who have skirted the edges.  It is real, and no one is immune.  Only you can listen to what's inside and know how full your creative well is.  Only you can stay aware of why you create a dance.  Only you can know when you are draining your well faster than it can fill.  Only you can shift things to prevent losing joy in something you love.  Only you can bring yourself back.

Dance can be so many things - art, creativity, expression, release.  I forgot that for a while, my well empty.  Now I'm finding my way again. 

I think there is bravery and strength in sharing something of our self that isn't perfect.  To reveal a piece of our true selves.

May you never lose the magic of dance.
~ Eva

reference & info I found useful:  How to survive creative burnout

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article. It was inspiring.

    a sl dancer