Having a creative job is great but it’s not always a walk in a park.
Burning out has a lot to do with always wanting to be intact with your creative work and not giving yourself a chance to stop even when your body and mind is struggling to keep up. Pushing yourself to the limits is something we are encouraged to do at any cost. However, the aftermath of it, the exhaustion and lack of motivation can spoil all the joys of creative work.
I’m afraid to burn out. It is a scary and unsettling place to be. And to avoid coming to that place again, I choose to take preventative measures. Sometimes it means I have to step away and do nothing for a day or two. Other times I try to look for external triggers that would help me clear out my mind and give a gulp of fresh air.
One of the best indicators that I’m close to burning out, is a lost interest in reading. If I am on public transport and I catch myself gazing through the window and not reading, I know something is wrong. Usually, books are the greatest source of inspiration for me. However, at times I feel like I need to step away from fiction to give myself more space.
I find that during this time I much more prefer reading nonfiction books: travel journals, biographies, historical pieces. There’s something about real-life events that help you to reconnect with yourself, see things from different perspective. Being introduced to new places, historical periods or personalities proves how bumpy the ride is for everyone, how great achievements become great only with time, failure and willingness to keep going.
Museums are mysterious places in all the best meanings. Everyone there turns into someone different, more observant and curious. All of a sudden every little detail means a great deal. Silence becomes, for once, a wanted guest and everything that is outside of the museum walls fades into nothingness. You are in a different world.
Sometimes I prefer visiting a museum on my own and giving myself time to observe other people’s art. Other times it’s much more fun to go with someone and later discuss different observations made. Either way, an occasional visit to a museum is always a good idea. Especially when one is in a need of inspiration or change in a creative routine.
Just like with nonfiction books, I tend to watch more documentaries when I feel I’m losing it creatively. It can really be anything from history to crime, sports or nature. However, lately, I’m very much drawn to art documentaries for no particular reason.
I’ve been encountering one painting and the same painting over the last couple of weeks. Whether it’s been mentioned in a movie, or I came across the illustration version of it. It is Ophelia by John Evertt Millais I’m talking about. I couldn’t take my eyes off it the minute I saw it for the first time.
The painting depicts Ophelia singing while floating in a river just before she drowns. The scene is described in Act IV, Scene VII of Hamlet in a speech by Queen Gertrude. Completed between 1851 and 1852, the painting is held in the Tate Britain in London.
If by any chance you are interested in reading that particular scene in Hamlet, head here. And if you want to read the full play (or any other Shakespeare play really), head to No Fear Shakespeare as it “puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.”
Coming back to the painting. As I was doing a further reading on Ophelia and the man behind it (her?), I’ve learned about the Pre–Raphaelites – a group of painters in England. It didn’t take me long to find a three-part documentary about them. Brilliant.
I’m one of those people who prefer doing everything in silence. It’s very unlikely you will find me listening to the music at home or when I’m out in about. However, I find that beloved tracks or albums can help bring you back to your skin. In situations like this, I always go for Paul Desmond album Bossa Antigua. It’s one of a few jazz albums that I know by heart and love dearly. If it doesn’t instantly lift my spirit, it definitely calms me down.