on creativity + burnout

December 30, 2019 – Update: My burnout has subsided. It’s probably the strangest feeling I’ve experienced in a while – viewing myself from the other side of the looking glass. There I was, only a short while ago, feeling despair at the idea of completing a single project. Full disclosure: my last post was published just days ago, but written a few weeks prior. And now, I sit here feeling invigorated, even galvanized to take on all of the work that’s slowly lined itself up on my to-do list.

What changed? Great question! I went to Europe.

OK, OK, that is very cliché and maybe more clickbait than truth. To be fair, it wasn’t actually Europe that did anything in particular. It was being away from my normal routine, having space to think, and also, very fortunately, dedicated time with other professionals in my field to brainstorm on ways to improve our work. Super, super good timing. It’s funny, because I was not looking forward to the trip at all. I knew I needed to go and that it would be important for my organization, so I didn’t pass it up. But beyond my rational side, the rest of me wanted to stay home, cozy up, and throw myself a burnout pity party. (yikes, that stings a bit when I say it out loud…but if I’m not brutally honest with you, then what are we doing here? Just kidding, don’t answer that).

This morning, something compelled me to turn on a TED Radio Hour podcast while I got ready and the latest episode just happened to be about finding your creativity. Bingo! Listening to it felt like a warm hug from that one relative who just gets you on a different level. You know the one. So I slathered on face lotion while Elizabeth Gilbert told me about how creativity and fear are conjoined, how creativity is, at its essence, moving toward uncertainty. If you try to kill your fears, you may also end up killing your creativity. And I think, similarly, if you let your fears get in the way, your creativity can never flourish.

She also reaffirmed that creativity is not a personality trait, it is a feature of being human, like the camera lenses on the new iPhone or an ice-maker in a fridge – it’s always there, whether you choose to use it or not. Creativity is, in fact, a choice.

Everything about this felt like a deep sigh of relief for my soul, in so many ways. One of them being this very space, which I now see as a bit metaphorical. I was so afraid to press “publish” on my last post. I had written it and read it, and re-read it, and decided that maybe it would never see the light of day. And then, after getting out of my routine, taking a trip I was uncertain about, and finally realizing that my creativity wasn’t gone, I just did it. I leaned into the fear that had been paralyzing me for months; not just for this project, but for everything.

It felt pretty darn great, which may explain why I put it on Instagram for you all to read – major bold moment – and was then overwhelmed by the love I received from friends both close and far (you are all amazing).

I probably won’t always feel this bold and that’s fine. There will be days where I’ll press “publish” quietly, just for me. And others where I’ll want you to know every word. Regardless, I know that every time a new post appears, I’m choosing my creativity, and that will be enough.