Sunday, January 1, 2017

Okay, So...About Those Resolutions

I had a weird 2016. Well: we all did. But my personal 2016 was a weirdly passive year for me. I found it hard to get into the studio, to make soap, to write this blog, to do anything creative, really. The push to be ready for my presentation at NCECA got me through March and then...I... dragged. My production slowed to a crawl, and I was not even firing every two months. When it became clear I was not going to be able to will myself out of it, I took on more classes, because even when I am willing to let myself down, I rarely fail to meet obligations I have made. It seemed a better choice than just re-reading old books and worrying.

I made enough to fill orders, and to keep my consignment locations full, but my website has read "Out of Stock" for months now, and I haven't been refreshing the inventory in stores.

I didn't have a word for this feeling until recently, when I was poking around pottery blogs, and found a series fellow artist Whitney Smith had done on burnout. It all sounded very familiar. I had just been pushing so hard for so long in so many different directions, and feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere. It was all too much. Or not enough. Everything seemed like too much effort for too little reward. The need to make dried up.

What a sentence! What a scary feeling, for an artist. I couldn't help but wonder: what if it doesn't come back?

Just lately, maybe in the last two weeks, the feeling has started to lift. I was able to start the stair project, which would have required an unthinkable degree of initiative in October. I have a bunch of refires that I need to clear from the studio, so I haven't been doing much throwing, but I do feel the desire to do so returning. And you may have noticed that I am blogging more.

Usually when I make resolutions, they are about working more, trying harder, doing better. See where that got me! The burnout period was scary enough that this year I want to take steps to prevent it happening again. So this year my resolutions are about self-care:

  • Give myself permission to enjoy my downtime. My pattern has been to feel guilty whenever I am not doing something productive, so my head never really gets downtime. Making is not a moral imperative. It's not wrong to relax. 
  • Budget for enjoyable things. The last few years I have been focusing hard on paying down credit card debt. I'm proud of the progress I've made, but I made it by basically sending every spare penny to my credit cards. No money to grab a burger at our local pub, no money for new clothes, no money for home improvement projects that aren't absolutely necessary. You can see how this can lead to the feeling that work is pointless! While it is satisfying to see those credit card balances shrink, it's a pretty deep hole I am trying to fill, and I need to enjoy the fruits of my labor, too.  
  • Limit my consumption of news and social media. This is a big one: while I believe we as citizens have a duty to stay informed, I don't need to know every foolish thing that a foolish person tweets. I find it's best to stick to the more staid information sources, those with a long history of accurate reporting: NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Washington Post, the New York Times. I am no good to anyone stuck in  a cycle of outrage and despair. 
  • Quit worrying so much if my efforts are good enough. One of the reasons I have not blogged as much is, as I started to gain a greater readership, I started to self-censor. That's boring. That's self-absorbed. That's too much like something I did a few years ago. It was almost like stage fright. But the heck with it - people don't have to read it, If it gets boring, they'll just skip it. And I won't even know, because I will have turned off my stat counter! Ditto my class lessons: I make Herculean efforts to make he lessons interesting, but sometimes they are going to fall flat anyway, and that's okay. Not everything has to be fabulous. Sometimes good enough is good enough. 
I will, of course, need to set business goals in order to right the ship. It's on the list, but first I need to right my head.
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