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.


Unknown said...

I've experienced this myself, especially in the winter months.You are not alone.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori Watts said...

Thanks, Seth, for the kind words. I hope you doing well now. Happy New Year to you & yours.

smartcat said...

Burn out is terrifying!

I went through it a few years ago, in winter, after the holidays. What gave me hope was, as you said, finding others who had gone through the same thing.

2016 was way too challenging both physically and mentally for any real comfort. Here's to a new hope for 2017!

Carol said...

So many good thoughts here. Thanks!! . Esp for "I am no good to anyone stuck in a cycle of outrage and despair. ". I have taken Twitter and FB off my phone and plan to keep it that way. But I will be going to be at the march later this month. Okay, off to throw some tumblers today!

Lori Watts said...

You guys are a great comfort to me. Thank you for your kindness. And maybe see you at the March! XO

Chantay said...

Lori, your honesty is so refreshing. I have struggled with winter blues. One thing that has help very much is changing light bulbs and fixtures. I use very bright LEDS everywhere. And I make sure to turn them on. No more moping around in a dark house.

Unknown said...

I like your blog very much because it's so real. If you've been self censoring, I can't tell. Good blogs like yours help me be straighter and clearer when I write my own. Ups and downs. Good work and blah work. Making a living and paying bills. So much to balance, it goes in and out and so do my own feelings as a maker. Well, your work is beautiful. I'll try to come and find something to buy and enjoy in July when we are in Maine if you are amenable!

Lori Watts said...

Thank you all so much! I am already feeling better. Self-care works!