That One Article about Motivation and Burnout
Disclaimer: This article was written in one draft, at the last minute, the day before it went live. Is that poor practice? Yes. Am I aware of that? Absolutely. I'm going through some stuff, but as they say, keep calm and whatever. Let's do this. 😀
If I'm honest with myself, staying motivated to create 100% of the time is, well, impossible. No matter how optimistic I would like to be. Even though I am not an artist, I can tell you from experience that there have been many times in my life that I had to write articles, features, technical manuals, or standard operating procedures that I really, really didn't want to. Actually, the more I think about it, the last time I had to write something I genuinely didn't want to was the moment I found out I was being laid off. My last assignment was to create a manual to teach the person who would eventually replace me how to do my job. Talk about adding insult to injury.
The thing about motivation is, unlike energy, it's not something you can just reach out and touch. You won't find motivation being sold in a can with crazy names like "Zipfizz," "Cocaine," or "Pimp Juice," and it's not something that will often return after one good night's sleep. Motivation is all in your head and far too complex for any cure that comes in liquid form. There are many articles that you can find online about restoring your motivation, but since I'm currently dealing with the issue myself, I'm going to speak from my heart and tell you how I tackle a lack of motivation personally.
Step One: It's all in your head.
Finding motivation is tricky business, especially when you don't have any to work on specific projects or things that you normally like to do. When I realize that I have that feeling of, "I don't want to do this today," or "I just don't want to mess with this right now," I stop for a second and think about why. What's got me down about this project? Is it long? Too difficult? Boring? Am I just tired of it? What happened? I'll sit there and go over every aspect of why I don't want to do it. There is a reason and whatever that reason is, it's okay! And sometimes the reason is as simple as "I just don't want to." When I hit that point though, it's time to adjust my thinking, otherwise I'm at risk of just falling into a pit.
Step Two: The Tripping Hazard
The next thing I do in my hunt for motivation is to mentally shift gears. If I don't want to do something, there is always a very important realization that I inevitably stumble upon:
I'm an adult and I don't have to do anything that I don't want to do. There is always a choice.
Now, the worst part about this is that it's true. I don't have to get out of bed. I don't have to go to work. I don't have to write these articles. I don't have to pay my bills. But that's why I call this step a tripping hazard. True, you don't have to do any of these things and not doing something can actually be quite liberating. But, you know the saying: "For every action...?" Well, it holds true in it's inverse in this case: "For every non-action..." By not doing things in life, you can trigger a cascade of detrimental habits, so now it's time to poke your head through the motivational window and take a big breath of fresh truthy air: You choose to do the things you do, because of the benefits those activities bring.
Step Three: Getting over and getting on.
Once I have had my little talk with myself about why I don't want to do whatever it is, taken time to realize that I don't have to, then realized even further that I choose to because it's actually worth it, I sit down and take a deep breath. I'm sure most would agree, the hardest part of any task is just getting started. To give you a peek into my life as a writer, this is exactly the process I went through this morning, about this article. I knew what I was going to write about, but I had absolutely no motivation to do so. I believe that's called "irony" in some circles. But, I went through my process and here I am tapping away at the keyboard. You can find motivation again, it's stubborn sometimes, but it's right there. Lurking.
Moving on: Burnout Sucks
As I am now unemployed and do not have an income, I tossed and turned all night. I have my own worries and fears about life playing around in my head that are constantly nagging at me and truthfully, I should be job hunting rather than writing this, but I'm already a little tired of job hunting after just a weekend of browsing. It's been three days of job hunting and I'm already burned out. This isn't just a lack of stamina, burnout and lack of motivation often go hand in hand, and incredibly there are a ton of articles out there that will tell you how to deal with it. They are all targeted at corporate people with tips like:
- Take a vacation and really unplug
- Find a job that makes you truly happy
- Fill your day with joy and love
- "Schedule" free time
- PURSUE YOUR PASSION (This one always kills me lol)
I'm not saying that these tips are bad, but they are on a cookie-cutter level of bogus. In our community, finding a job that makes us truly happy isn't something a lot of us are going to be able to do. Just like filling our days with joy and love or "scheduling" free time. I can't tell you the last time I "scheduled" lunch. Life is messy and non-stop for 99% of people in the Anthro community. These articles weren't written for us.
The way I handle burnout is a lot more, well, to use an accurate adjective: lame. I don't take vacations because they are expensive. I don't work a job that makes me truly happy because I wasn't allowed to go to space, or fly high performance fighter jets, the last time I checked. And I don't fill my day with joy and love because I'm... human? Handling burnout is almost as unique as finding motivation to keep going, but less extensive in the mental department.
Everyone is going to face burnout at some point. It sneaks up on you and crashes down like an invisible wave of suck from out of nowhere. All of the sudden, your favorite thing to do in the world just feels like the biggest chore and you don't want to do it. See: Lack of Motivation, but it's more than that. It's not fun anymore and that's a much bigger deal. How do you make something that's unfun more fun? Well, I'll tell you how I do it: By throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks!
When I get into burnout with my writing, I will go through my motivation steps that I mentioned before and then just sit down and write whatever I want. It could be something stupid, funny, sexy, who knows. It's just letting my mind run on autopilot for a bit and seeing what comes out. By doing this, I'm able to disconnect from whatever it was that burned me out in the first place. Will I have to go back and finish that project or write that next article? Sure, but at least I will be refreshed before having another go. Mitigating burnout also comes down to something I mentioned in a previous article, healthy consistency.
I produce new articles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This gives me the weekend off and two days a week as buffer days in the event that I don't hear back from contributors, don't get art permissions, or something else happens to derail an article. This is a perfect example of healthy consistency at a frequency that I can maintain with my current lifestyle. Now that I'm unemployed things are a little different and I may end up needing to adjust that schedule to fit, but that's the beauty of it; I can, and so can you. There is a lot of freedom in the way we choose to create and you can utilize it to create wonderful habits.
Finding motivation and minimizing burnout is a personal process that you can create for yourself. There are a ton of articles out there about how the "20 Busiest People Avoid Burnout" and how the "Top 10 Most Successful Business Owners Stay Motivated," but at the end of the day it's not about them. It's about you. And I guarantee you that those articles have some marketing and advertisements in them for some products somewhere. How you manage your creative energy and flow is up to you and you should always focus on your own happiness. Besides, when is the last time you saw an article in Forbes Magazine about the Top 500 Anthro Artists?
Wouldn't that be wild?