What burnout really is

What am I doing? Redesigning my site. Not much output, transition behind the scenes. It’s necessary not to relentlessly produce, but to regroup occasionally


Butterflies emerge from a breakdown stage – literally. Laura Eades 2015

Imagine if the world went in cycles. Oh, it does. Seasons and wotnot.

Wotnot. Can you tell I don’t wanna mention periods in the first line of a blogpost? Line 2 totally fine, yo, we’re all over it already.

OK. Let’s stick with seasons so we don’t get too bogged down.

Well, imagine if some of the parts of those cycles were about creativity and abundance, and some of them were about shedding off the old stuff you don’t need any more, some were about lying fallow, and some were about vulnerable regrowth. This is obviously so.

So obvious it needs saying

My friend’s wise psychotherapist mum was waving a wooden spoon in circles in the air in my kitchen at the weekend, between stirring a risotto. She was illustrating to me how she sees so many clients with chronic fatigue, whose jobs have forced them to relentlessly, in her words, “be at the peak of the creative cycle”, without ever doing the full loop to “compost”. She drew it like this.

Creative cycle

Creative cycle: output at the peak, compost at the bottom. Burnout and you slow yourself down. Laura Eades 2015

She said, “If you drop out of the cycle, you’ve burnt out. And then, it’s a long journey back to the compost even”.

Just because you have the idea you’re a creative person, doesn’t mean you should create all the time

The penny really dropped for me when she said that. We have to embrace the down bits, even though they feel crummy:

  • “This isn’t me! I’m usually so productive!”
  • “I’m Mr/Mrs Motivation!”
  • “I’m drifting, projectless, what am I doing?”
  • “How will the world know I’m there if I don’t produce something to show them at regular intervals?”

Why punish yourself for a necessary part of the creative cycle?

We panic that we’ve hit apathy, that we need firecrackers up the arse, we bully ourselves and feel ashamed of our less productive times rather than seeing them for what they are: regrouping, necessary digestion time, space for a bit of dream to drift through the window, a bit of a rejig and a redesign, or what Julia Cameron calls “restocking the well”.

What do you do when you’re composting?

Good question. Probably the subject for another blogpost. Talk to people. Listen to people. Surf the internet. Go for walks and try to get back into embodiment. Browse and soak up anything, any colours, any books, that catch your eye. Buy a new thing to wear. Let your hair down. Brainstorm in your journal. Drink tea. Go on holiday. Play ping pong. Watch TV. Read books. Sleep a lot. Your suggestions please.

The butterfly metaphor

Another friend really likes this metaphor of a pupating butterfly. What happens in the trasformation? The caterpillar gets totally broken down, and a completely new butterfly structure rebuilt. It dissolves into mush. You need to go through mush to evolve. Neat, hunh?

I’m in digital Springtime

Not so much mood mush, (that was January, February), now just the new green shoots of website redesign. That’s why you’re not hearing much from me each week. Cos I’m breakin’ it down. Restructuring. Hopefully, so the site and its archive will be more readable. Give me time. Most importantly, give yourself some time, and some compost.

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