Against Burnout

I’ve been off the blog for a little while as I visited my parents and spent some time in the woods. I’ve got some nice pictures from my little adventure for you to enjoy.

I chose not to bring any hobby projects with me, though it’s a good place to paint & concentrate. Pushing myself hard this Summer both in my painting and in my efforts to create a more exciting website left me a little lacking in direction as I finished up the painting phase of Yarry. Many people believe that you simply have to paint all the time in order to improve, but I’m not certain that’s true.

Sometimes it’s best for me just to recapture the desire to paint and the desire to better yourself as an artist before you get creatively burnt out.

As I head back to work teaching in the weeks ahead I’ll have to be very deliberate about creating time between job and family for my hobby projects. That’s nothing new, and many of us who enjoy a solitary & time consuming hobby have to walk that line.

Painting, modeling, drawing, gaming, and the other things you see me doing on ToadChapel serve as an emotional, even spiritual balm when life fills with stress, frustration, and disappointment. And it’s fun after a long day.

There are many places to learn how to pursue the hobby of mini painting, but it’s less common to read anything concerning why.

At times the reason seems self-evident. The completion of a project that fills us with pride and a sense of accomplishment, the satisfaction of improved skills, an award, or the addition of a new figure to a gaming collection. Though all these and others like them resonate with the painter in an immediate way, they’re merely rewards, not an intrinsic element of the hobby experience.

As these ends creep more and more into our definitions of our hobby, I feel they can do a lot of harm.

‘Am I improving fast enough?’

‘Am I productive enough?’

‘Will I win an award in the next competition?’

‘Is my army ready for the next game?’

Or worse,

‘Am I a better painter than he is?’

As these questions creep ever more into our hobby time, we can only be filled with unhappiness. We paint in order to address the anxieties that lie behind such questions. Painting itself ceases to suffice for us, and becomes a proving ground for something else.

When I find myself drawn to paint out of a sense of obligation I try to stop myself and break free from my robotic and unreflective routine. While I hold long-term goals for myself and understand that the muse only answers when called, I also try to spend my time doing either what I must do or what I want to do.

I can choose not to paint for a few days, and my goals will still be intact. My journey as a painter will continue without disruption. Perhaps I’ll bring some fresh perspective to my efforts, or start something new and wonderful.

The key thing, though, is that I sometimes need to distance myself from the anxiety and reward-seeking that can surround what is supposed to be a joyous activity. I try not to approach my career as a job, I certainly don’t want to do so with my hobby.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll find I make a concerted effort to avoid the word ‘work’. I want my language to reflect my attitude & approach. I try to be deliberate in both word & action.

Sometimes I take a little break so I can recapture that perspective. I enjoy painting because painting is fun, whether or not anything else follows. I know I’ve got my head straight when I look forward to the time spent in creation, not the final brushstroke which will mark the end of my effort.

And then a messenger from ToadChapel hopped over to me and croaked, “get to work!”

One thought on “Against Burnout”

  1. A lot of wisdom in this post and you gave me several things to think about! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this and I’ll be looking forward to seeing where you go next hobby wise and with the Chapel. I’d say this year has been a rousing success thus far.

    Liked by 1 person

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