I’m doing a series on creative burnout. Part 1 is here and Part Two is here.
Once upon a time, I spent four years working on a memoir that never jelled, and then, right on the heels of letting that project go, I quickly wrote a non-fiction book proposal that my agent turned down – and so did her entire agency.
My friend Janet Goldstein volunteered to read the proposal and she gently told me my agent had done me a favor by not shopping it around. It wasn’t very good.
Then Janet asked me the best question, a question that has become my go-to question to ask writers I work with when they get stuck ever since:
What’s fresh here now?
Ask this question when you are plagued by any degree of creative burnout
when a project feels like a should
when you can’t choose between different projects
when you feel like you should finish something you started but can’t
when you yearn to create or write but keep procrastinating
when you don’t know why to bother
Ask “What’s fresh here now?” and then – and here’s the harder part – listen to what calls you.
It’s okay to put down projects even if they have been with you for years.
It’s okay to play even if you feel like you haven’t produced work in years.
Because pushing yourself to do what has no heart and meaning for you when you are creatively burned-out rarely ends well.
I know, like I know the cottonwoods outside my window will bloom again in the spring, that you are full of creative beauty, insights, and truth.
Trust the spark of freshness to carry you forward.
Give your attention to what flickers and flares even if it’s odd or off project.
Give up the shoulds, the projects that you can’t bear to touch right now, the smart ideas that feel dead for now, and go to what’s fresh for now.
Just for now.