artist burn out

I happened to be in a conversation with some artists this week who are far more worldly than me. We talked about what is happening in Canada right now: the changes to the Canada Council funding model, the steps towards diversity, the dynamic in Quebec. I mostly listened because I really don’t know much beyond my backyard anymore. I used to be much more involved in the national scene when I was touring No Exit, on certain national boards, flying around seeing new plays, scouting for Talon books, and dating idiots from the east. images-3

There was talk about the Booker prize winner. He/She basically has to waive two years of their life, obliged to travel around non-stop to major centres world wide doing readings, talks and signings. Their personal life is over, their family. Meanwhile, their publisher is pressuring them to come up with the next best thing, while they’re battling jet lag, loneliness and fatigue. Great, someone creates something remarkable so we kill them.

The artists in front of me were working on projects nationally and internationally. As each one of them spoke, I kept thinking, “I just missed your launch, I just missed your performance, I just missed your reading…”images-4

I admitted to them, when the conversation came around to me, that I  am not being an unsupportive ass, I am trying to be unfeeling.

I feel too much. I am exhausted. I am avoiding art that moves me, which is, most of it. I am trying to avoid theatre, film, live music, dance and fine art this year. It means I’ve missed out on some remarkable things, but I need to rest.

It is hard to admit I am burned out. I have always been an unstoppable work horse. There is the fear of people thinking I am weak. There is the fear that if I stop for a while I will miss out on a “movement” or I will be forgotten, replaced. But of course that is ridiculous. A year or so is not a long time and for goodness sake, I run the risk of people getting sick of me. Last year I world premiered two new plays in this city and performed in four. Enough already. I don’t want to be fatigued during a project, it isn’t fair to my colleagues. I am getting too forgetful and my brain is sludgy, I just can’t – think. I won’t compromise quality. So, I gotta rest.

I can’t check out entirely of course. I’m not a kept woman. We can’t afford that. But I’ve cut way back since January. I just work on my commissions and I had to finish the class I teach. But I think I can take most of July and August off with Fellow and the family. It will be very hard on us financially but I honestly feel I am going to die if I don’t recharge. My naturopath concurs – speaking of adrenal glands being drained, which explains the allergies, and kidneys and liver being “angry”….call it hooey but – proof’s in the pudding. I gotta take care of me.images-2

My artist friends all nodded. They all shared their stories of getting critically ill due to stress and fatigue, having to rest for a year, having an operation, moving away for a fresh start, getting treatment – we all talked about the feeling of being a fraud. The feeling we haven’t lived up to our potential. We all understood.

It was encouraging, of course, to not feel alone. But I was also saddened. These are incredible minds! Never mind me: I’m a hack who works long hours, but these guys? These guys are all so so so much smarter than me. Why do they feel this way? Why? And is it necessary?Unknown-1

I don’t know. I don’t know. I just know it’s time to dig in the dirt, plant some seeds, walk the dog, drink my tea and find the quietest corner of the house to be.



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  1. John Moerschbacher

    I could see it in your eyes during the Playwright Fest. I get it totally. Rest, plant, drink Merlot, and all will be well, sort of. Maybe you need a beehive or two.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      we would love bees…

  2. John Innes

    I am shattered by your unprotected honesty and devastated by the realization of the amount of energy you continue to pour into other lives even though your own is completely drained. Step away from the pressure of ‘for’. What He longs for is time ‘with’. Bless you!

    1. Lucia Frangione

      “with” not the pressure of “for”, how wise, dear John. xo

  3. Marcia Laycock

    It’s so, so important to rest, recharge, renew in all aspects. Praying for that for you. m

    1. Lucia Frangione

      thank you, dear Marcia.

  4. Ren

    I have been having similar conversations and I’m with the emerging kids who still think they can do it all forever..that they just have to get on with it and push through. Many are also lonely. I am working to build something to address this. I don’t think the pressure cooker we have ensures the highest quality art. Perhaps it’s a capitalist and patriarchal value system that puts so much emphasis on ‘survival of the fittest’ and competition for squeezing out the best in mankind.

    We have limits. We need support. We need collaboration in both creative and personal spheres. At the end of the day this is a job we love enough that we want to be able to do it forever. I’m interested in the art that comes from a healthy environment, not merely a chronically stressed one. What artists would rise to the occasion then if the “hard” of it all was limited to the depth of their risk and exploration rather than the drive to keep at it up when there is a sell-able product?

    1. Lucia Frangione

      good question. too often I think we feel we must suffer to produce good work.

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