Burning Out Burnout

I was hiking all over the Internet today and was reading the blog entries that accompany the comics, because that the kind of time I have these days. Most were the usual, “I feel purple today” entries but I saw Wes Molebash’s site. Wes, the creator of You’ll Have That, mentioned that he was suffering from the common web comic malady of burnout.

Burnout happens to everyone, especially anyone engaged in a creative endeavor.

Burnout has lead to many a missed update, indefinite sabbatical or even the untimely death for many a web comic. Don’t worry though, Molebash says he has no intention of quitting, or even taking a break from, You’ll Have That.

Still I feel for you man. I’ve felt burnout plenty of times as a writer and in other aspects of my life. I may not be a doctor or an expert, but I once beat up an expert on doctors so here’s how I face burnout, hoping it’ll help Wes and many other creators to be able to keep producing the free entertainment, I so desperately need.

1) Keep plugging: If you get away from what you’re doing, you’ll get out of your groove and it’ll be even harder to get back into it.
2) Try something different: Keep drawing comics, but try something else to keep you from burning out. Try a new story line, add a new character or even try a whole new comic for a while. This way your still in the comicing groove but it’s not the same old thing.
3) Have another hobby. It’s totally ok to take an hour off to shoot some hoops, watch a movie or slay a dragon. It’ll help you clear the head and have more desire to keep at it.

That’s my basic advice. I’m sure many of you out there have been burned out, what did you do to help yourself through it?


6 thoughts on “Burning Out Burnout

  1. I did what every sensible person who\’s busting their asses to give out free entertaiment SHOULD do:

    I stopped.

    Now, my view has always been one of \”money changes everything\” and if the creator is earning coin through their comic, then they do have to tough it out, as you are suggesting in point one. It\’s a job, and you have to go to work even if you don\’t want to.

    If you\’re making free comics you should enjoy doing it. Burnout indicates that you\’re not enjoying it. And to keep doing that because of (well, I don\’t know. Pride, ego gratification, the fear of losing the geek pageview dick-measuring contest, whatever.) is idiocy.

    The web is not the mafia even though some treat it as such. You can leave and return at any time you wish.

    However, points two and three are very sage advice indeed. Both for your health and sanity, but also creatively.

  2. These points are, at least I thought, simple common sense for any artist.

    Point #1 is the antithesis of what you want to do in the face of burnout. Burnout, as you stated, comes as a result of some catalyst, be it too much of the same, boredom, or not enough non-comic related activities. The answer, as you know, is to DO SOMETHING ELSE. Unless, as William G states, you are earning a paycheck from this gig or are tight on some deadline, any other activity should serve to take the proverbial load off and offer enough peace of mind to get your head on straight and focus once again.

    The only thing I don\’t agree with in William G\’s rebuttal is the idea of stopping and expecting to start back up again without fail. Yes, the Internet is vast and open, ready to accept all new content. But if you\’ve only been in the game for a few months and are trying to earn some cred with both fans and creators (as I find myself doing right now), missing an update here or there or even shutting down the strip altogether can throw all of that hard work away and leave you to start from scratch when next you develop an intellectual property.

    And sure, you can just slightly deviate from the norm and try something new with your work, as in Point #2, but more often than not, this is only going to compound the problem and carry it over to not just one strip, but all work you attempt under burnt out conditions.

    Point #3, on the other hand, is certainly true (if not horrifically obvious).

  3. I\’d like to toss out my experiences and thoughts on burn-out, not just as a webcomic artist (www.leasticoulddo.com) but as a freelance illustrator (www.lartist.com) for almost twenty years.

    Midnight Cartooner is right that you need to have alternative sources for your creativity. There\’s never enough time to do things for yourself but dammit, you MUST make that time when you need it, if not on some kind of semi-irregular basis. The effort of always producing for others can be very wearing. I keep a sketchbook just for my own, non commercial musings. I also do origami, which has no commercial value for anyone else. I\’ll happily give you something I\’ve folded, but I won\’t sell it. There\’s a big difference, emotionally, to me. I\’ll also pull out the plasticine, or sculpy, or draw eyes on socks and make quick puppets with my kids. It\’s all creative and yet, so different from the daily grind that it can be very re-energizing. Get into the kitchen and make a fancy meal, work on your garden – anything!

    Coin or not, if you are not enjoying it, William G\’s point is also valid. Stop doing it. Fix it. Change it. You don\’t need permission – this is your life. This goes for hating your dead end job, or your neighbour\’s dog or whatever. Stop being a victim of your own headspace and figure out a solution to your situation. It might be simple, it might be a scary move, but it\’s your life. If you won\’t take charge of it, no one else will.

    Don\’t ignore other life factors that may be contributing to the situation. Without getting into the personal factors (if anyone cares, they can write me) there\’s no shame in seeking some help. That might be medical, that might be a buddy you can vent to over a beer or two. Don\’t work in a vacuum. Network with other artists, your friends, your family.

    And don\’t forget, IT\’S OKAY TO SAY \’NO\’. Turning down work as a freelancer is damn scary. Even with a great portfolio and proven track record, people will ask you to do stuff you don\’t want to and you can and should say no. For example, it\’s not that I can\’t do landscapes, but I don\’t enjoy them and it\’s a real labour for me. Time to say \’pass\’ as the only outcome otherwise is someone asking me to do more of the stuff you don\’t want.

    I\’m fortunate to have a wife that understands (or at least tolerates) what I do (eighteen years next week). I\’ve also got a great writing partner for the webcomic, and other artist friends (mostly non webcomic folks) to talk to. If I like a webcomic though, I\’ll at least take a couple minutes to write an email to the creator to let them know because I know how much it means to me, and I always make time to reply to other artists because that communication is important too.

    Long winded post ends here. I hope this helps the discussion.


  4. Well, you know. Even if you do start from scratch again, it doesn\’t matter. Because you\’re going to be making \”that new comic\” anyway, right?

  5. Man, burnout is practically my ROOMATE at this point. I\’ve gotten burned out on Dandy & Co. now more time than I can think of. Usually, if it\’s a mild burnout, I put it in the strip in some way. The character of Audrey is an artist, and anytime SHE\’S feeling burnt out or otherwise creatively frustrated, you can rest assured that it\’s coming from me.

    Obviously, the biggest burn out came when my wife and i seperated and I lost that emotional back-up that helped me get through tough patches. That led to me putting the strip on hold for 8 months before finally returning to the characters and their world.

    Now DURING that time, I shifted focus, working on new characters and situations and did my best to recharge my creative batteries.

    Now, in spite of my taking a hiatus and coming back, I have to agree that the first suggestion up to was dead on. If you can find a way to keep going, do it. Quiting and restarting is WAY hard to do.

    I also have to disagree to a degree with William G\’s assertion that being burnt out means you don\’t enjoy the work. I never stopped enjoying working on Dandy & Company for a second, but being an artist (for me, at least) is a bit more complicated than that. Inspiration comes from tons of sources and burn out is no different.

  6. Derrick,

    I\’m sorry to hear you\’re struggling with burn out as I do admire your work greatly.

    I do think William G. found the solution best for him. I agree that being an artist is complicated. For myself, it is being able to continue to create that has helped me through the \’burning\’ periods. It was never the art but the other life complications that were hurting me and draining the energy. Somehow though, the art part of my brain kept going so I didn\’t poke it too hard either! 😉

    Once you find the roots of your problems you can find the solutions. That may mean hiatus so you can focus on dealing with things, that may mean some kind of switch in game play or even retiring from the game. No one else can make the choice of course.

    Good luck to you and anyone else out there who needs it 🙂

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