Creative Burnout:
a general discussion between several ODACA friends
Edited by Jean D. Lotz

"I have had many very interesting private discussions about creative burn out with several of my ODACA artist friends. Below is a summary of our discussions and some of the constructive ideas that have been suggested so far. I hope that posting our thoughts about this subject will help all artists keep going." – Jean D. Lotz

Burn Out can sneak up on any of us, at any time, and it can effect many of us on a regular basis. "Creative burn out" can effect many artists at any time in all forms of art. There are too many causes to cover fully.

Some Causes of Burn Out

  • The artist's inspiration has died or it is no longer strong enough stimulate the artist to endure the hard work involved to complete a work.
  • An artist may have a waiting list that can not be ignored, and has grown tired of doing the same thing. Dollmaking becomes work, and a chore instead of a joy.

Distractions, Distractions, and more Distractions

  • Sometimes you are faced with too many legitimate, unavoidable, non-art distractions - Too many outside distractions and family obligations may keep an artist away from their art for too long.
  • Don't know when you will have time for art again? The artist may find themselves in the middle of serious obligations with no end in sight.
  • A serious illness or age starts to effect the artist's strength, endurance, and will power.
  • The artist allows themselves to be too easily distracted by anything and everything but art.

Methods to Fight Burn Out

  • Take a break from dolls but still do something creative! Take some art classes: drawing, traditional sculpture, metal working ... anything other than dolls. When you are ready to make another doll, then you will hopefully feel refreshed and the knowledge gleaned from your general art classes will somehow help your new doll art.
  • Some outside distractions are legitimate and unavoidable, but some are mere excuses.  All of us must tend to our obligations, but we must isolate and discard our excuses even those that we attempt to legitimize!
  • Turn off your computer for days at a time because it can become a big electronic distraction!
  • Each has their own obligations, juggle your time to get some art work time in. Don't complain. Just do it. Learn some time management techniques.
  • Join a dollmaking discussion group, or suggest a constructive chit chat with a group of dollmaking friends. One of my friends wanted to throw a doll maker's sleep over at her home (unfortunately she had to move). We were planning to bring our pillows, sleeping bags, doll videos, drawing paper, wire, cloth and fiber fill. We were just going to have fun playing with dolls again.
  • Try to remember why you made your first dolls. What gratification did you get from what elements of this early dollmaking process and experiment? Can you do something to recapture that original joy and challenge? Challenge yourself again!
  • Change the medium that you work in for a while. If you have been making dolls using one of the more time-consuming methods. Explore one of the quicker modern dollmaking methods. If you typically work in a hard medium, then try working in cloth.
  • Change your subject matter. If you work very realistic, then try to do something totally weird and different for you.
  • Change the mood of your work. If you only do cute, then try to do something serious. If your dolls are generally somber or melancholy, then try to do something happy or wistful.
  • Change your scale. If you work very large, then try working in doll house scale for a while.
  • If you are tired of one of a kinds, then try to make a small edition.
  • If you have only made open and limited editions and you are tired of doing the same thing over and over, then try making some one-of-a-kind dolls.
  • If you are down on the dollmaking market place and have started to only make dolls for the money, then do a doll as a donation to a worthy cause completely for free.
  • Challenge another doll maker suffering from burn out to trade your next new doll for their next new doll. Or you can each trade a new, original, paper doll.

If your doll orders are causing too much stress

  • Some times you can find yourself in the rat race of not being able to keep up with the demand for your dolls.
  • Find a way to produce them with less stress, and get help as needed.
  • Remove some stress by changing your focus. Stop taking orders for new dolls. Make only the number of dolls that you feel comfortable creating. Sell those only at rare, personal appearances at very select, doll shows.
  • If you have become greatly challenged by the effects of illness or age, then scale down your expectations and work differently. You need to determine what you can do, and how you can do it, instead of dwelling on what you can't do.
  • Build an "Ego Builder Book" or a "Brag Book": This can be like a portfolio of your work history including photos of a good range of your dolls, documentation of what you feel have been your accomplishments, details of challenges that you have met, and copies of the some of the nicest compliments you have received about your dolls over time. Make the book professional looking or like a beautiful scrapbook. You don't have to show it to anyone - this book is for you!

Retiring from Doll Making

  • Sometimes burn out, illness or age causes an artist to retire from dollmaking. Consider your dollmaking years interesting and find something different to stimulate your creativity. Artists must nurture our creative needs in some way.
  • Share your knowledge. If you can no longer make dolls, then perhaps you might document your work processes and share this information in classes, seminars, books, articles, and dollmaking tips pages on the internet.

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