Reflections on Burnout

Fighting creative burnout

It’s been a while since my last post, but as the year draws to a close, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the past twelve months.

You guys, this past year has been HARD. I started this business as a creative outlet. It was a fun way to make work that I loved and practice my skills. I’ve always struggled to make art just for me. It always helps to have a deadline or an audience in mind when I’m creating something, so it made sense to start a business so I could design for my customers. Plus, if I could make money at it, all the better, right? Despite its humble beginnings, I’ve always had big dreams for this little business of mine. I hoped that it would grow into a steady source of income, that it would lead to partnerships with people I admire, and that it would be a source of new knowledge and help me grow as a creative professional.

Carving a block for a Polish Folk Art flower print
Carving a block for a Polish Folk Art flower print

This year has brought many wonderful opportunities. I had the opportunity to do pop-ups at West Elm and Kathleen Sommers boutique this summer. I’ve been lucky to do block printing work for a number of wonderful clients, including realtors, photographers, ad agencies, and schools. I’ve had the joy of designing prints to celebrate meaningful places in my customers’ lives—where they’ve lived, where they met their spouse, where they went to school. I’ve had the satisfaction of seeing my own work improve—I look back at the prints I made at the beginning and can’t help but groan a little!

Dallas Skyline Linocut Block Print by Wandering Paper Co.

Yet despite all of these wonderful outcomes, I feel the word ‘burnout’ is insufficient to describe the level of exhaustion I feel. I love this little business, and I work on it every day. Nights, weekends, and holidays, I’m here, working late into the night, packaging orders, following up with clients, preparing for shows. Not to mention staying up to date with inventory and bookkeeping, researching different marketing techniques, planning social media posts, sales, and advertising. There’s always more to be done, but at a certain point I have to go to bed so that I can go to work, come home, and do it all over again.

As I look to the new year, I don’t know what’s next for Wandering. As much as I love having a creative outlet, I wonder if the time I spend on this little project is worth it. I’ve considered shutting it down quite a few times over the past month or two. Much as I love it, I wonder at the things I’m missing out on as I devote all my free time to growing my business. Yet, I can’t imagine not having a project to work on. I love seeing my business grow; I love having a reason to keep making creative work.

Transferring your design to your block
Using a hard rubber brayer to transfer ink

I debated for a long time whether to post this. I’m a pretty private person and I don’t enjoy posting my intimate secrets on the internet. But too often I look at bloggers or other creative entrepreneurs and think, ‘oh, they have it all figured out,” and I wish someone would post a little about the struggle and not just how organized their closet is (my closet is not very organized, by the way! 🙂 )

 

Friends, if you are feeling burned out and you want to talk to another person with a messy closet, please reach out! I could sure use some words of encouragement! If you’ve read this far, sorry for the downer post! I just needed to get my thoughts out, and now I’m going out in search of gingerbread cookies from Houndstooth Coffee, because this is no problem some butter and sugar can’t solve 🙂

Published by Alex Hughes

I am a graphic designer from Dallas who loves printmaking, travel, illustration, soccer, and psychology. I love personality tests too--I'm an INFP married to an ENFJ.

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