Saturday, September 19, 2009


Many artists - whether it be in music, movement, or visual arts - encounter what's known as burnout. It's the feelings of "it's just not worth it anymore", "I'd rather be doing something else", and/or "there's no fun left in this." Personally, I've known taiko players who found themselves past where it was fun to play and martial artists who felt they were just going through the motions.

I hate to blame the victim, but no one performer is likely to change a whole group nor is one practitioner going to change a whole dojo/style. It's up to the individual to recognize where the warning flags are as they happen. Maybe it's finding yourself unable to focus on a drill, maybe it's dreading an upcoming performance, maybe it's changing dynamics in the group? Ask yourself what it is that gives you strife, internally, about your art and address it!

You can't rely on your group/dojo to fix things for you. If they do, consider yourself lucky to have such a support system! But if you're responsible for your happiness, then be honest with yourself. Pretending something doesn't really bother you and letting it eat away inside over time is only going to make everyone unhappy.

Think about what *you* need. Is that selfish? No, it's not at the disregard of others, it's addressing your own needs. Too often I see those pursuing Asian arts put themselves last for "the good of the group". No, it's not only Asian arts, but I see it more there than I do in non-Asian ones. It's one thing to not be thrilled about something that comes up in practice or performance, that's life. But it's another thing entirely to constantly deny your own personal happiness or pretend that something doesn't piss you off.

Even if you're of a sort that believes, "the group comes first", you are PART of the group. If you're not happy, then a part of the group isn't happy. Again, it's not necessarily the group's responsibility to make you feel better, but denial does no one any good.

Sometimes people need to take breaks, to put things in perspective. Other times creative journeys need to be explored, such as looking into another style (even if just research) or composing a song. Just remember to do this before it's too late! Once you get bitter, the poison is in your veins and it's going to be very hard to purge it from your system!

Whether it's a cultural or communal belief that your needs come second to the group's, if you let yourself suffer without recourse, you're hurting the group. If you don't believe that, think of what happens when things get so bad that you leave the group in anger or frustration! That's like having a brick wall and ignoring the gradual chips that could have been fixed, until the bricks start crumbling and the whole wall is weakened.

It's not selfish to take care of yourself!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting topic as always. Some might think the "poison" line is too harsh, but I very much agree. Once true burnout has set in, it seems impossible to recover fully. The cynicism and negativity of burnout are very powerful foes for the individual.

    Nice picture for the post.

    Good luck on the road.