The difference between burnout and resistance

After yesterday’s post about resistance, Wendy asked some questions that got me thinking:

Here’s the question I’ve been struggling with though – how do you know the difference between burn out because you’ve been doing too much for too long and resistance? I think there is a difference, but I think the first can very easily turn into the second without you noticing as you begin to recover. How do you know when it’s time to kick yourself in the can again?

Using this blog as an example, sometimes I neglect it because life gets in the way and generally I don’t feel bad about this. This is not a for-profit blog. I need breaks. Breaks are human.

But I’ve seen it happen again and again, when I take a break I lose momentum. I turn inwards and I forget how to hit Publish.

If I’m writing in my journal instead, I tell myself it’s all the same.

If I’m working on a novel, I tell myself my time is better spent.

If my kids are out of school, I tell myself I don’t have time.

Time seems to be the #1 reason resistance has given me.

But time is a man-made construct, we can manipulate it however we want.

Maybe the trick is spending less much on each blog post. Blogging, for me, is less like a craft and more like a hobby, a ritual, even a memory bank. Spending too much time on pointless tweaks and self-sensoring leads to burnout and then resistance.

Still, I do think breaks are good and often very much needed. Like I said, when you pick up again you may be further along than where you left off.

Here’s another example: I was working on a novel and I had 91k words when I stopped writing. This was months ago, January or February. I got stuck and then I had another baby. But then the other day, without warning, the ending came to me. I wasn’t thinking about the story, I had no plans to continue it. I had all but scrapped those 91k words. Was it resistance that kept me from excavating this story, or was it burnout?

Maybe burnout lurks when we’re spending too much time editing and not enough time creating. Maybe burnout arrives when we’re forcing ourselves to finish something that’s not working. Maybe burnout happens for a reason.

But there’s no good reason behind resistance. There’s nothing behind resistance but fear.

I knew I had to come back to blogging because I felt resistance towards it. Like I posted yesterday on Facebook, Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art: “Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there’s tremendous love there too.” Blogging is fun for me. I’m a thinker and a writer and I enjoy thinking and writing and discoursing about personal growth and the human experience. I lead a rich life of motherhood and mindfulness and I feel compelled to revel in these experiences, and remember them and share them. Maybe by examining my own mind, body and spirit, I can inspire other people to do the same.

It’s a blurry line between taking a break and succumbing to resistance, but in general, I think breaks are short and resistance is long. Breaks feel deserved. Like the couch after a long day or a protein shake after a tough work out. Resistance feels heavy. Like clutter or debt or a grudge. Burnout happens because we’ve been at it, resistance keeps us from going at it.

Resistance comes when I take “it”/life/myself too seriously. Expectations erase joy, and in turn, creativity.

Has your burnout become resistance? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. 

To read more of my musings on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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One thought on “The difference between burnout and resistance

  1. Good answer. I particularly like how you distinguish between how each one feels – burnout like the couch after a long day, resistance like a grudge or a debt. It can be hard enough to sort your feelings about your writing and your life, this is a handy guideline to ask yourself. Thanks for the post!

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