Post Project Malaise? Or, Is It Just Burnout?

Writing — and most creativities — is an endless list of unfinished projects. They loom and lurk in the background and haunt our peripheral vision. 

Even in the midst of creating two games at once (projects that consumed all of my free time and headspace), I was already thinking about the next projects on my list, as in, If I can just finish this, then I can move on to the next thing

And yet. . . having completed those projects, I found myself in a frustrating state. Suddenly, I couldn't bring myself to make anything. In those moments in which I could even bring myself to open a doc, I would star at the little blinking cursor for a few moments before closing the doc again.

Just thinking about the numerous projects that I wanted to do felt like too much effort — and with that came a sense of guilt, because I wasn't working or moving forward. 

What is wrong with me? I thought. I was so productive last month. Why can't I be productive now?

At the time, my assumption was that the problem had to do with deadlines. Both of the games projects were completed as part of gam jams, which included hard deadlines for completion. I creatively thrived under those deadlines and, without them, I began to have doubts as to whether I could complete anything without that kind of external motivation. 

In other words, I found myself swimming in a sea of self-doubt. I thought, I just need to push myself harder.

Fortunately, I have some amazing writing friends. When I expressed to them how I was feeling after completing my two games, how I was feeling a kind of malaise and l was having a hard time writing anything and maybe I just need to make my personal deadlines more impactful — they stopped me and told me something along the lines of:

"Dude, you just finished two major projects. Give yourself a break. Take some time to rest and recharge." 

Oh, yeah. Right.

For an entire month, I had burned through every ounce of my creative faculties to get the work done. I had approached my limits and needed a break. But I was so focused on diving into the next project on my list, that I didn't even give myself space to celebrate my victory of having accomplished two major projects — let alone allowing myself space to recharge my creative batteries. 

It is impossible to grind indefinitely. Attempting to do so leads to burnout

When you're moving from project to project, it's so easy to forget that. But the reality is that there will always be one more thing on your list. There will always be the next project. 

It's important to allow space both during and after creative work to recuperate and recharge. The body, mind, and soul need pause; they need quiet. Take naps, read books, binge some TV shows, play video games, go on some walks or hikes, have dinner with friends. Do things in the world for the joy of being in the world. 

Having such wise friends, I took their advice and intentionally granted myself a period of rest. If I felt inclined to write something, then I allowed it — but I allowed no internal or external pressure to force me to do so. 

After a couple of weeks, I found myself naturally coming back to writing on my own terms. My internal drive to create pulling me back to the page. I'm able to sit down, focus in, and do the world of drawing words forth (which is such a relief).  

As it turns out, no creativity was harmed in giving myself a break.

Book of the Month

If you’re not into horror, or specifically slashers, then this book is not for you. Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is a Chainsaw is a love song to slasher films, with its main character Jude being entirely enamored with them. Slasher films, for her, were an escape from her sh*thole of a life, and there is a part of her that longs for a slasher event to occur, so that the people of her community can get their comeuppance.

When a young woman moves to town — beautiful, smart, and charming — Jude thinks that this young woman is the type who would be become a Final Girl. After Jude start seeing a number of signs that a series of killing is soon to occur (according to the rules of the movies she watches), she tries to convince the new girl of her destiny.

Jude is angry and acidic and all sharp edges — and I love her so much, because she is also vulnerable, lonely, and (deep down) caring. Her passion for slasher films swims off the page, as does her underlying desire for companionship. Her journey in this book is brutal and terrifying and somehow, in the end, manages to find a sense of hope. And it’s beautiful. 

For other books, movies, and games that I enjoyed over the past month, check out my latest Culture Consumption


SUPERJUMP published my article on Exit Veil, a JRPG (Japanese roll playing game) inspired by horror, science fiction, and the occult. In addition to seeming to be a beautifully designed video game, Exit Veil also includes a gorgeous tarot deck, which can be obtained through their Kickstarter project. 

Good Reads

"Once upon a time, video games were considered nothing more than a means of entertainment for children. That is no longer the case, as the industry has moved on to become a form of art that should be officially recognised as such.

In the current era, video games have a secondary feature besides the amusement of players. They have become the means through which creative teams are able to convey their emotions and display their talents to their audiences. The old story of video games being targeted to children exclusively was thrown out the window a long time ago, as the industry has gone on to, in many cases, largely surpass the revenues of other forms of entertainment."

Poem: "To Be a Woman" by Theodora Goss: 

"To be a woman is to be always holding
the tears of others, the fears,
the dreams and hopes and desires
of others, as a jar holds water."

Story: "An Urge to Create Honey" by Martin Cahill (Clarksworld Magazine):

"You’re so new to the hive, young one. Our memory is long; sometimes, we forget the now, that you are so new to being one of us, your connection to us fragile as spun sugar. If we’d had our way, you would be cradled still, connected by dandelion tendrils to the heart of home, growing, learning. We would not have let you go so easily."

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