Monday, November 30, 2009

When to Stop

Rev. Haju Sunim

As the Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end my heart is telling me that I need a vacation. Or better yet, a sabbatical. Wikipedia defines sabbatical as, “literally a ceasing, a hiatus, or a rest from work.” Yes, that is what I need: a rest from work.

In order to prevent this artist from starving I still hold down a steady day job. But when my eight hour day is over I am just getting started. There are paintings to paint, events to promote, an online presence to manage…my work is never done.

One might think Thanksgiving weekend would be the perfect time to rest and renew, but I feel like I have been running in a marathon. I started three new paintings for an upcoming opportunity to hang, sketched ideas for two calls-for-entry of which the deadlines are quickly approaching, and I when I had a second to think, I thought about my ideas, or lack there of, for a commissioned painting.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunities to show my work that continue to present themselves, even more so since my solo art show at Michelangelo’s in November. But I’m still catching my breath from that experience.

So I have spent the majority of this Thanksgiving weekend not painting, not leisurely allowing the creative process to unfold. Instead I’ve been rushing, spilling paint, breaking spatulas, and fretting about how I don’t have enough time. Gone are the creativity and the fun and in their place are frustration and exhaustion. The worst of it is that what I did manage to paint this weekend is unacceptable. So it’s official: I’m burnt out.

The only cure I know for burn out is to take a break. And while I can’t take any time off from my day job so that I might take a vacation in the traditional sense of the word, I don’t have to keep saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. To quote the Buddhist monk Rev. Haju Sunim, “Wisdom is knowing when to stop.”

By taking a break from painting, and saying no to opportunities, I will likely lose the momentum I’ve built and not show for a few months. But the alternative is showing work I’m not proud of. And in the end, that could be more disastrous.


  1. I admire your honesty, and share the same difficulties. The day job is a killer for me, too! I think juggling all of the responsibilities tax on the creativity, and makes the mind exhaustive. I generally will then pick another medium to work in. Such as photography, so that when I can pick up a paint brush, I've captured the scenes, people, etc. for reference at another time. It's always tricking the monster of creative burnout/blockage. Thanks for sharing this, sometimes, its just helpful, not being alone. Sending you peace. :)

  2. Marcella Marcella
    take a break- then get back on that horse, my dear.
    and release the love you were meant to