This was originally posted on my bellydance blog, but the burnout phase & emotions surrounding it apply to all forms of creativity, not just to dance. This is my personal experience – read on for more!
As a student of bellydance for nearly 10 years, I’ve had many moments of wanting to give up my dance, for a myriad of reasons. The past couple of years, I’ve felt my inspiration waning, despite attending retreats, intensives and teaching. There seems to be something missing from my dance at the moment which has caused me to mentally and energetically pull back and examine where my journey is headed. For the better part of ten years my mind has been occupied with Bellydance – going over choreographies and performance ideas in my head, thinking of music to dance to, finding costuming inspiration, thinking about upcoming shows/haflas/intensives/trips/gigs and keeping tabs on what everyone else is up to on social media.
So when I started feeling dread at the thought of preparing of a show, or the thought of attending a weekend of workshops exhausted me before I had even signed up, I realized that it was time to take a step back. Call it Belly-Burnout, if you will. For a long time this feeling churned inside and I felt guilty that this was happening to me, that somehow it made me a failure or a fake or someone who *gasp* isn’t as dedicated to dance as everyone else. That because I had come so far that it was too late to just stop, that I had to keep going for the sake of students and the expectations of the community, to be seen to participate and not become irrelevant or forgotten. So I pushed through, but I found that I was spending more time and energy trying to force ideas and worrying if I would be able to come up with something that I feel like that’s when my mojo disappeared.
Now, the creative process is a very interesting creature – for most of my professional career I have been employed in creative roles and for me when the ‘aha!’ moment happens, all things come into place, and I find myself re-energized and invigorated ready to explore an idea. The thing is though, the road between development of an idea and the ‘aha!’ can take anywhere from a moment to years, which for me (and I’m sure for many others) is the most difficult stage to get through. But once that moment happens, that’s where magic starts!
I haven’t had an ‘aha!’ moment in quite some time. However instead of stressing about it, I’ve thought about what else is going on in my life and where I need to direct my energy so that I can nurture myself back to a point where I am ready to feel creative in dance again. Though I still drill a bit at home, I have taken up other forms of exercise to give my body a break from what it is used to, build up my strength and stamina, and discover a different way of movement. I have started sketching again after many many years of not making the time having been so preoccupied with dance (and also full time work).
I want to love bellydance again. It’s all I think about during the day, which really indicates either a deep love or obsession. I want to be better, I want to improve and I want to continue my dance journey. But first I need to take some time out to realign and readjust so that I can be truly present and enjoy every moment. There is no shame in feeling the burnout or wanting to give up, it’s natural and normal. A teacher once told me in class that, “Bellydance is like falling in love with someone: You discover them, and they are all you think about. You can’t keep your hands off each other and every moment is exciting and thrilling. A few years later you’ve developed a deeper relationship, you might not be so hands on but you know one another inside and out. Maybe you even think maybe you’ve fallen out of love. But then one day, something happens and they remind you how amazing they are and you couldn’t imagine life without them.”
This is how I feel about dance. I think about the journey that has taken me all over Australia, the people I’ve met, how as I’ve grown as a person my dance has grown too. Losing your dance mojo doesn’t mean the end. It just means a little bit of time needs to be taken to rediscover that hunger, that desire. It might not happen right away, but I have faith that it will. And that’s OK with me.