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That Friend Called “Rest”? Oh, I Never Liked Him

By Yael Tobón Uribe

There is this beautiful song titled “First Love” that I have been revisiting lately. It is the lyricist's love letter to his (clearly) first love—his piano. Similarly to him, I could endlessly argue that writing was, and remains, my first love (cheesy, I know). Given this, I never thought that, one day, I would get so exhausted from coexisting with it. My biggest fear is that, inevitably, I will need to make money out of something I love so much.

The inexorable transition from fall to winter, the first snow, and the stress caused by finals have led me to fall into a creative burnout. Since I was a child, all I wanted to do was write. I could never get tired of it! But recently, I have been writing a lot. Maybe too much. I have been reading a lot of stories I am not particularly interested in and experiencing imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, according to the American Psychological Association, is common in high-achieving people who are unable to internalize and accept their success. Though the impostor phenomenon isn't listed in the DSM as a mental illness, psychologists acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt. Impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and depression. I am not finishing the semester with a sense of accomplishment or fulfillment but rather extreme fatigue and a deep feeling of nothingness. I think this might be because I am not only writing for myself but for my future. I spend more time there than in the present. My words are no longer kept for me, they are now being exhibited to the rest of the world (which is certainly exciting and terrifying at the same time). My talent is no longer verified with myself as the only point of comparison, now I am surrounded by extremely talented people with whom I constantly compare myself to. I frequently forget who I am writing for.

Perhaps it is true that I am obsessed with capitalism, so I’ll bring it up for discussion once again. I am a believer that art is an extremely human, if not the most human component that we can find in today's society. However, being an artist in a society that values exploitation and mass production makes for very difficult and exhausting labor. It is quite challenging to define what it means to be a successful artist without talking about money. As corny as it sounds, I like to say that even if I didn’t get paid for writing, I would still do it until my brain and body no longer allowed me to. However, I need to pay my bills. It makes me angry that we try to measure the value of art with numbers instead of the emotional experience it generates in the audience. As much as I repeat to myself that my art shouldn’t satisfy anyone but me and that it is not a waste of time, it is not that easy. This time of year brings with it a lot of overthinking. Did I make the right decision by choosing the love of my life as my professional career?

Finally, I remember that when I was a child, my father used to say that “One should only rest once one got to the grave. I guess that has stayed in my subconscious mind until today, because one of the hardest things for me to do is rest. I sometimes find it hard to even imagine not having anything to do.

This leads me to the last point I want to touch on. I had the incredible opportunity to attend a silent retreat for a weekend, which is something I never imagined I desperately needed during this period in my life. The basic idea of a silent retreat is that by practicing silence for a prolonged period, you can channel all the energy you usually devote to external communication and interactions with others inwards instead. During the retreat, I slept a lot, walked in nature, visited lakes, did yoga, read, and wrote. I found it incredible how easily my creative thoughts began to flow after a few days of being in complete silence. After this experience, I concluded that even if I only feel like I might be good enough and/or doing enough, I can give myself the benefit of the doubt.

Wrapping up, I have to say that I still love creating art and probably will continue doing so as much as I can. Nevertheless, to maintain a healthy relationship with my creativity, I should also spend some time in solitude in a space where expectations are left on the shelf. Please remember to rest, because as artists, we are constantly putting much of our energy into what we are creating (and human existence is energy-draining enough). Maybe taking some time off is the answer to those creative blocks we so often experience.

Last but not least, here are some excerpts from two songs that capture the essence of what it is like to deal with creative burnout (written from a musician’s and dancer’s perspective):

I relieve my anxiety with a sip of coffee

An endless rest

Happiness suddenly comes towards me uncomfortably

24 hours, that’s plenty of time

I could sleep all day but there’s still no problem

I think I should work till my body breaks

I’m the damn guy who eats three meals a day

If this can no longer resonate

No longer make my heart vibrate

Then like this may be how

I die my first death

Slowly, I open my eyes

I’m in my workroom, it's my studio

The darkness go darkly in a throe

But I will never get dragged away again

Inside, I saw myself, myself

Works Cited

“Black Swan.” Map of the Souk: 7, by BTS. HYBE Entertainment, 2020.

“Dis-ease.” BE, by BTS. HYBE Entertainment, 2020.

"First Love." Wings, by Suga BTS. HYBE Entertainment, 2016.

Weir, Kirsten. “Feel like a Fraud?” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2013,


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