I know what you’re thinking: “But Kaitlyn, you’re a writing major, didn’t you sign up for this?”
Yes, and don’t get me wrong, I love my college writing classes. I have learned so much already, and I love growing and developing my writing style. I also know my classes will be very beneficial for my future career pursuits.
But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
Once I started getting reading and writing assignments in school, the joy and creativity were zapped right out of me. I miss the child-like wonder of elementary school when I would open a new book, and read without worrying about symbolism or themes.
I haven’t read for fun since winter break, which was months ago. Although technically, I had the time during my spring semester to read, once I had finished my assignments, I was so tired that I no longer had any energy. Instead of reading or writing like I wanted to, I lay on my bed, scrolling through YouTube for hours.
Mindless entertainment is not a villain here, as I believe everyone deserves to numb their brains with trashy television or instant gratification on social media occasionally. It’s a weird form of self-care. However, a problem presents itself when it becomes an all-consuming distraction from other rewarding pursuits, things I actually want to spend my time doing.
All of this comes down to one issue: creative burnout.
My natural response when people tell me to do something is to not do it. So, when school started giving me books to read or papers to write, I began to procrastinate a lot. Some of these books I actually did enjoy but the process of analyzing them to get a good grade on a test killed my desire to learn.
Procrastination led to stress. Lots of stress. Suddenly, I was doing assignments simply because they had to get done. And because I had procrastinated so much, I struggled with knowing the assignments I turned in were not my best work or didn’t match the vision I had in my head. None of this seemed to matter, however, because I was getting good grades and giving my teachers what they wanted.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t giving myself what I wanted: creativity and freedom.
I really do love school, which I know is a really nerdy thing to say. However, I hate the grading system. Feedback on how to improve my writing is always welcome, for this is how I improve my skills. But when teachers or professors grade my work, it feels like they are ranking my value.
I have always taken my grades to heart. If I received on bad grade, I would be convinced I was destined to fail as a writer. Therefore, I focused too much on trying to get the best grade possible and please my professors, while ignoring my own creative desires.
This desire to please creates some of the worst creative burnout imaginable. In the end, writing is supposed to be something I enjoy. And I should be allowed to write something truly terrible without fear of flunking out of school.
But when I am too afraid to take creative risks and see where my ideas take me, I am holding myself and my growth back. Fear of failure should not control the content I produce.
Sometimes it is beneficial to follow writing standards or analyze the material I read to develop a better understanding of how these techniques create something beautiful. This doesn’t mean I can’t also have fun.
This summer, I am reverting back to the youthful wonder I miss. I am going to let myself heal from creative burnout, read the books I want, and write the stories I want, even if they aren’t “literary masterpieces.”
Next semester, I’m going attend my classes and complete work with a new mindset. Obviously, I will still have to turn in assignments, but I don’t have to push myself to a breaking point with each one. Ultimately, I am going to create the stories I want and enjoy myself.
If I lose my purpose to create, then none of my education will even matter. To avoid this ultimate burnout, it’s time to focus on the process of creating instead of the grade end results. As cheesy as it sounds, only then will I truly love reading and writing again.