A rough week and the effects of exhaustion on creative process

After weeks of creative flow, my body and creative mind reached tap-out status this past week.

Part of it is the volume of rehearsal I took on, sure, but truth be told the rehearsal schedule I booked for myself was not terribly demanding, nor in many cases was the intensity of the work I put in. I did put in several class sessions during one week in mid-August, but otherwise I’ve kept my dance slate mostly clean.

It’s my day job. Now, I work in finance and I’ve had this job since I first got back into theatre back in 2010. It’s a common denominator throughout my active Seattle theatre experience and is typically just as much a factor when things have gone well as it’s been when things have not gone well… which is to say it doesn’t interfere with my theatrical endeavors.

Recently that has changed. With my office in transition I have taken on additional demands, deadlines and other challenges that required a lot more of my energy… energy I did not have to devote to my dance pursuits once the workday’s done.

I also received less than two days notice on an apartment complex inspection, and while my home didn’t look treacherous it had also been a while since my home got a good cleaning… which I had to rigorously give over two nights earlier this week. With multiple events and projects the last few months, I did not keep the place as clean as I would like or should have. Addressing this not only killed all of my free/rest time (outside of sleep) over two days but demanded a lot of what little energy I had after tough workdays.

My home is now clean (with a new basic plan to keep it so) and in time this peak period at work can and should pass as things at work settle. If it doesn’t and the state persists then I have a serious problem, but I presume for now given available information that it will pass.

The recent demands have dramatically affected my personal projects. It’s one thing to come to the studio tired after a workday. I do that all the time and still produce. But my last couple rehearsals haven’t been productive: After limited work and production I cut both rehearsals short once I realized continuing wasn’t productive. I did reschedule one midweek rehearsal the night before, but that was fortuitously generous on Velocity’s part. Reschduling on less than 24 hours notice is generally not feasible so dodging a rehearsal once I realize I may not be up to it that day isn’t feasible, and probably not responsible in the long run as the feeling often points to a laziness: You don’t feel like going in, but then you get going and you’re up to speed.

Maintaining energy in a busy lifestyle is a constant struggle for every performance artist that couples their artistic pursuits with a day job. Some of us do a better job at mitigating the challenges than others, and all of us do better some times while doing not so well other times.

Vanessa DeWolf, who was once a serious athlete, told me she was trained to not just actively train but to actively seek out, book and take time to rest the body. The key to building stamina is to not just push your limits but to take time after pushing them to let your body rebuild and grow from the experience.

Now, I’ve long understood this to some degree and over my artistic life I’ve actively carved out time between the busy periods to take time and recharge, even to this day: I cleared the calendar for the 1-2 weeks before Strictly and after SFDI.

I’ve also been intensely active during stretches of my recent theatre training: Last summer I faced a gauntlet of Meyerhold Movement sessions, physically intense clown training sessions, improv classes and rehearsals. And that came on the heels of my SFD stage combat certification, itself preceded by a period of intense fight rehearsals with my test partner.

ALL of this came in-between 40 hour workweeks. So even though dance itself is new to me, the rigors of pushing my body into uncharted territory amidst a demanding schedule is not.

In this case, the ironically uncommon denominator was work. While work has always been present, it also has not been this demanding of my energy during any extended stretch. For the longest time, despite challenges associated with incomplete protocols (I won’t get into), I was to some great extent able to find habits and conserve energies that I could utilize in the evening. However, habit or no habit, I’ve had to burn much of my energy on the demands of my work. When it came time to develop my own work, I didn’t have much left and my work suffered.

I don’t want to take a hiatus from dance or making my own work. I still take, enjoy and get a lot from classes. The chance to create is one of the solaces between the rigorous demands I’m tasked with facing at work. And even now, having had almost 24 hours to decompress, I feel a lot better physically, mentally and emotionally. After meeting a major deadline at work that situation shows signs of settling substantially down.

I’m sure I just hit a rough patch and things are looking up. That said, sometimes the rough patches force you to take a long look at yourself and your habits, and recalibrate.

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