Exhibition Hangover : What no one is telling you
It’s not something anyone really talks about, but it plagues creators of all kinds. It happens in the aftermath of a show and it often strikes hardest just after the biggest of our career milestones. I call it the “Exhibition Hangover”. Like other hangovers it has the nasty backhanded sting fresh off the heels of a career high, but unlike others this one isn’t alcohol induced. Allow me to elaborate...
It set in like a dark cloud Saturday afternoon, following the most exciting exhibition I’ve had thus far as an emerging artist. I’ve been honored with several exhibitions this year, but this was the first at a dedicated gallery where I would share the entire gallery, with one other VERY talented artist. It’s the one I’ve been preparing for since last October and the last one I have on the calendar at the moment.
This was a milestone and now it is behind me.
The early warning signs went unnoticed, until first big wave wash over me around 4pm Saturday afternoon. I crawled into bed and couldn’t get out. The next morning came and I felt okay until lunch time, but I didn’t have time to slow down because of kids’ activities. The next wave hit shortly after 2pm Sunday. This time I crashed harder than the first, clocking a 3 hour nap, and upon waking I was unable exit the prone position save a quick tossing-together of edibles for the growing people. I thought the worst of it was behind me when monday came and I stubbornly went to the gym, made a quick stop at the grocery store, before catching a lunch-date with The Weatherman. When the final wave hit, refusing to be ignored, it came like a tsunami of mixed emotions. First I was cranky and then I went numb. If it were big enough, I would have hidden in the closet with a pillow and blanket for the next month, but alas they know where to find me.
What is going on with me?!...I had been so energized just a few days before.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude, but I also feel depleted. I am tired. I don’t feel like doing anything that I love and I am stuck neither here nor there. Wrestling a feeling of heaviness and foreboding, that if I do not start my new series right away all my momentum will be lost, my work forgotten, and my energy spent for naught.
This is the definition of what I call the “Exhibition Hangover”. It’s like a slave-driver wielding a relentlessly-nasty whip threatening a broken and tired back. It’s twin brother goes by the name “Imposter Syndrome” with a whole other twisted game. But Hangover continuous loops the highlight reel and then threatens to take it all away at the same time. It pleads with you to forget about rest and do more and be more. The two of them often sneak in together while you’re too busy hustling to notice. Thankfully, I have dealt with these two before so let me tell you what I’m going to do.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that rest is part of the creative process, though easily forgotten, and often hard to come by. When I find myself fresh on the heels of a career high, I have to make space for rest on the other side. Being too busy, too divided, or too tired, is the best way to suck your creative energy dry. So in the next week or so, I’m making space.
Second, I’m going to take time to remember who I am when I’m not creating. Creativity maybe my forte, but I do not cease to exist apart from it. If you find yourself in this trap, take time to do something things apart from the creation process. Maybe it’s Marie-Kondo-ing your hall closet? Maybe it’s fantasizing about re-doing your living room? Whatever it is, remember to share your headspace with other things. Creativity isn’t going to leave you just because you’re taking a break. In fact, it performs better when well rested. While you’re resting, if you find something that ignites you for a moment, sketch it out, write it down, but save it for when your energy returns. Consider these subtle bursts as nothing more than fuel for the fire you will re-ignite at the appropriate time.
Lastly, if you experience the exhibition hangover, you are normal. I know no one is talking about this, but it’s a thing. I promise. It’s okay to feel exhausted and uninspired after the culmination of something you’ve been working tirelessly toward. I just spent 4 months expending a ton of energy balancing all my worlds for crying out loud! And I kicked some major ass! So you’ll have to excuse me while I recover. In the meantime, I’m going to spend the next week or so making room to experience and process all that was, while preparing for what’s next.
When the hangover clouds clear, you and I will be poised and ready to kick some major tail again.