Monday, March 16, 2015

Surviving Burnout

Life is a never-ending labor of love, and some stretches are more draining than others. 
(Photo by LBG.)

A few days after my book was published in December, I woke up and confronted a weariness beyond all imagining. Something was clearly wrong with me (bronchitis, as it turned out). But it was more than that. I didn't want to think. I didn't want to read. I didn't want to write. I didn't want to do anything but lie in bed until it was time to pick up my son from school, at which point I could drive home and get back in bed again. This went on for much longer than I care to admit to you.
(Photo by LBG.)

Fortunately, in the last few weeks, I've started to feel like myself again. I have projects and plans for the future, some of which involve the blog and some of which don't. I'm hoping it's all doable. I love blogging mainly because I am so endlessly fascinated with my readers, from whom I've learned so much (SO much!) over the past seven years. I have missed you these last few months and wondered many times what you all are up to -- what you are reading, what you are cooking for dinner, where you are traveling. Blogging is at its most richly rewarding when it's a two-way street, it really is.

For me, the road to feeling better involved taking a deliberate break from books and words. One weekend, I sorted through my huge collection of magazine photos, saved only the images that made my heart pound with passion, and transformed a drab upstairs hallway into an intersection of inspiration. 

All that color on my walls made me feverish to be surrounded by more so reupholstered a daybed in rich green velvet...

...and gave a gilt chair an amour propre with cubism.

The more I engaged my senses in these kinds of simple activities, the better I began to feel. Another day I bought a few skeins of cashmere yarn and knitted a cottage with a grass roof and embroidered climbing roses all over it. I had no instructions, I set no rules, I just gave myself the freedom to create and the room to explore. 
(Knitted cottage in progress. Photo by LBG.)

A few weeks ago I took a piece of canvas fabric and started to play around with some black thread and a scrap of green velvet. My only goal was to have no goal. Before I knew it, Edith Sitwell had appeared. 
(Photo by LBG.)

These two little projects are inconsequential, but from them I realized a profound truth: 
In order to create something, you first need to create some space in your life for that to happen. Writing my book these last two years was so all-encompassing (and rightly so) that it left very little space to do anything else.

I haven't figured out exactly what all this means yet, but for the first time in months I'm excited again. There are exciting new projects I want to pursue (and which, when the time is right, I'll share with you). As for the blog, I would love to give it a fresh new redesign -- bigger photos, cleaner lines, more videos -- and create plenty of space for things to happen.

All I know is that life means change and change means life. And that when something burns out, the surest way forward is to kindle a new flame.
 (Photo by LBG.)

Stay tuned,

P.S. How are YOU? xx


Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Even creative minds need to lay fallow for a bit. Sorry to hear you haven't bern at your best but going by the literal looks of Edith I think you are well on track. Am waiting patiently for some spring flowers to bloom in Asia. Stay well.

Michelle said...

Glad to see you are back and looking forward to learning more about this "mysterious" new project. I follow several blogs and surmise that it was more than coincidence that all three have been on hiatus for most of winter, then suddenly all three posted in the past twenty-four hours. A nice surprise and perfect timing since I haven't been able to get into my books and been sort of depressed without Downton Abbey to look forward to. FYI-have you seen the commercials for "Wolf Hall" coming soon to PBS? I can't wait.

Hallie Smith said...

Welcome home. I missed you.

Love everything you posted! You definitely have an easy group of friends here.

Hels said...

At the end of any intense experience, people need to prepare for "going back to normal life". At the end of a week long residential conference, the participants are always asked to thoughtfully visualise who will be at home, what tasks will be waiting for them, will they keep in contact with other conference-goers, even what bills will have to be paid.

Getting involved in simple tasks is always the best, at first. Sorting through your huge collection of magazine photos is a clever task, manageable and useful.

Barbara said...

So glad you are back - in your own time - and that Spring is creeping back towards us all. I always look forward to seeing you in my in box and glad that you are feeling the joys of return in every way.

Jeanne Henriques said...

Totallly get it Lisa....The BBB.. Big Blogger Burnout. Your words are familiar and it sounds like you exactly the right approach for you...that's the most important thing. I love your Edith Sitwell creation...and your velvet daybed...very Bloomsbury.

A few words I scribbled for inspiration when I hit BBB earlier in the year.....from T.S. Eliot

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

Happy Exploring... :)

WendyMcLeodMacKnight said...

Lisa, your post, as always, was timely. I am in the throes of. Final revision to the middle grade novel I'm writing, with a looming deadline that makes me sweat! In the midst of work on Sunday I had to stop and do something creative, but in a completely different area, so I made an apple pie and lasagna from scratch, including making the noodles. It was such a relief to do something different! A creative life needs breaks now and then. I am crazy about that little knit house - it looks exactly like the one I put in my book and has tweaked something in my imagination. Love the green on the day bed. There really is nothing like colour and texture to cheer things up!

Serenknitity said...

Ha! Was just thinking 'what happened to my favourite blogger' this morning and ordered your book on Amazon.
Looking forward to more posts.
Am reading Cloud Atlas (late to party as ever)and waiting for the weather to warm up in the UK so I can wear armfuls of bangles (too cold in the winter).

susan burpee said...

Welcome back. Your absence has been felt...but I'm so glad you were able to take some time to recover.

Unknown said...

Missed you, loved your book and am so glad you're feeling better - Spring is here, time for us all to start feeling rejuvenated.

Sharron said...

So happy to see your blog in my mailbox this morning! I've missed your creativity and inspiration. I too have let a very long cold gray winter in Chicago drain me of inspiration for a while. I'm slowly emerging bit by bit. We painted our dining Ralph Lauren's Wild Oat, which I just love, hung new drapes and placed a beautiful wool runner I purchased on a summer trip to New Mexico across the dining room table and now it is a calm haven where I enjoy spending time. I love your cabin and turbaned gal. I have done some alla prima painting to help bring my artistic self back to the surface including a vase of daffodils. I'd include a photo here but don't know how to attach one in a comment. Looking forward to more fabulousness from you!

Susan in TX said...

Glad to see you back and being creative. You have been missed. Love your inspiration wall! Do what you love and take your time - we'll still be here.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Glad you have recovered -the art projects are AMAZING, esp Sitwell!

Lisa Thomson said...

Its nice to hear from you, Lisa. I've missed your beautiful posts and this was one for the senses. You never disappoint. I'm sorry to hear you were lethargic and ill. You've got your energy back now, and that's obvious from the pics!

Writing a book is a monumental labor of love and I can understand it was all consuming. "Make space for creative activities" Thank you for that lovely reminder!

Happy Spring!

MJH Design Arts said...

So glad that you did take that time to renew. Your body was just doing what it needed to do. Glad that you are back with us. xoxo Mary

Margie said...

I am so happy today, knowing you are back. Your book is magnificent. Creativity needs time - you were not lying fallow! Space and a minimal 'to-do' list are essential. Welcome back on this cusp of Spring.


Karena Albert said...

So glad you are feeling better...we all go through these times of a loss of inspiration or impetus, burnout! Love your new wall of exciting images!

The Arts by Karena

La Contessa said...

SOUNDS Like your on the right path!

Frances said...

What a pleasure to find this post. Somehow I had imagined that after your book's publication, you might have wished for a bit of a breather.

And, so it was. Winter is a time that can call to many of us to slow it down a bit, even if we have not just completed a major project of some sort.

It's clear from what you've show us here that you've been emerging from the restful time with great panache. All your projects are quite splendid. The knitted cottage, with embroidered roses might be my favorite, by a thread.

Best wishes. xo

Unknown said...

Hello, Lisa.
Glad that you were able to honor your instincts and nurture yourself through the winter. Glad too that you offered this post.
I wondered if your blog silence was connected to busyness and book promotion or connected to something troubling.
Virginia Woolf declared that other people's lives become decorative when one takes no part in them, but your life is as real to me as any nearby friend's.
Hurrah for spring and for whatever fosters resilience.

One of my winter books has been "On Looking" by Alexandra Horowitz. I recommend it.

Green velvet upholstery, the knit house, Edith Sitwell conjured from thread and fabric, an inspiration installation, and your op-art response to gilt: you've offered a new chapter of novel interiors. Thank you, Lisa.
--Elliot in Minnesota

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Coulda shoulda woulda:
"...waiting patiently for some spring flowers to bloom in Asia..." What a lovely phrase -- hope they awaken soon!

Yes, I have seen ALL of Wolf Hall because I subscribe to myexpat network. The interiors are insanely stunning and lit only by candlelight -- I think it's coming to PBS soon? Also, there's a BBC series called Indian Summers about British expat ladies in Shimla, India during the Raj that apparently is incredible.

Hallie Smith:
Thank you so much xxx

Hello, Hels! I love what you wrote -- visualization is a wonderful tool -- I used to do it a lot, maybe it's time to do it again! xx

You are so sweet, thank you.

Jeanne Henriques:
I love that TS Eliot quote SO MUCH!!

First of all, congratulations on your book! And second of all, your Sunday sounds perfect -- the restorative power of baking can never be underestimated!

Ooh, Cloud Atlas. And..."armfuls of bangles" sounds incredibly chic. You go, girl.

susan burpee:
Thank you xx


Your dining room sounds beautiful! I am a big fan of rugs on tables after my trip to Antwerp -- all the homes looked like Old Master still-lifes. And "Wild Oat" sounds like a wonderfully freeing color.

Susan in TX:
Thank you so much xx

Architect Design:
You know how I feel about YOU! xxx

Lisa Thomson:
Thanks for your lovely words -- happy spring to you as well!

MJH Design Arts:
Glad to be back! xx

Thank you -- I guess I need to look as my time off as "stirring dull roots with rain," a la TS Eliot's magnificent words. xx

Karena Albert:
Thank you, Karena. You have always been such a bright and beautiful source of inspiration for me. xx

La Contessa:
Thank you, milady. xx

I love your way with words -- thanks for the sweetness and encouragement. xx

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Eliot in Minnesota:
I hadn't heard that VW quote before -- and LOVE it. Love your words as well. And will check out "On Looking." Thank you. xx

Kathy Smith said...

I love your blog, and I am happy you are back. The projects you shared with us are beautiful. I purchased your book to give to my sister. She has a lovely parlor lined with books. Her birthday was last week and I still have the book.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

Can't tell you how often I'd stop by…and sigh. I missed you, your words, your photos. And, then I'd realize-whoa! She's written a book, she's got to be exhausted beyond imagination. So, no worries. We are thrilled to have you any time. At all. Take GOOD care of your soul.

June said...

Oh, that beautiful mind of yours!

Sara Langley De Costa Graffam said...

I've missed you!!! I was just talking about you to my husband 2 days ago. So glad to hear from you and see your projects of inspiration. Take good care. Spring will infuse us all with a little joo joo!! Sara xo

meribe said...

Lisa ... I have given several copies of your divine work to friends as gifts. Even gave away my own when I ran out! It was a thoroughly selfish thing to do ... I am now so deeply loved!

No really ... I worried that any overheard discussions about Novel Interiors would sound orgasmic! Congratulations just falls short ...

Meribeth Wulff

helen tilston said...

Hello Lisa and a warm welcome back. I have missed you and the joy you bring.

Your creative projects have a beauty that is truly original and one can feel how much you have put into these projects.

i may be unusual and I love the identity of blogs and feel sad when bloggers change the headers and modernize, which can often be cold. It is like the fireplace is gone. I know I am but one voice in the blogosphere.

Welcome home

Michelle said...

Thank you, Lisa. It looks like I am going to have to check into that expatnetwork, even though I am not an expat. And thanks for telling me about Indian Summers. Which sounds like my kind of show. Anything British, and I am in.

HB said...

Good to see you back.

Having just been through something similar myself - bereavement blogging burnout so to speak - I totally understand your slump and your new creative spark.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

missed you1 glad you are back. you have inspired me to return to my painting. you and PVE. thank-you. anne k fleming

naomi.dallob said...

So glad you are back. The blog, like all else, SHOULD evolve. Otherwise we risk stagnancy. Creative endeavors do require a small still space to erupt. I'm glad you are back in this crazy game

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such sparking synchronicity. On this cold rainy afternoon, I have been curled up in my favourite chair with your book in my lap, occasionally breaking from the words to watch a red cardinal settling into a Spring nest just outside my window. Truly, I do adore your book.... my favorite design book ever, I do believe. I marveled to myself anew today how much work it represents and I wondered how you are doing. You are to be congratulated on the bright accomplishment and quite possibly institutionalized from all it must have taken to get it so right. So when I flipped up my Mac and saw you'd resurfaced my smile was quite genuine.

I have promoted the book several times on the blog, and sincerely so. And I am so happy to see you are back and hopefully replenished by your time in the bed. (Edith Wharton wrote there, you know, so nothing to be apologetic about.) Personally, I think laughter and long sleeps cure just about everything, at least in my experience.

Wishing you all, more, good things, my friend!

Emily said...

Ah nice to read your words again, and to have a peek at your recent creations (LOVE Edith!) You have been so busy, you deserved a break! I just renovated a house and added a library in my dining room. A dream come true! Your book sits proudly on a shelf!
Here's to Spring and your continued sparks of creativiy!

Kathleen said...

Happy 1st Day of Spring, I have enjoyed your blog for a very long time -so thank you. Here is my little attempt at making it a two way street...
I am cooking a pot roast for dinner tonight with carrots, potatoes, onions, mushrooms and a nice splash of sherry. I'm reading "A Spool of Blue Thread". I've been crafting little felt needle books.
I love your knit cottage with mossy roof...
Best to you for continued recovery & renewal

amazingv said...

Welcome back, Lisa! Can't tell you how many times I stopped by to see if you'd come back to blogging -- loved your book and totally understand the need for a post-publication break. I'm glad you got the rest you needed. We're all looking forward to progress reports on that knitted cottage and your new project!

Karen&Jack said...

so glad you're back,missed your blog,love the projects that just sort of happened!

nanne said...

bring a huge project to a close is like birthing a child. exhausting, exhilarating & huge drain on emotions, energy & hormones.

your post about working with your hands reminded me of an article i read this past week. a couple, one an orthopedic surgeon, the other a psychiatrist, married. in the course of their conversations they talked about patients who had lost functionality of their hands and how depressing that was and, on the flip side, depressed patients reporting that creative activities that required handiwork helped to diminish their depression. anyway, i think they wrote a book about it.

Tara Dillard said...

Was sick too this winter, for 3 weeks. Doctor twice.

A friend, in her 40's, had the same flu. She did not go to doctor.

She died. Her funeral was weeks before my last medical bill arrived. Sobering to look at the amount due, $254. Money well spent.

She left a little boy and a wife. Great loss.

Glad you are WELL !

BERMD said...

well something is working because these back to the world projects are just charming. All the best, BER

lr7 said...

This post is so inspiring for me! A perfect guide for getting back on one's creative path.
I like your ideas for your new blog design - except that the photos do not need to be larger. They fit on my screen just right. When bloggers use larger photos they take longer to load and I can't see the whole photo at once on my screen. -cheers

janzi said...

What a smashing blog post... how talented you really are*** I was awed by your cleverness.. thank you so much for sharing.. I love reading you, and will be back... hugs from across the pond..xx

JudyMac said...

Delighted you're back! You were sorely missed. Santa brought me a copy of Novel Interiors, and this bibliophile loves looking at the unique and delightful rooms you rounded up for our viewing and reading pleasure. Such a fabulous creative life you live. I'm very envious. My creative ideas seem to come in unannounced spurts out of nowhere, but I have had a few in my lifetime, the results of which I thought somewhat enhanced my home decor. Look forward to your ever-inspiring posts.

tracey toole said...

Just finished reading your book and loved it! Every night after I put my 21 month old to bed I couldn't wait to get to bed with a glass of wine and your book! Thank you for making it!

Elizabeth said...

Love love love your blog. So glad to hear (read) your voice again.

Kirsten Maurer said...

I was just lamenting to my husband that one of my favorite blogs was no longer posting and viola. Never doubt the light you shine others life's. Take what time you need to restore. I'm just glad we got a little of your fabulous here again.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Your comment made me laugh out loud! Thank you! xx

Darling Vava, thank you xxx

Gosh, thank you! xx

Sara Langley de Costa Graffan:
You're right about spring -- I really think it will!

You are VERY funny. Thank you so much for supporting the book. I'm so happy you like it! xx

Helen Tilston:
Big hug to you. And that's a very interesting insight about changing the blog. xx

I haven't seen Indian Summer yet (it's not on the BBC anymore, but I think it's coming to PBS), but Nicola Beauman of Persephone Books said it's a very guilty pleasure!

Sending you love and light as well -- we bloggers have to support each other!

Anne K Fleming:
And you in turn have now inspired me. xx

Naomi Dallob:
Hello! How's your beautiful house? Thank you so much for your inspiring words! xx

Pamela Terry and Edward:
Seriously, you are the GREATEST. Thank you for your beautiful words -- they have warmed my heart in a big way. xx

Sounds like you've been busy too! Here's to both of us having a wonderful spring! xx

I am living vicariously through your meals and projects now! Thank you for those wonderful images now roosting in my head.

Alas, cottage has already been given to a friend (forgot to take a photo). But I'm inspired to make a manor house now -- stay tuned!

Thank you so much!

Yes yes yes.

And fascinating about the therapeutic benefits of working with your hands! I gravitated to it instinctively; love that their is a scientific basis!

Tara Dillard:
I am SO sorry to hear about your friend. What a devastating loss. My thoughts go out to you and to her family. xx

Thank you! xx

Another good insight about blog photos -- and one I wouldn't have known if not for you!! Def will take this into consideration.

Hugs right back to you! xx

Hello friend! Thank you so much for supporting the book! Big hug xx

Seriously love your comment and am feeling very honored! Thank you!! xx

Honestly, thank you so much!

Kirsten Maurer:
Thank you so much -- I will do my best to keep you a fan! xx

Tree said...

Your words always inspire. This time, sharing your "burnout" inspires us to listen to the wise voice within as to when it is time to rest. First a whisper, then a nudge, then a tap on the shoulder, then a shove, and if we still don't heed... a big kaboom!

C Newcomer Original Works of Art said...

Hi Lisa! Thank you for this post. I am hatching out of my own creative cocoon now, trying to honor the time needed to incubate new ideas. It was baffling, but I now realize necessary. Here's to new directions!

noreen said...

Welcome back! I let my space go to spend more time with my family. Because I'm a teacher, I may go back in the summer - when there's space. So happy you let yourself relax and enjoy new projects!

jamison said...

Lovely to see your blog back - keep well

jamison said...

Lovely to see your blog back - keep well

Shannon said...

Lisa, your book is SO inspiring. One of my favorite design books ever. Everything featured has such great vibes. Nice work, and thank you!

Cristin Wills said...

Delighted to see your posts are back--like the breeze arriving with a new season. Love your book. Keep up your creative curating! Would love to learn who you use for reupholstering in LA area...

24 Corners said...

Lisa, your foray back into the creative spirit from the emptiness of inspirational burnout is a bright light in my own present realm of artistic blah, thank you so much for sharing it.
I bet Edith would've just loved reclining on that green velvet chaise while donning her matching headdress, both are absolutely fantastic...your bedtime 'muse resting' certainly paid off (I just want to hug that little cottage)!
Wishing you continued creative joy...
xo J~

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