Burnout: A Big Problem with a (Not So) Simple Solution
Burnout: A Big Problem with a (Not So) Simple Solution
It’s debilitating. It really is. Unfortunately, not a lot of veterans to the haunt industry have ever dealt with it. Which makes sense, considering that it’d be difficult to be a veteran if you had to deal with it. The truth is, many haunters deal with Burn Out much more often than anyone thinks.
Burnout, for those that don’t know, is when you become so frustrated with a hobby that you’re ready to give it up for good. Some people are proud of the idea that if they ever become that, they’re done. This isn’t a bad mindset to be in. It helps to keep the passion and love of the field more important than the payout. It also helps to keep morale in the haunt high and lets everybody continue having a good time. The downside to getting out when the passion dies is that it also affects morale in the negative when a very creative member of the crew, veteran haunt leader, or a very talented actor leaves due to frustration or negative feelings. It can leave a void that is incredibly difficult to fill. This, in itself, is reason enough for the leaders of our field to take this seriously, but there are innumerable other blows to the haunt that can come from burnout.
I recently asked this question in an “Ask Me Anything” interview and the answer was pretty standard for our leadership:
“I have no idea.” [I’m paraphrasing, by the way.] “I have so much keeping me busy that if one aspect begins to frustrate me, I can go to another.” This makes sense to me and I could accept that as a viable means of prevention, except for one thing. What about those of us who only handle one aspect of being a haunter? The easy answer would be to accept that these things happen and people who only act, or only do makeup are replaceable the next season. This seems like a very cold answer, but it is an answer. I’m not a fan of this mentality, though. I believe that if you are brought into a haunt to act, do makeup, run security, or whatever your job may be, you are brought in to be a member of a family. As friends and family, it is our job to watch out for each other physically, emotionally, and mentally. Without that, we’re simply coworkers at a job grinding away with each other.
With that being said, how does one actually deal with Burnout? While it’s important to keep an eye on others for signs, it’s much more important to keep an eye on yourself and be able to see the signs within yourself. Are you growing increasingly frustrated with the projects that you’re working on? Are you growing increasingly frustrated having to go through the same training every single time haunt season comes around? Are you getting frustrated with… Are you seeing a pattern? Frustration is your enemy in this field. Basically, when it stops being fun and you lose sight of why you started doing this to begin with, that is burnout. Now that we know what the root of burnout is, we can now explore ways to deal with it. While some would say that this is the point to stop, there are other options. For some of us, stopping equates to ending a long term relationship. We poured so much into Haunting that just ending seems like such a defeatist cop out. How about, instead, just like in a long term relationship, instead of just leaving, we take a step back and become reacquainted with the reasons why we are here to begin with? It’s fun to scare people. It’s fun to step outside of yourself for a bit. It’s fun to let your inner monster out for a bit. It’s fun getting together with like-minded people and entertain people. It’s fun to be part of something glorious that celebrates what you enjoy. It’s easy to dwell on the negatives, but if we could just keep an eye on the positives as well, those negatives won’t hurt so badly.
Even if that doesn’t work, maybe stepping back and focusing on another aspect may be a good idea. I know, I know. That’s what the other guy said… and didn’t I say that it didn’t help much? Yes, but if you think about things on a different scale, it’s not totally bad advice. If your inability to do the pig squeal without hacking your lungs out is frustrating you, maybe take some time concentrating on your physical presence. If people are coming to you for advice and you’re getting tired of that role (it may be a crappy mindset, but we all have to deal with it at some point), maybe help that person find somebody else to get advice from. On a smaller scale, stepping away from the frustrating aspect and coming back to it later refreshes your mind and gets you out of the circular thinking that you might be stuck in.
How about stepping away from the idea of haunting for a couple hours? Going to play a video game, watch a comedy movie, call your mom/dad/sibling, cook dinner, or even take a nap can do so much to make sure that your life is not totally saturated in one thing. Realizing that your life is much bigger than haunting is so freeing. It will give you a chance to get far away from the frustrating aspects that when you do come back, that love for Haunting is still in place and has a whole new shine to it. Not being owners or operators allows us this advantage. While it’s wonderful to be passionate about Haunting, I equate living life for it to wishing for Christmas to be every day. You love it when it comes, but if it’s constantly there, it will wear on you.
The fact is that Burnout is a real problem in Haunting, whether people want to acknowledge that or not. If we really love Haunting, then finding a way to deal with burnout without leaving Haunting is a must. Especially if we want to keep truly talented and creative people in it. Burnout may be a bigger problem than most think, but it doesn’t have to end careers. By showing a little love at your favorite hobby, you can rekindle that special feeling that you get from Haunting.
About The Author: Lee Drake has been a haunt actor for 17 years and a stage actor for 26. He currently works with his graphic design company (Crowjan Designs) and writes short horror stories on the side. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you or someone you’ve known dealt with burnout before? Tell us about it!