Maker Ennui

Photo of tools for sewing gift bags

To make things from raw materials has long brought joy to humans. It is creativity and capability. It is craft and cleverness.

But sometimes we find ourselves at loose ends. We finish a big project and… just… peter out. We get bored or frustrated with what we’re working on and turn away from it. And the ennui sets in. Nothing captures the attention. Projects waiting on the “to make” list suddenly aren’t so appealing. Excuses set in. You get started, but the project has no heart.

Photo of knitting being ripped out.
I like to rip out languishing projects when I don’t know what else to work on.

Maker ennui goes with the territory. It isn’t a failing. We make, we unmake, we reflect — this isn’t a rigid cycle, but instead different stages that we can be in at any time. Probably simultaneously too. Sometimes the reflection stage can feel transcendent, as one explores a new theme in freewriting or takes photos of a beautiful landscape stumbled upon and unplanned for. But sometimes our creative self needs to retreat and rest. I believe, in our busy modern lives, that feels like ennui. The brain doesn’t know how else to make us stop except to pull the plug. The instinct and habit to create is there, but the conduit that gives it meaning is temporarily shut down.

When you have maker ennui, this is a good time to:

  • take a nap — sleep is healing.
  • read a book — something light and fun, unless you’d really rather that academic discourse on Georgian townhouse architecture. Who am I to judge?
  • learn something new — if you’re a knitter, try woodworking; if you’re a writer, try canning jam. Beginner mind is a beautiful thing.
  • deep clean your house or studio or office — this either fills you with dread or excitement; run with it.
  • spend time with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time — reconnect, stir up old ideas, make new ones.
  • get your hands dirty in the garden — whether it’s pulling weeds or planting flowers, soil is good for you. Don’t have a garden? Go help someone else with their yard.
  • move your furniture around or make a decor change. Hate your bedroom curtains? Now’s the time to freshen up!
  • cook and bake — stock up your freezer with homemade soup and bread. It’s great insurance against those days when you’re too wrapped up in your making to stop to cook.

Some people are cyclical in their making, gardening in the summer and quilting in the winter. Maybe that’s you. Maybe it’s not ennui, but it just time to shift gears and sew a summer wardrobe.

Maker ennui can last hours, days, or even months. Go with the flow, try to determine what your body is telling you it needs, rather than feel frustrated. Your creativity and drive to make will return and you will have the energy to run with it if you let yourself rest.

How do you like to recharge?