On Cosplay and Burnout (+ commission updates)

Man, oh man. This post… This post has been a long time in the making. I started writing it well over a year ago, and it’s taken a lot of time, distance, and reflection to find the words I want to express myself.

Over the last two years, I’ve had some of the best moments of my cosplay life along with some of the worst. I’ve cut out toxic people from my life who I once held dear, solidified friendships with people who are essentially my chosen family, published my work professionally, competed in competitions, judged in many others, guested at several cons, and lots more. And through it all, I’ve struggled with burnout and what it means for me going forward as a seasoned-but-not-quite-veteran cosplayer.

I first started noticing the worst burnout of my cosplay life to date around late February/early March of 2017, almost 5 years since I started cosplay. I was juggling several commissions while simultaneously trying to crank out multiple new costumes for a few of my favorite local cons, All-Con and Dallas Fan Expo, which were a little over two weeks apart. I’d dealt with con crunch before, and thought I had it all well in hand, but I also got sideswiped by an increased load at my 9-5 that had me staying at the office late and checking my work e-mails from home — a situation I promised myself I’d never be in again after leaving a horribly toxic work environment several years ago.

Combine all of that with being responsible for 1/3 of our Madoka build at Cosmic Coterie (FYI, organizing a large group build is a crazy amount of work, but that’s something to discuss later), and I crashed HARD the week before All-Con 2017. All the work I’d done to make sure my costumes were finished more or less went to waste; some of the builds I made are still waiting to be worn, a year and a half later. I attended the con for a day, out of costume, and only stayed for a few hours because I had to go back home and work on more commissions.

The whole ordeal was very sobering for me. I realized in that time frame that cosplay was turning into a job, and it was an unpleasant and poor paying one at that. By the time all was said and done, I was easily spending 20+ hours a week working on cosplay for other people in addition to my 40-hour a week job, and this left me with next to no time to work on my own builds, let alone this blog.

The idea of quitting cosplay replayed in my mind over and over during the next few months, compounded by heartache, exhaustion, and physical and mental consequences I’m still trying to fix. Most of my summer con season in 2017 was a blur and a repetitive cycle of work to the bone up until the very last second, then smile tiredly for pictures, and hustle back home to work on the next thing. Cosplay can be a rat race of churning out new content every week or even every day if you let it, and I definitely did for a while.

This year has been infinitely better for me in terms of workload, in large part thanks to the workflow changes we voted on over at Cosmic Coterie. In our very early years, only a handful of people handled technical construction, which was how I got involved with the group. With our Madoka build, we tried to move toward a model where all members were largely responsible for their own builds, but we appointed the strongest crafters as team leads to help tackle the trickier parts of the costumes. This didn’t work out quite the way we envisioned and the bulk of construction still fell on a handful of people. When planning for this year came around, we decided that each person should be 100% responsible for their own builds. We still help each other out when the need arises (such as with our Outer Senshi build this year), but ultimately every person handles their own stuff. This has GREATLY reduced my overall stress, but I’ve still been guilty of taking on more work than I can handle this year, specifically in the realm of commissions.

Moving forward, I’m re-focusing on my efforts on getting back to my cosplay roots: making for the joy of making. I love learning new skills, and I love emphasizing craftsmanship above all else in my work. Working at the speed of light over the last few years has forced me to sacrifice both, and I’m excited to get back to doing what I love.

As a result, I’m taking a brief hiatus from commissions, at least through the end of 2018. I love doing commissions and helping people become their favorite characters. But the reality is that I can’t continue at this pace, especially while working full-time.

All that said, I hope y’all will stick with me through this next year. I have a lot of exciting projects and creative endeavors planned for the coming months, and I can’t wait to get back to sharing them all with you here.

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