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Avoiding Cosplay Burnout

Cosplay burnout is every avid costumer's nightmare, yet it still happens to many of us. If you are in the midst of a burnout or think you feel one coming on, I'm here to help! Let's jump on in and get to work on saving your hobby.


Avoid Cosplay Burnout Banner

It has been said that there is no right way to cosplay, and in general, this is true, but on a personal level, there are many right and wrong ways. What 'right way' means for you will depend heavily on what you have space and budget for, what you physically can do, and what brings you happiness.


Figuring out what your 'right way to cosplay' is and prioritizing with it in mind will go a long way toward helping you avoid burnout.

Time to bust out a ~Venn Diagram~

'Your right way to Cosplay' Venn Diagram

Burnout happens when an activity is not serving your best interests. Your subconscious is telling you a hard truth- something about how you engage with this hobby is making you miserable.


Not all of us are working with the same tools, metaphorically and literally. Reality is what you can handle is different from what someone else can. To fight burnout, you have to start by being honest with yourself (and possibly your friends group) about your motivations and means so you can get to the root of the issue. Accepting reality and making accommodations for yourself is critical.


Adapting your approach to cosplay may mean saying no to being in a friend's group cosplay, making only a few costumes a year, or not rushing to enter a contest. The trade-off is finding joy & making good memories on your own terms. I always keep two aphorisms in mind: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are" & "Carpe Diem." These remind me to accept what I have to work with & to prioritize what contributes to my happiness.


Now that you hopefully have a good idea of your priorities- or are at least thinking about them- let's get into the actionable Proactive and Reactive steps you can take to stave off burning out. Read on, but with the caveat that these suggestions are not guaranteed to work well for you. Finding the best action for your situation will take trial and error.



Proactive Steps

 

Set a daily cut-off time for crafting and stick to it.

Example: I have a rule that I should not be in my workshop past 10 p.m. I tend to make more mistakes and feel frustrated after a certain point in the day, so pushing through is not helpful. When I don't abide by this, seemingly without fail, I spend the next day seam ripping. Cosplay crafting involves many challenging tasks you won't be as good at when exhausted. Pick a time of day that works for you & builds in time for your daily routines, so you won't neglect those.

Set a hard cut-off date for finishing projects before a convention or deadline.

"This is fun!" said no one ever when sewing a costume in a hotel room during a convention. Much like the previous suggestion, this one involves putting up a kibosh on crafting after a certain point. Many more things can go wrong when scrambling to finish tasks right before an event (or, heaven forbid, at one.) You'll make more mistakes, be more likely to forget something or cut corners, and generally enjoy yourself less if you are crafting in a panic. Set a hard and fast deadline for when things need to be either finished or forgotten at least several days before your event, and stick to it. Remember, it's just a costume & finishing it at the expense of your own happiness is not worth it.


Make time for comfy or silly costumes, too.

This one is one of my most tried and true tactics. When I feel burnout coming on, it's time to wear something stupid. Sometimes, what you really need is more fun in your hobby. As adults, we are constantly encouraged to give up fun. Your hobby should be a place where you can regain it. If you are always focused on complex costumes, competitions, accolades, or a paycheck, you can lose sight of the joy that being ridiculous in an outfit can bring. Do something silly.


Practice Self-Care

It bears reminding some of the community that you can and should take time away from working hard at your hobby occasionally, especially if you also have a demanding job. If you aren't good at taking time off (I feel ya), set 'self-care' rewards for completing tasks. Have you just finished sewing a blind hem? Put on a collagen mask & vegetate to spa music. Sanded all your 3D prints? TAKE A NAP!


Use an App to keep yourself in a good headspace

This option is really an extension of the previous suggestion but is particularly helpful if you, like me, have ADHD. Don't just plan your time around work tasks. Pick an app that gently reminds you when to take those much-needed breaks! A cute app like Aloe Bud is perfect for this.

I recommend setting Aloe Bud to remind you to:

  • Take breaks

  • Stop work for the day

  • Stretch and hydrate

  • Leave a friend a nice comment on their cosplay post

These task reminders will leave you with a sense of accomplishment & good vibes each time you follow through. (This isn't a paid sponsorship. I just really like this app & team behind its goals!)

Join a Discord Cosplay Community

Quite a few of my acquaintances swear by this tactic! There are an ever-increasing number of communities of crafters running Discord servers. Some even host sewing hangouts over video chat! If you are the kind of person who is motivated by being around your peers, look to places where you can interact with them in real-time. Cosplay-centric Discord servers can be a great place to make new friends, learn skills, and find motivation. Since it is in a community forum environment, you can be as chatty or introverted as you want. You can search for Discord servers to join here.



So now that we've covered some proactive tactics let's get into the hard stuff- What to do if you are already in burnout.



Reactive Steps

 

Return to a franchise or character you have nostalgia for.

This is my number 1, heavy-duty, nearly foolproof tactic for getting myself out of a creative slump. Sometimes, the only thing that will get you feeling as hyped as you once were 'back in the good ol' days' is putting yourself back in that headspace. Nothing gets me jazzed about cosplaying quite like fandom does- and I mean the really strong 'this is all I will talk about for the next millennia' kind of fandom. Take some time to rewatch an anime, read a comic, or play a game you once loved to a concerning degree. Now, embrace that cringe and start planning your nostalgic-fueled cosplay.


Remake a costume you know you can improve on.

Remaking something from when you first entered the hobby or made when you were at a lower skill level can be kathartic. It is gratifying to prove to yourself how far you've come. This could be especially helpful if your burnout was partly caused by a lack of personal or public acknowledgment of your hard work. Take pride in finding tasks you once found difficult are now easy, and sit with that feeling for a bit. Costuming is deceptively challenging work, and you deserve to feel proud about what you have made.


Join a Cosplay Meetup.

Many events, large and small, have fan-run cosplay meetups throughout the days of the convention. They are often centered around specific fandoms, but sometimes they will have a theme, like 'Steampunk' or 'Met Gala,' that can include costumes from various franchises. These events are perfect for rekindling your cosplay motivation by getting to know others with the same interest. I highly recommend this for extroverts, in particular. An online version of this can be achieved by posting in groups on social platforms, but there is something uniquely special about being in costume with a pack of people who all feel the same way about Stede x Ed or Gundam as you do.


Take a short hiatus to indulge in another related hobby.

Maybe you really do need to take a break from cosplay. Acknowledging that you need to step back but want to return to it after you've regained some energy can be helpful. In the interim, try another nerdy hobby adjacent to cosplay- Dive into the world of LARP, make a Vtuber, join a D&D group, write fanfiction, or get really into tradeable card collecting. There are endless options of hobbies you can try that overlap with the same communities of people who cosplay or attend conventions. Choosing a hobby under the same geek umbrella will help keep you tethered to the nerd community at large, making it less likely that you will feel out of your element or lonely. Many of us cosplay for the social aspects of the hobby, so it is essential to retain that sense of belonging in the spaces you navigate for fun.


Do a costume swap with a friend.

Costume swaps can be very good for breaking you out of a rut. Borrow a costume you may never have wanted to make on your own, or a character that is way outside your usual type, or try something out of your comfort zone that you've secretly always wanted to cosplay. You'll ins