Just as you can burnout on many different activities, you can also experience creative burnout. Not every creative endeavor will lead to this state, but many creatives have or will experience this at one time or another during their lives. Creative burnout can feel overwhelmingly frustrating and frightening, but you don’t have to fear this state and I’ll explain why.
If you feel alone in this, please feel free to email me. I often struggle with this very issue and I may be able to help you. Creative burnout can be terribly depressing and no one should have to deal with it alone.
What Is Creative Burnout
Creative burnout is not the same as creative block (more commonly known as writer’s block). If you’re interested in how to remedy creative block, read my article on writer’s block.
Creative burnout is not the same as a dry creative well. I also have an article about the creative well if you’re struggling with that.
Creative burnout occurs when you overwork your creativity to the point where you become exhausted. You feel powerless to move forward. You feel overworked and under-appreciated. You don’t know if what you’re doing (or possibly even your life) is worth continuing. You fight to stay above the tide, trusting and hoping that the lifeboat will come and save you, but you’re exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. Your efforts are not appropriately rewarded, so you find yourself sinking, unable to find the energy to move forward.
Does this sound like you?
If it does, please take a few minutes to read and digest what I have to say. It may save you.
Why Creative Burnouts Occur
Creative burnouts occur for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because you’re overworked and under rewarded. Sometimes it’s because of prolonged stress. Sometimes it’s because your work is creatively or mentally unfulfilling with repetitive and seemingly indefinite objectives.
Other times, burnout is tied to your habits. Perhaps you work too much or take on far more than you can handle. You may be sleep deprived. Worse, you may not have a circle of friends and loved ones who provide you with the support you need.
Your personality can also pull you under the tide. The need for things to be perfect or the inability to take your hands off the wheel can stab you deeply. You must realize that not every eventuality can be accounted for. Pobody’s nerfect. Sometimes you have to lean into that imperfection in order to move forward.
I have a very turbulent personality. I’m quick to feel down on myself when, just the day before, I felt fine. I don’t believe I’m bipolar or manic in any way, but my personality is closer to type A than type B. This causes shifts in my confidence and in my ability to view my work objectively. I’m optimistic about life, but I can be pessimistic about my own abilities.
How to Fix a Creative Burnout
The first step to fixing creative burnout is to take a step back and breathe. Once you’ve taken a step back, stay back. Let yourself continue to breathe. The reason you’re burned in the first place is because you’ve overworked yourself.
Burnout is much like pulling a muscle. Time and care are the only things that will heal the problem. You can’t push through the pain. You can’t ignore it. You’ve got to relax.
Find someone to talk to. If you can find another creative who can relate to the issue, contact them. Explain how you’re feeling and accept their support. You might find this kind of support in a spouse or a sibling, friends and extended family, or teachers and spiritual leaders. The point isn’t for them to fix your burnout. The point is that they listen and allow you to vent.
Another method is to try to find perspective. A regular mind dump really helps clear the stress from your day to day life. Prolonged stress leads to burnouts. Be sure you taking time to capture your ideas and thoughts so that you don’t have to hold them in your mind. Reevaluate what’s important to you and cut the things that are not adding to these values.
Preventing Creative Burnout
There are steps you can take to keep you from falling into burnout’s trap, but they all boil down to one concept: balance.
Don’t allow yourself to be overworked. Set boundaries and work only within those time limits. No email, no practicing, no producing. Just spend time with yourself. If you are an extrovert, go out with family and friends. Have fun and live a little. Some of your best work are catalyst by stepping away from the project at hand and doing something different.
Learn how to properly relieve stress. High daily stress levels not only takes a toll on you mentally, but physically as well. There are many resources for stress management online. Take your favorite search engine for a spin and see what you can find.
Adopting good eating and exercise habits are a big help. Exercise and diet are strongly correlated with stress and mental health. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of business!
Find a distracting hobby. Sometimes you need to find a hobby that can pull you out of your daily grind. For many people, it’s doing something that works your creativity. For you (the creative) you might want to find something that doesn’t take a lot of creative energy at all. I enjoy mindless video games for this purpose.
What About You?
Writing this is just as much for me as it is for you. I understand what it means to burn yourself out. If you would like to talk to someone about it, feel free to contact me.
I hope you found this helpful. If so, please share this blog with someone who might need it.
Have you ever experienced creative burnout?
How did you deal with it?
Toss me a comment below to let me know what you think!