Conquering Creative Burnout

Spencer Wichman

How To Deliver When You’re Feeling Drained

Image by Nicolas Jehly on Unsplash

Creativity can be a double-edged sword. The ability to create something out of nothing is a power, and with power comes responsibility! Even the brightest minds are limited, and as expansive as our imaginations may be we’ve all inevitably faced that impending deadline. The pressure to produce. The need to deliver.

When the pressure is mounting and your creative wheels won’t turn, what’s to be done? Creative burnout is a very real and very important hurdle to overcome. Though it probably feels overwhelming, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is a problem that existed long before it landed on your doorstep, and it’s one that will exist long after you conquer it. Rest assured in the knowledge of those who’ve come before, those who have persevered. I believe that creativity, at its core, relies on community. Those who create, those who share, those who participate. That community has your back!

So how do we face those feelings of self-doubt or fears of failure? Just as every creation is unique, so too is each creator — but I do believe these tips can be a great place to start.

There’s nothing wrong with hard work, but it’s important in the midst of these messages to remember the value of idle time: time to rest, to rejuvenate, to learn and discover.

Confide In Someone

  • The art of creation is a vulnerable experience. You must conceptualize, create, iterate. And then? Share it with the world. Oftentimes even submit it for scrutiny and criticism. As such, a close inner circle of trusted friends, advisors, and confidants is critical! Consider voicing your concerns to a trusted friend in the same way you would any creative problem. These are the people who will always have your back, people who can look at a situation with new, fresh eyes. People who are undoubtedly full of important and timely advice! As with any of life’s struggles, we don’t have to face them alone. No matter what obstacles may cross my path, I find the load is always a little bit lighter with more arms to carry it.

Take Some Me-Time

  • Contemporary workplace culture emphasizes values like “being on the hustle” and “staying on the grind.” There’s nothing wrong with hard work, but it’s important in the midst of these messages to remember the value of idle time: time to rest, to rejuvenate, to learn and discover. We charge our phones every night, why not our creative stores, too? It’s not always possible, but if you’re able to spend a day with yourself — take it! Do something that makes you happy. Visit a museum, go see a movie, spend time with your partner or children or pets. There’s no shame in taking time to recharge your creative batteries, so leave the guilt behind and find a fun, restorative way to spend your time.
I’ve found that a quick buzz upstairs to look out over the city always refreshes my perspective. When you’re that high up, everything looks a little surreal.

Change Your Surroundings

  • As nice as it might be to take a day or two to yourself, that’s not always a possibility. Sometimes a deadline is knocking on your door, which can be particularly intimidating. Even if you can’t take an extended amount of time to recharge, allow yourself the space to take fifteen minutes. Get away from your workspace and change your surroundings. For me, I’m lucky to work in a building with a beautiful rooftop deck. I’ve found that a quick buzz upstairs to look out over the city always refreshes my perspective. When you’re that high up, everything looks a little surreal. Some distance always makes things seem smaller, and in turn, more manageable.

Get Lost In Something You Love

  • The answer is different for everyone, but I don’t have to tell you what it is for you! Whether you’re a film buff or a music junkie, everyone has something that they can get lost in. Me? I’m a huge bookworm, and I’ve found that there a few problems a bit of time with a good book can’t solve. On particularly high stress days, it’s not at all uncommon to find me with my nose in a book over the lunch hour. Allow your mind the time it needs to disconnect and explore something new, you never know where inspiration might strike!
“And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.” — Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art

  • It may seem counterintuitive — after all, you’re creatively exhausted! — but never underestimate your power to create as a tool for your own healing. Explore a new medium, whether it’s painting or music composition or photography. Look for a new way to express what you’re feeling, a new lens by which you can skew your view. Maybe even try your hand at writing some of your own tips when it comes to overcoming creative burnout; you never know who you might be able to help.

At the end of the day, creative burnout isn’t a fun experience. It leaves you tired, drained, and feeling unsure. But as I mentioned before, it’s important to remember that you’re never alone. This is a struggle that all creatives face in some way, in some capacity, throughout their journey. It’s a part of your story, but it’s certainly not the end! I hope these tips can be helpful to you as you work your way through to the next chapter. Even when you’re faced with what feels like the impossible, take a step back to remember all that you have already created. All of the problems you have already solved. Let that knowledge be the key to keeping faith in yourself.


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