Anything that requires you to turn up the heat on your mental stove for a long period of time, whether it’s writing, painting or programming, risks burning your creative juices. One day you’ll find that you have lost the drive and the inspiration.
Are You Burned Out?
Each one of us taps a different source within ourselves for our creative energies. Whatever that source may be, it is unique to you and you only, so other people may not react to the same situations as you would. Creative burnout happens when you have pushed your boundaries of creativity to the limit and you find yourself in a situation where you cannot seem to find inspiration or motivation.
Fortunately, you can recover from a creative burnout. Like a water well, creative energy will replenish itself, although it will take time. If you have crashed creatively before, you probably already know what it is that you do that ultimately triggers a burnout. If you have learned your lesson, you will do well in avoiding and managing these situations.
So how do you know you have crashed? Here are some of the most common signs to watch out for:
- You feel no motivation in getting up in the morning. (Or afternoon -which ever is your normal routine)
- You are no longer passionate about the things you love to do.
- You find inspired and motivated individuals annoying or stressful.
- You look at the world as a glum, dreadful place with no reason for being.
- You binge. Typically on food, drinks, entertainment, sex, or drugs.
- You become depressed and anxious even if everything is normal and happy in your life and career.
- Everything, even the most simple tasks seem to require momentous effort.
- You read the heading of this article and sensed a glimmer of hope and annoyance.
Burnout Survival Tactics
So what do you do to come out of a creative crash successfully? Do you give in to stress and just let the wave of hopelessness and lack of creativity overcome you? Creative burnout does not have to be devastating. You can, indeed, recover by doing these creative burnout survival tactics:
1Talk to someone you trust. Getting it out of your system is the best remedy. Having a good support system makes a difference. When you have someone to talk to, the positive energy they give off will help you recover.
2Express your feelings. Even if, or specially if, it leaves you feeling vulnerable. Talk if you have someone to talk to, or write in your journal. Let your feelings flow naturally and do not force a solution out. Change tends to be a slow process, so wait for it and welcome it when it happens.
3Catch a break. Get away from it all. Do something that is as far away from forcing creativity as possible, such as shopping, going for a long lunch, or simply taking a walk. Distract your mind from focusing on your current state. A few days in nature always helps me.
4Let It Rip. If you’re feeling like you’re drowning, scream, yell, let it out. If you fear misunderstandings –you have to do it. Go to the beach, into the forest, or use a pillow and scream into it. Sometimes, a good release is all you need to feel a little better.
5Have Fun. Do something that makes you laugh, whether it’s a movie, a book, or a comedy show. Go to the Zoo. Cook food over open fire. Do not procrastinate, do ‘busy work’, or waste any more time online. At this point having fun can be hard, which is exactly why you need it more.
Prepare to Reboot Your Creativity
Now that you have emptied your mind of creativity, prepare to receive it back. Do not be afraid of feeling inadequate or unprepared. Be aware of your capacity to learn, feel and create, and know that you can be filled up again. Take things one step at a time. The smaller steps are always the easiest to do, so no matter how big the task, break it into several smaller tasks to make the job more manageable.
Avoiding a Creative Burnout
You are not invincible. Just because you overcame a creative burnout does not mean you will not experience it again. It will happen, and knowing what you already know will help you avoid it and manage it in the best way possible. Here’s how:
Modify Your Environment
Changing your surroundings will help give you a measure of control over what influences you.
Go for Growth
Learn the art of choosing. This is the only way you can focus more on the things you like to do and are really good at. By choosing your projects and roles, you will find better variety and options. As a result, you stay interested.
Feeling Stuck? Move On
If you feel like you’re headed nowhere, stop and move on to the next project. The sudden shift in thinking and focus will help you redirect your creative focus and and help you function better.
Build and nurture a strong support network of friends, family, and co-creatives. With social media you can extend that group without geographic boundaries.
About your work. Do you like what you’re doing? Do you expect to work in that environment for a long time? Do you like working with the people around you? Can you adapt well to your work situation? If not, do you have the guts and the resources to make a change?
Know Thy Self
Regardless of what you do and how you do it, success in whatever endeavour you make depends on how well you know yourself. Take the time to nurture your spirit and find strength in the things that inspire and influence you. If you know who you are, it is easier to find an answer to life’s questions.