Creative Burnout: 5 ways To Crush It When Creation Is Actually Work

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Creative burnout is real.

I was sitting in front of my computer trying to come up with a piece of magic to fill the white screen before me. Words that’d justify me charging hundreds of dollars for a project, but the only thing I could come up with was a title.

It wasn’t even a very good one.

I’d been like this for about 30 minutes and nothing was coming to mind.

No flash of insights.

No clever way to string my words together.

None of my perfectly polished prose.

After another 15 minutes, I did what any other self-respecting creative would do.

I closed my laptop, broke out a bottle of Sancerre, and called my partner. Fuck killing myself; I’ll kill a few brain cells instead.

She came over and we drank like there was no work tomorrow, like there wasn’t a deadline looming over me, like we didn’t have a care in the world.

We talked about goals, travel plans, and our future together.

In essence, I forgot about the assignment I was supposed to do and allowed myself to lose myself in her presence; she’s always had a calming effect on me.

I let myself enjoy life’s small pleasure, an understanding partner.

After a few hours, we’d drunk half the bottle and my partner was sound asleep in my bed. I picked up my laptop from the nightstand and tiptoed out of the room to settle down in my regular workspace.

The place where I usually produce my greatest work.

As I fired the HP up and opened MS word, I thought to myself “they’re only words, even a child can create them.”

So I got to the serious business of creating.

I was tired, slightly tipsy, but happy with the work I was creating.

Being a creative is different from analyzing financial accounts. We can’t work on demand because creativity comes in fits and bursts. In fact, 75% of people feel they don’t live up to their creative potential for one reason or another.

Unfortunately, the people we work with or for aren’t really concerned with the nuances of creative, they just want what they’re paying for. This post is going to focus on five ways we can keep making magic and avoid creative burnout.

Let’s jump in.

Take a Friggin break man

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You know what’s funny? 50% of people spend time online looking at content other people made. Creativity isn’t something that comes on demand.

You can work at creativity to ensure it comes more and more often, but there’s no way to truly trigger it on demand.

Sometimes, your best bet is to just step away from the computer, the canvas, or whatever it is you use to work.

Step away from it and start doing something else.

That’s why I’m always surprised when creative people say they set up office hours for themselves. Like, why on earth would you limit yourself to creating what you love to just eight hours a day?

When inspiration strikes, ride the wave for all it’s worth. When it’s not coming as easily, do yourself a favor and take a break.

I’m actually a pretty lazy worker; you can’t get me to do anything for longer than 25 minutes at a stretch.

I’m a firm believer in the Pomodoro technique and unless I’m super inspired, I won’t force myself to work for long stretches without taking a break.

“If I take a break before I’m tired I may never be tired again.”

Clean Up

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It’s been found that too many things in your visual field at once negatively affects your ability to respond to stimuli.

In other words, you can’t think straight.

If your desk is cluttered, you can’t find your materials, or you’re allowing objects to distract you, it may be a sign you need to clean up.

I don’t know about you, but I get a certain sense of satisfaction when everything around me is tidy. Think about it.

In order to create your best work, you need to get into what’s called a flow state.

The flow state, The Zone, or the as we gamers call it, The Glow; is basically when you’re fully involved in whatever it is you’re doing.

Every distraction you encounter breaks the momentum you’ve created while you’re in that flow state.

Distractions include looking for shit, phone calls, and moving shit out of your way.

Whenever you can remove distractions AKA cleaning up and put everything you need within easy reaching distance, do it.

This’ll increase the chances of you getting into an optimal flow state to create your most amazing work.

Free Write


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A few months ago, I stumbled across a book called Accidental Genius by Mark Levy. He describes the process of freewriting to solve all the problems of the world.

Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but he does describe a few techniques that are actually invaluable when it comes to stimulating your creative muscles.

Here’s a quick primer.

When you’re stuck for an idea or experiencing creative burnout in your life, in this case creativity, just write.

Write whatever comes to your mind.

It doesn’t need to make sense to other people and it doesn’t need to follow proper grammatical structure.

The most important thing is that you concentrate on the issue at hand and then write.

Don’t censor your thoughts and allow your mind to wander where it will.

This process lets you tap into your subconscious and bring things to the forefront that you’ve forgotten or disregarded for one reason or another.

Stick with it for five minutes and look at what you’ve written. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the associations you’ve drawn and solutions you’ve come up with.

Go outside the assignment to avoid creative burnout

It’s easy to be constrained by what you want to accomplish. So easy in fact that we forget some of our most creative work is done outside the confines of the rules or work environment.

Many designers will tell you their greatest work was done while putting together a side project.

A lot of the time, you’ll be given a creative brief. This lists all the things your client wants in the project.

Color schemes, tone, design elements etc. This is supposed to guide the creative process so you’ll make something everyone is happy with.

What you may forget is you’re the expert. Sometimes, that creative brief is the most constraining thing about the entire creation process.

It can be a fulfilling experience to go outside the strict confines of the project and still create something spectacular.

My advice to you, use the creative brief as a loose guide open to interpretation. It’ll be more useful to you as opposed to using it like a concrete blueprint.

Change your environment

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I like my writing desk. I’ve made some of my best work there. I guard it jealously and won’t even let my partner sit down there for too long.

There’s just one problem, when you’re always in the same place, looking at the same things, and interacting with the same objects you’ll produce similar work.

Creation is an exercise in pulling together all of our experiences to create something unique.

I can take elements from the writing of five different authors to make one article. It’s me, it’s them, it’s all of us.

The same thing can happen when you change your environment for a little while. It allows you to experience new things and get a new take on the same problem.

In infuses you with new energy while dispelling the fog in your mind.

It can help you put a daunting issue into perspective.

Never underestimate the power of walking in the park or going out for drinks with friends to stimulate your creative juices.

Do your best to experience many things in your lifetime and you’ll always have a wellspring from which to draw on to fight creative burnout.

Creation occurs spontaneously when all the right elements are lined up in your favor. Sometimes it comes easier than others, but the end result is always the same.

When you’re feeling out of sorts, there are dozens of things you can do to get back in the groove.

Take a break, change your environment, have some fun outside the box, and free write to name a few.

Simply choose what helps you jog your creative juices and stick with it. In the end, we all want the same thing, to create something that we can be proud of.

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