5 Ways to Overcome a Creative Burnout
We've all been there. One second you're riding a creative high like you're Augustus Gloop sippin' on Wonka's chocolate river- the next you're sitting facedown in a bowl of Cheetos 4 seasons deep into Schitt's Creek while your old pal existential dread breathes down your neck.
You're tired. You did a lot. There's nothing left to give right now.
You just need a good old fashioned recharge, right?
Why not reward yourself from doing all the thin
gs by doing none of the things!
At least until those creative juices start flowing again.
And of course by relaxing what that really means is focus so hard on trying to do nothing as your brain tirelessly tells you that you need to be doing something. And the more this battle drags out, the more your anxiety grows and the less relaxed you actually feel.
The bowl becomes empty, you've binged all six seasons, and the anxiety monkey just took a huge dump on your back, leaving you feeling utterly useless and sad.
But hey, it's alright my friend. Have no fear.
For what you see as Cheeto fingers and monkey poo on your back,
I see as Oompa Loompa fingers that have been gifted with a fresh batch of chocolate ready to feed your inner Gloop.
Okay gross. I admit that was a little too far...
BUT I DIGRESS.
As someone who has been stuck in that bowl for more shows than I'd like to admit, I've developed some tips that might help demolish a chunk or two off the common creative block.
Tip #1: Dream Smaller
Alright...maybe 'Dream Smaller' is a tad dramatic. What I mean is chill out on your daily to-do list. If you're feeling overwhelmed, make your goals more obtainable. Instead of trying to finish the thing in a day, make it your goal for now to just work on it for as long as you can stand. Even if its 5 minutes. Do NOT set a minimum for how long you have to work on it, because you'll find yourself looking at the clock too much, waiting for a way out.
When every ounce of your being looks at productivity and says "Nah. Don't wanna." Ask it what it do wanna. I mean- what it wants to do. To put things plainly, ask yourself:
"What is one small thing that I can do today that'll improve my state of mind?"
If you don't want to do anything creative at all, branch this question beyond creative tasks.
"Can I clean my room?"
"Can I at least bring the 7 moldy coffee cups from my room and put them in the sink?"
"Yeah, but I'm going to tell
myself they need to soak and let them sit in hot water until I forget about them until tomorrow morning when I realize I'm out of mugs."
OH HEY, PROGRESS, I almost didn't see you there!
You did a thing. That's what matters. And it all adds up, I promise.
Tip #2: Be Productively Unproductive
I know that sounds confusing, but let me expand on this a little bit.
If you're finding your creative energy is spent and you've got nothing left to give; receive. Inspiration is like a stomach. If you spend all your time processing the junk inside of it to make beautiful poop emoji art, you'll eventually run out of the stuff that made your poop emoji masterpiece possible in the first place.
We all get tired and angry when we're hungry. So feed your inspiration with some soul food.
What inspires you? What do you love? Make sitting on the couch doing nothing into something by learning more about your craft. Hell, take notes if it makes you feel good about it!
"What is something creative that I have a genuine interest in learning more about?"
If you do this where it counts, you might find that inspiration sneaks up on you when you least expect it. For me, it was at the end of a joint watching William Alexander paint videos from the 80's. I felt like I had to create, because he made me want to so badly. The joint might have helped a little, too, but I got the kick that I needed!
Tip #3: Do Weird Stuff
By weird stuff, I mean think outside the box. Paint with your non-dominant hand. Or your feet. Or your right earlobe maybe?
My point is, if you're finding yourself resenting your creative duties, make them fun again.
Marriage counsellors encourage couples to go on dates or take up fun activities with each other to help reignite that spark, so what's the difference?
As an artist, creating is probably your other half; and when you're in it for the long haul its crucial to pay attention to the signs that you're bored and need to shake things up a bit.
Within the past year of this pandemic alone I've taken up knitting, watercolour, meditation, felting, wood carving, and now blogging. ;)
Almost all of those projects are unfinished and I don't even feel bad about it.
They're creative hobbies that I pick up when I need to spice things up. And I'm still slowly getting better at them too, which feels super good!
"How can I make creating content fun again?"
Tip # 4: Spew Your Feelings
It may seem like a weird analogy, but spew is the perfect word to describe what I'm getting at here. To put things plainly - thinking is hard, and its likely what lead you to this block in the first place. At your peak, you're using your brain to generate creative ideas and glorious content, and at your lowest points you're using your brain to question and over analyze.
The problem is in both scenarios you're using your brain, and it's not pumping the brakes on you- its out of gas.
Let your emotions be your fuel for a bit.
As a portrait painter the bulk of what I do is challenge my abilities by constantly questioning the likeness of my subject in my painting. I'm always freaking thinking.
And in the midst of a depressive episode, when I felt very removed and faded from existence, I decided to just spew onto a canvas for the sake of release.
Spewing abstract emotions, even though I wasn't really feeling anything at all at the time.
The weird thing is, I actually freaking love what I created.
My lack of inspiration was the product of one of the most inspiring things I've made yet.
So for this tip, ask yourself nothing. Let your own state of being be what moves you.
Tip # 5: Live in the Now
...Clearly I've got Wayne's World on the brain.
But nonetheless, this title is much more direct than the others.
Not to get all hippy-dippy in my ramblings, but you should take some time to check in with your thoughts.
Are you thinking about that event coming up in 2 weeks and how unprepared you are? Or maybe about how you've been doing the thing for like 6 months now and you don't see any improvements.
Heck, I still do this to myself constantly.
But I've been making a tireless effort to catch myself when I do.
Don't wash those 7 moldy coffee cups because you're out of cups and you want your coffee.
Wash those 7 moldy coffee cups and experience the water on your skin, and the bubbles on your fingers.
Alright, that sounds way more hippy dippy than I wanted it to. But if you do what you love and only focus on the end product, you'll lose touch of what made you fall in love with it in the first place. Ask yourself:
"What is my intention when I am doing the thing, and am I living in the present moment when I'm doing it?"
One practice that's helped me a LOT in staying grounded is taking small moments out of my day to practice self or guided meditation. If I'm in the middle of a paint session and realize I'm feeling off, I'll meditate for a bit. Its crazy how such a small thing has had such a major impact on my productivity.
It's okay to take some time once in a while to mentally F off from the world.
But much like a breath, there needs to be balance.
So do whats best for your short-term needs with the intention of them benefiting your long term goals.
And as you're having your fill of Wonka's chocolaty goodness,
Don't forget to inhale.