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Overcoming Creative Burnout

woman tired at work

Let’s face it, it’s been a lonnnng year.  And for many of us, it’s been spent working in isolation from our homes.

Now, it’s time for a familiar monster to wreak havoc on creatives. That’s right…it’s creative burnout season.

Creative burnout can strike at any time, regardless of whether you’re your own boss or working as part of a team. Today’s demanding workplace culture can take quite a toll on creatives, who need mental and physical energy to do their best work.

So what do you do when you find yourself drowning in the quicksand of mental roadblocks or self-doubt? Here are some tips to overcome creative burnout.

Understand what you’re up against

Creative burnout affects everyone differently, but if you find yourself lethargic, unenthused about what you’re working on, overwhelmed, and/or just feeling “off,” you might be a victim of burnout syndrome.

The best way to start bouncing back is to understand the signs, accept the diagnosis, and stay away from the shame game. Creative burnout happens. A lot.

Did you know? Every 5 seconds, someone succumbs to creative exhaustion. Okay, fine, that’s not a verified statistic, but it proves our point. Creative burnout is an ubiquitous feeling that all creatives encounter at least once (see: multiple) times in their careers.

Identify limitations…and work within them

In his Ted Talk, Embrace the Shake, artist Phil Hansen described how he turned a self-perceived limitation into endless creativity. While in school, Hansen developed a tremor in his hand; as a pointillist, he was devastated.

However, a visit to a neurologist yielded a simple suggestion…embrace the shake.

Do you find yourself pigeon-holed creatively? Embrace this limitation and look for ways to work within it.

A recent burnout trigger has been the work-from-home situation. What if you accomplished different tasks in different rooms?

Or what if you wrote your next B2B piece from a treadmill? While walking around your home? Via a standing desk?

Acknowledge the limitations…the confines of your work…and rewrite the script.

Find your stress points and throw them away

There’s nothing more debilitating than stress, and while it’s easier said than done, if you can find your stress points and throw them away, do so.

Better yet – are you stressing about something that doesn’t need to be stressed about? Make no mistake, we’re not downplaying the constant influx of stressors that come with employment.

However, as creatives, we like to breathe. And sometimes, the naturally constrictive environment of a 9-5 day or a work week loaded with meetings can leave you feeling absolutely drained and overwhelmed.

Think of these happenings as just that: things that happened. Are they worth holding onto in the back (or front) of your mind?

Stress really is a glass house…and cheap glass at that. It doesn’t take much to shatter, so the less stress, the better.

Create for the simple sake of creating

Ever feel like your creative career is actually working against you? Yeah…that’s common.

See, spend so much time pouring creative energy into your projects, and you might actually start to feel like you’re not doing anything creative at all. Which is why, sometimes, you just need to create for the sake of creation itself.

Do something creative for you. Draw, free write…heck, put together a Lego set if you want to. Just make sure it’s entirely unrelated to the work that pays your bills.

Embrace the unexpected

Shower thoughts, a run-in with an old friend that provides timely rejuvenation, dialogue with a co-worker that’s ripe with ideas for a new project, those brief sparks of creation right before you drop into slumber…all of this is fair game when climbing out of a creative slump.

Carpe diem all of it. Sometimes the best type of creation is that which is unexpected.

Run sprints instead of a marathon

Screenwriter and author John August often talks about write sprints and how they inform his productivity. As he explains, the idea behind a write sprint is to focus on one task and one task only for a set period of time.

Obviously, for him this equates to locked-in writing, typically for an hour or less. No internet surfing, no texting, no walking around for “inspiration”…one task, one hour, nonstop.

Too often, we feel like we have to get 1000 things done in one day. That’s why something like Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Workweek is such a fascinating read. Ferris talks about our innate habit of trying to get too much accomplished in too little time. The result? Total unproductivity.

By focusing on sprints instead of a full-fledged marathon, you might help yourself leave that creative funk in the rearview mirror where it belongs.

Take care of yourself first

And then there was one – always take care of yourself first.

But it’s my career! Sure, only your career is dependent upon something much more valuable: Your own livelihood.

Exercise regularly, take mental breaks and celebrate the fact that you’re doing so. Ask for help when you need it. We can’t stress this enough – there’s no shame in asking for help and actively working to better your own self first so that you can then better those around you.

Reclaiming your creative energy is often a matter of shifting your attention to where it’s most needed. Lots of the time, that means self-care and reflection. Afterward, you’ll be surprised to see how much falls into place.



Hear us now – you will recover (and can recover fast) from creative burnout. Don’t hesitate to check your tank if you think you might be running on empty. After all, how can you fix a problem without trying to understand it first?

Maybe the answer to overcome your creative burnout could be a change of scenery. If so, check out our latest creative jobs. Or if you’re a hiring manager, maybe you want to inject some fresh ideas into your team. If so, let us help you find someone.

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