April 18, 2024

How Do You Deal With Creative Burnout?

An illustration depicting burnout
An illustration depicting burnout
An illustration depicting burnout
An illustration depicting burnout

I’m no stranger to creative burnout. Personally, I find it manifests in a loss of interest in work overall, and a lack of motivation to get specific tasks done. However, it’s important to distinguish between burnout and laziness. I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms of burnout versus just feeling lazy occasionally. With creative burnout, I’ll spend more time on my phone, browsing social media, but not posting; I’ll jump from one task to the other without completing any, or make tiny tasks that should take five minutes last forever; I'll question my own work, and its worth; imposter syndrome will take over, and a general feeling of lack of control will supersede everything.

Over the years I’ve learned to recognize when it’s happening, and take steps to break the cycle. Some of those steps include:

  • Exercise: I run every day anyway, but that in itself can feel like a task sometimes. Changing up the scenery, and mixing the routine can work wonders. Plus, just sweating profusely (which I’m really good at) always makes me feel better afterwards. 

  • Working on a personal creative project: anything from doodling to collage can help me get my mind back on track. I’ll pick a subject and spend a few hours with some school glue and a bunch of old magazines. The result isn’t always great (it is rarely great), but it allows my mind to wander in different ways, and is a nice break from the screen.

  • Getting an early night: when I was younger, I was a legit night owl. Over the past few years however, I’ve really started realizing how much I enjoy sleeping in my own bed. Getting in there at 8pm and reading a book while I fall asleep is now one of my favorite things to do. And I no longer have to hide under the blankets with a flashlight, because I’m an adult.

  • Looking at magazines: another way I find inspiration is to go to the bookstore (they do still exist) and look at magazines. It can be nice reminder that print is still going strong, and it’s also just nice to see what everyone else is doing. 

  • Working: weirdly, I’ve found that throwing myself into production work - specifically layout with lots of text formatting - will help get me out of that rut. I think it has so many pieces that I do automatically, that it quickly gets me into a flow state that changes my mindset from stuck or lacking focus, and re-energizes me, despite often being fairly mundane, repetitive work.

  • Spending time with cats.

Here's some further reading: