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How to Deal with Creative Burnout

March 16th, 2011
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If you are a musician, filmmaker, graphic designer, writer, or if you have a job that requires lots of thinking and creativity…chances are you are oh so familiar with creative burnout. It is when we have nothing more to give creatively- when our cups (or papers, canvasses, etc) are dry and we cannot start anything or move on to the next steps. It is when we start to question if this is what we really really like to do. This is more challenging to those who are required to get creative with tight deadlines (like students and professionals) because they are left with no choice but to give an output- a good one.

I researched; I asked some of my friends how they handle creative burnout. I followed some of them and I came up with my own solutions. Here are some of them:

Deep breathing exercise

Altering your breathing instantly alters your mental, physical and emotional state. Our brains require the right amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide for clear thinking. Slow breathing 20 times does the trick for me. When you inhale, do it very slowly and feel the air as it gradually enters your body. Hold it for as long as you can then slowly exhale through your mouth. This is basic yoga and something that we should practice daily. Just make sure you don’t rush it and you should only think of breathing and nothing else.

Remind yourself that your worth doesn’t depend on this project alone

It’s alright to be too devoted to your craft. In fact, that’s the only way artists should act and feel towards art. But it’s a different thing when we are too preoccupied with ourselves and our image. Sometimes, we want our artwork to be perfect so we would become famous. This is too much pressure and this kind of mindset stops us from making great art.

music-advice-dealing-with-creative-burnoutChange your work environment

If you have the luxury to do so, you can rent a house on top of a hill and work there for a week. If you are working from home daily, you may want to work in your nearby coffeeshop just to spice things up a bit. If you can’t get out of the office, then you might as well listen to some Beethoven or light some scented candles.

Run

There are lots of challenges if you work from home. You’ll slowly start to develop a sedentary lifestyle if won’t actively counter it. Why don’t you get your running shoes and start running. You can also bike, walk, jog, skip stones on the nearest river, or other similar activities. The point is, you have to get out. Give your lungs some fresh air, give your skin a bit of sunshine, observe people in the park, close your eyes and listen to every single sound. This would probably just take an hour but it would work wonders.

Flip through picture books

Buy books or magazines that have lots of inspiring images in it. I do not suggest the ones with hard-to-read stiff texts because they would just tire your already tired brain. I have lots of coffee table books I bought from garage sales and I flip through them when I need a quick break from routine or when I feel pressured.

music-advice-dealing-with-burnoutsLaugh

Laughter melts away the pressure and makes us forget about life for a brief moment. Get a dose of laugh either by talking to funny friends, reading jokes, or watching one episode of your favorite sitcom. This instant detachment from your tasks will recharge you and give you a clearer head so you have more space to brew some new ideas.

Watch an inspiring movie that’s related to your project

If you need to come up with upbeat songs for your play and you have to finish it by midnight, squeezing every creative cell when you know you won’t be getting anything will burn you out. If you’re staring at an empty sheet of paper for an hour, staring at it for one more hour will not work. Step out of that chair and forget about writing or making music. Just say “to hell with it” and watch RENT or RHPS or Jesus Christ Superstar.

Go take a nap

If you have been working or partying for the last 15 hours, then being ‘hard working’ now will do no good. Go get some sleep. Don’t worry, you’ll still beat the deadline as you’ll get more productive and creative when you wake up. Don’t forget to set the alarm.

Eat Nuts

Studies show nuts are food for the brain so you might want to nibble some while scribbling your ideas. Buy the non-greasy ones so you won’t get messy.

The bottom line is that you should make sure your body is okay (you’re not hungry, you have enough sleep, you exercise), your mind is okay (don’t think about the bills today), your midset is okay (your career doesn’t depend on this. You will still have lots of chances to prove yourself). Stepping out of your creative zone and doing something fun and random helps a lot but make sure you go back to what you are supposed to do.

And don’t ever think of quitting!

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