Creative burnout is real. It's very, very real, and something I'm experiencing as I write this today. What better time is there to talk about overcoming creative burnout than when you're in the midst of it, right? If you're struggling with burnout right now too, I feel you. I see you. Please know you are not alone, by any means.
It's extremely easy to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, and alone when you're in the midst of burnout. You suddenly forget why you're doing the things you're doing, and might even ask yourself, "What's the point of all this? Why am I even chasing this creative dream?"
Again, you're not alone. It's so important to know you're not alone in this and to have resources to support you when you're feeling this way. I hope this blog post offers a reassuring voice among the stormy seas you're traversing right now.
What is creative burnout?
Creative burnout is a beast. It's when you feel creatively drained, you dread doing the work you once LOVED doing, you're tired, exhausted, and beginning to forget your WHY. You feel like you have nothing left to give, you have no motivation, and you might even feel lost.
It's normal to have days here and there where you lack motivation or don't feel especially excited for a day's work. That's normal! However, if every day feels like a chore for you, you don't have any excitement for your projects, and don't feel like working on anything (even non-creative work), that could be a sign of burnout.
Creative burnout can happen for a lot of reasons, but it doesn't happen overnight. It can develop from continually overcommitting yourself, saying "yes" to too much at once, not allowing time for rest, not spending time on personal projects, and so much more. Burnout is a little different for everyone, but there are ways to overcome it.
How did you get to this point?
The first step to overcoming creative burnout is to ask yourself, "How did I get here? How did this happen?" Like I said before, creative burnout doesn't happen overnight. Likely, small decisions and circumstances have built up over time to become something unbearable for you.
Have you been working a crazy amount of hours? Have you taken on a huge amount of projects this month? Are you focusing only on client work and no personal work?
Have you been feeling pulled in too many directions-- feeling unable to keep up with your work and give it the energy it needs? Are you getting enough sleep at night? Is social media draining you?
Think about your habits over the past few months. What's changed? Once, you were passionate and excited to be creative every day. But not anymore. What made that happen?
For me, I've nearly tripled my workload this fall. On top of being a full-time college student, I took on a part-time social media internship, added two freelance photography clients, and increased my blog posting to twice a week, which doubles the amount of time I was previously spending on my blog. I'm not used to having this much to do at once, and to be honest, it's a juggling act every day. I'm working from daylight till dawn and it's no wonder I'm feeling a bit burnout.
It's clear to me what's caused my feelings of burnout. What has caused the burnout for you? Figure that out first.
Evaluate How You Feel
After you've determined what circumstances or decisions are causing your creative burnout, it's important to evaluate how you feel. Be honest with yourself and understand your feelings. Is your body physically tired, are you mentally exhausted, or both? How is your attitude towards others? What is your mindset when you wake up in the morning? What thoughts are you thinking?
Are you sad because you aren't feeling motivated? Frustrated with clients that are asking you to work? Feeling like you aren't good enough? Uncover what it is that you're truly feeling and what is causing those feelings.
You can't overcome creative burnout until you acknowledge your feelings. It's an important part of the process that allows you to address what's going on and help you take appropriate action in healing yourself.
Give Yourself Grace
What I think is the MOST important step in overcoming creative burnout is giving yourself some grace. For pete's sake, working in the creative industry is hard enough as it is. Our jobs literally revolve around us coming up with new and creative work every. single. day. That's not easy!! Being creative takes a different type of skill and mindset than most work. We have to purposefully be innovative and unique in our work all the time. We don't have the leisure of following clear-cut standards and rules in our work like other jobs. Being creative is abstract and exciting, but it can be draining.
Give yourself some grace. Seriously. The reason you're experiencing creative burnout is probably because you tried to make some big moves in your business or your creative work. You wanted to add more clients, produce more content, or try new things. You thought working harder and pushing yourself would pay off in the end, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. Your intentions are good, and maybe you have seen some success through all of your efforts. That's great! You just might've pushed a little too far, or a little too hard all at once. And that's okay. You're learning.
Be kind to yourself. It's okay if you're feeling exhausted. It's okay if you're overwhelmed and have no motivation to work right now. Chances are, you've been working non-stop for a long time. The truth is, you need to rest. Allow yourself time to rest. This is crucial to overcoming creative burnout. You might be thinking, "Well, how on earth do I "rest" when I have so much to get done!?"
Find Ways to Lighten Your Load
If we're honest with ourselves, overcoming creative burnout requires some changes to be made. What kind of changes and how many changes are dependent on your situation specifically, but something has to be done if we want to recover from burnout and regain that spark for creative work again.
What are some things you can pause right now to lighten your load? If you've committed to multiple client shoots, I understand you can't just abandon your clients, nor do I recommend that. However, what areas of your work can you afford to pause for a bit?
Do you really need to be publishing 3 or 4 blog posts a week? Do you have to work on recipe development every single day? Can that email deliverable wait for later? How much time are you spending on social media, and is that hurting or helping you? Be honest.
Be okay with saying no to potential clients that contact you. I completely understand the urge to say yes to every project and every client that comes your way. Believe me, I do get it. But if you're struggling with keeping up with your current workload and aren't that excited for your projects right now, you shouldn't add more work to the mix.
It doesn't mean saying no to a client forever, but it's kindly saying you're booked up right now and would love to connect in the future when you have more availability. Placing a limit on how many projects you take on is a crucially important part of being a successful creative individual. We have to have a limit on what we accept, or else we experience burnout. And the worst part? Our lack of energy will show in our work. And I know you don't want that.
Acknowledge that you're experiencing a lot of work right now, juggling a lot of things, and understand you may need to say no to some projects or lighten your load in order to recover. As creatives, we need to take care of ourselves and give ourselves time to rest in order to perform optimally!
Make A Creative Game Plan
Now that you know what caused you to experience creative burnout and have acknowledged how that burnout has made you feel, it's time to make a game plan. More than anything, experiencing creative burnout is a learning lesson.
Ultimately, you learned what your limits are. It's normal to want to "do all the things," but you're only one person, and you can only do so much. Moving forward, remember what your limits are, and don't stretch yourself too thin.
We all have goals we want to hit, things we want to do, clients we want to have, work we want to create, and ultimately, dreams we want to reach. These are great things! However, I promise you, a long-term sustainable workload is better than a short-term sprint. Use this time of burnout to set new standards for your work habits.
Maybe you commit to ending your workday at 5 PM instead of working until 8 or 9 (or 10 or 11) PM each day. Maybe set weekends aside strictly for time with family and friends instead of working every day of the week. We need to put boundaries on how much we work so we keep that creative spark alive!
Consider adding personal projects into your weekly routine instead of focusing solely on client work or work you "think you should be doing." Let's be honest, working from a creative brief with specific brand standards is sometimes the least creative thing. Allow yourself to create work just for fun, experiment with new light or colors, or do something you've always wanted to do. Your creative soul will thank you!
Remember Your Why
Your creative work all started with a dream, right? Maybe it started as a fun hobby. Maybe creative work has always been your "escape" from the craziness of life. Perhaps you always knew you wanted to pursue a creative career and maybe you're trying to take it full-time. Whatever it is for you, I bet there is a dream behind it. There is a reason you're working so hard at this. After all, this is a post about creative burnout, and burnout doesn't happen unless you're REALLY working hard. People don't work this hard at something they don't care about.
I want you to remember the reason that started it all. Remember your WHY. Why did you decide to pursue this passion of yours? What is the end goal? Remember that reason and know you will get there. You are working on your dream each and every day and it will pay off. Let your dream, your why, motivate you to keep going even when you feel lost or stuck in a creative rut.
Remember to rest first, but then remember your dream and know you're on the right track. Your efforts are not wasted. I'm proud of you, friend!
Overcoming Creative Burnout
Let's break down the key takeaways for overcoming creative burnout:
- Consider what caused the burnout to happen
- Acknowledge your feelings during burnout
- Give yourself some grace
- Find ways to lighten your workload
- Know your limits and create a game plan
- Remember your why
With these tools, you can overcome creative burnout and have practices in place to ensure you don't experience it again anytime soon. There will always be times when we struggle as creatives, but setting limits on our workload, allowing ourselves to rest, and making time for personal projects can help us stay excited about our work each day.
More Creative Resources
If you enjoyed this post, I'd love to hear what part was most valuable to you. Leave a comment below to continue the conversation, or send me a message on Instagram anytime. Topics like these are so important in this industry, and I'm always happy to chat further if you'd like. For more, check out these other creative resources: