Creative burnout is a real thing.

As a writer, you’re used to navigating periods of writer’s block. But what happens when you’re experiencing something more significant than a simple hurdle in your creativity?

Creative burnout can be a serious and debilitating experience that can make it difficult to create, let alone enjoy the creative process.

I’ve been there once, when I was burning the candle at both ends as well as in the middle. It’s not an experience I’m eager to repeat.

Thankfully, I learned from those harrowing months of feeling like I was never going to be creative again, and learned how to balance my creative energy better.

In this post, I’ll explore how to recognise the signs of creative burnout and offer strategies for overcoming creative exhaustion.

Burnout is a term that has been around for a while.

It was first coined in 1974 by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger to describe the psychological reaction to excessive stress over a prolonged period of time, which affects both physical and mental health through symptoms such as exhaustion.

If you are dreading starting work, feeling tired and stressed all the time, and suspecting that you’ll never be able to create something good again, then you might be experiencing creative burnout.

Burnout can be caused by a variety of factors, including too much work, an unhealthy work-life balance, unachievable expectations from your manager, unclear briefs, frustrating back-and-forths with clients, and monotonous tasks.

All of these can contribute to physical, mental, and emotional stress, which can lead to burnout.

For people working in creative professions, there is a more specific type of burnout called creative burnout.

That’s the feeling of having drained all of your creativity to a point where there’s nothing left.

What are the signs of creative burnout?

Creative burnout often starts with a loss of inspiration.

You may find that your ideas and motivation have dried up, leaving you feeling stuck and unproductive.

If you’re experiencing creative burnout, you may also feel physically and emotionally exhausted.

You may feel like you have no energy, even for activities you used to enjoy.

When you’re burnt out, it can be challenging to focus on your work.

You may find yourself easily distracted, and your mind may feel cluttered and unfocused.

Creative burnout can lead to negative self-talk and self-doubt.

You may start to question your abilities and feel like you’ll never be able to create again.

4 ways to overcome creative burnout and get your writing mojo back.

You feel stuck, uninspired, and the words just won’t come.

It can be frustrating and disheartening, but it’s important to recognize the signs and take steps to overcome it.

When you’re feeling burnt out creatively, taking a break can be one of the most effective ways to overcome it. Stepping away from your work and giving your mind a chance to rest can be incredibly restorative.

Engaging in self-care is also essential when you’re experiencing creative burnout.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in activities that make you happy. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being.

Sometimes, a change of pace can help reignite your creative spark.

Trying a new hobby or taking a class in something you’ve always been interested in can help break up the monotony and provide inspiration.

Don’t be afraid to seek support when you’re experiencing creative burnout.

Reach out to other writers or creative professionals for support. Join a writing group or online community where you can connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

Remember, you are not alone and there are others who can help you get through this difficult time.

Quick tips to help you recover from creative burnout:

  1. Trust your intuition. Sometimes your brain can get in the way and pressure you to keep going even when it’s no longer beneficial. Listen to your instincts and give yourself permission to take a break or work on something else.
  2. Get rid of the noise. Learning from other writers is great, but when it leads to self-doubt and comparison, it’s time to step back and focus on your own voice.
  3. Refill your creative well. It’s normal for creativity to ebb and flow, and sometimes you need to refuel your inspiration. Try consuming different kinds of art, reading/watching other fiction, or taking a break from writing altogether.
  4. Trust the process. Creating anything is rarely a clean, linear journey. Embrace the ups and downs and focus on progress over perfection. Time is an essential part of the creative process, no matter how frustrating it may feel to have to pump the breaks. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and prioritize your mental health!

Remember, it’s okay to take a step back and prioritize your well-being.

By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to come back to your writing with a fresh perspective and renewed energy.

Trust yourself and your abilities, and know that you’ve got this.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It’s important to remember that your brain is not a never-ending source of creativity.

It needs rest and care to function properly.

Imagine your creativity as a well that needs time to refill after being drained. When you don’t allow it to recharge, you risk experiencing creative burnout.

Pushing yourself too hard may actually hinder your productivity in the long run.

Is sacrificing sleep and leisure time really worth it?

Will taking a short break really set you back on your goals?

Is overworking yourself truly helping you produce your best work?

How to deal with creative burnout (and the fallout).

Sometimes, creative burnout sneaks up on you before you’ve even realised it was coming.

Don’t worry! You can still recover from it.

Taking a break, simple as it sounds, is still a good idea, and so are all the tips above, but you also want to make sure you’re thinking about burnout in a way that will further your recovery from it.

Acknowledge your feelings. They are valid.

Recognising your feelings is crucial when dealing with burnout.

Creatives often face challenges in balancing their workload, and can end up sacrificing the time they should be recovering to do more work.

To prevent burnout, it’s important to identify the early warning signs.

In essence, feelings are data. And that data is always trying to tell you something.

Listen to it.

Avoid pushing through it.

Trying to push through it will only make it worse.

Give yourself time away. I understand it isn’t always possible to take a whole day or week off, but sometimes just an hour away from your creative work can do wonders.

Pushing through it without even a small break will usually only result in poor quality work, something you’ll look back on later and regret not taking the time to do it properly.

Not taking a smaller break now, might (and often does) only lead to a much longer break later.

Self-deprecation and negativity – both good indicators that creative burnout is imminent – can exacerbate creative burnout.

Burnout can make you feel inadequate. But it’s important to remember that it does not define you or your creative ability.

Draw inspiration from others.

Inspiration from other creatives working on their craft can help recharge your creative batteries.

Aside from taking a break from your own writing, looking at what other creatives are doing is a great source of inspiration.

And maybe try to go outside of writing to avoid that Negative Nancy on your shoulder comparing your writing to other writers (and usually telling you you’re worse).

Instead, look to art and music or plays or dance. Other avenues of creativity in motion is a great way to find new perspective and inspiration.

Learn from the experience.

Creative burnout can be a valuable learning experience if you let it.

My own creative burnout taught me that working in a way that feels comfortable is the best way for me to get my work done.

If I get stuck on one project, I’ll move on to another one. Or I’ll ask to help out with someone else’s project to get out of my own head entirely.

Respecting my own limitations and honouring what kind of a creative process works for me, means I’ve prevented myself from ending up in creative burnout again.

And since learning from my creative burnout, I’ve produced more work that I’ve been consistently proud of, not to mention that I’ve been able to be more efficient and productive.

I also get to work on projects that I really love working on, which makes the hard days easier.

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