Beating Burnout: 5 Easy-ish Steps on How to Nip Creative Burnout in the Bud
(Or at least try)
Hey, lovely humans! I know, I know. You clicked on this post 'cause you're in that awkward dance with the "B" word: Burnout. Ugh, just saying it makes me feel tired. Unmotivated. Ready to toss on an episode of New Girl that I've already seen a thousand times, eat an entire frozen pizza, and call it a day. As amazing as that sounds, I know what the end result is.
And it's not finishing your novel.
So, let's see how we can gently combat this unlovely feeling and move on with our lives. HINT: The answer isn't hustle.
The Low-Down on Burnout
First off, let's chat about what creative burnout is. No, it's not when you can't decide what Spotify playlist to put on.
It's that state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion where even thinking about doing something, ANYTHING, creative feels like lifting a mountain. It's a slog. It's the big scary question: WHY THE HELL AM I EVEN DOING THIS?*
For me burnout has had many different iterations, including, but not limited to: never wanting to make another movie again, never wanting to make another video again, never wanting to make another anything again, and depression.
(*This = anything creative that you would probably do for free, but you're trying to get paid for. E.g. comedy)
Tips to Beat Burnout and Kick It to the Curb!
1. The Mighty Morning Routine
If you already are rolling your eyes, don't worry I am too. Getting up and doing something everyday hits my fear-of-mundanity nerve quite hard. Your mornings, however, set the tone for your entire day. And your day sets the tone for your work. And your work sets tone for... you get it.
SIMPLE TRICKS THAT AREN'T SO SIMPLE:
Don't check your emails or scroll through social media right when you wake up. Instead, meditate, journal, or simply sip your fave tea. This sacred "me-time" will help recharge your creative batteries.
Do what you love, but do the same thing. "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg talks about setting triggers and rewards. So if you want to force yourself to write more, get up and write, but toss a little reward for yourself (cup of coffee, sweet treat, YouTube time). Soon your sneaky brain will want to write. We're all just little Pavlovian dogs aren't we?
Get sleep! Try, oh just try, to get some rest. Sometimes the world feels like it's falling around us, when really... we're just tired (or hungry).
2. Set Boundaries, Babe
I'm sorry I called you babe. But it was alliterative. And it's a way for you to practice saying:
The word "no" is a full sentence, and it's high time we start using it. Learning to set boundaries allows you to preserve your creative energy for things that truly matter. So don't let anyone rent space in your day for free, okay?
SIMPLE TRICKS THAT AREN'T SO SIMPLE:
Next time someone asks you to do something... say no.
3. Celebrate the Tiny Wins
Every painting starts with a single brush stroke. Celebrate that stroke. Those mini accomplishments? They add up to major creativity. So give yourself a high-five, do a little dance, or treat yourself to something nice.
For example: you may not have your Oscar-Winning Film on the Resume, but you sure as hell think you deserve to after all the work you've done. Instead of beating yourself up over it, pat yourself on the back. Congratulate yourself for writing a page of your next script. Have a drink. Go out to eat. And know that the faster something rises, typically the faster it falls. Take your time. Practice grace. Ignore the haters (even if the hater... is yourself).
4. Take a Break, but Make It Active
If you stay in one place too long, you're bound to start stinkin'.
Burnout loves to creep in when we're stagnant. When you're hitting a wall, get up and move! Do some yoga stretches or just take a brisk walk around the block. Go stand in some sunshine, even if it's hotter than hell like here in Austin, TX. Physical activity gets those endorphins flowing, and endorphins are basically free creativity fuel.
5. Get a Creative Buddy
Sometimes we need that extra push, and that's okay! Pair up with a creative pal for mutual motivation and accountability. When you've got someone who’s watching out for your creative vibes, you're less likely to hit that dreaded burnout phase.
For me? It's my partners Jon Michael and Jeff at The Cuddle Squad. Getting to bounce ideas off one another and be silly is a joy that I am forever grateful for.
Plus, returning the favor gets your creative juices flowing. Helping others... helps yourself? Yes. And that's pretty cool.
When All Else Fails, Step Back 🛑
If you've tried everything and you're still feeling fried, it might be time to step back and give yourself a proper break. No shame in that game! Recharge, rejuvenate, and remember why you started this creative journey in the first place.
As a filmmaker, I personally try to explore something that has absolutely nothing to do with film. Thanks to a handy-dandy condition known as OCD, my striving for success can become obsessive. So I read, listen to, and watch all things filmmaking. I've learned the hard way that can be a life suck! I have to instead let myself explore other subjects I'm curious about: history, nature, carpentry, fitness, music, whatever!
It's important to get out of my own head. The loop can be deafening. So I can only recommend to go live your life and look into your interests outside of your creative exploration. Busy-ness is not synonymous with quality. Don't get me started with the lie that is #Hustle. I have a whole word vomit on that... but another time.
Burnout is not a badge of honor; it’s a red flag waving at us, telling us to slow down and recalibrate. So let’s pinky promise right now, you and me, to make self-care a priority and keep our creative fires burning bright!
And until then, keep that creativity pumping... but also, it's okay if you need a break.
- C. Bailey Werner
[Hope this helps you keep the 'burnout beast' at bay. Drop me a comment below and share your go-to tricks for dodging creative fatigue. Let's build a village that thrives on creativity, not exhaustion.]