A Note on Creative Burnout

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Creative burnout.

Those words make me cringe.

This is a topic that isn’t addressed very often in the creative space, and it needs to be. I feel like it’s a bit of a taboo subject, and is one that is filled with shame from realizing you’re a creative who doesn’t feel creative.

You feel stuck. You doubt yourself. You criticize your own creative process. You feel disconnected. You feel blocked, stagnant, and disinterested. You’re missing that “spark and magic.” You feel empty. You finish a project, but you intrinsically know it isn’t right. Or, like me, you feel tired, uninspired, and completely drained. You try to turn on your creative faucet and are left with nothing but intermittent, unfulfilling drips.

We live in a “go, go, go” society that has no concept of what it means to slow down. It tells us that we have to keep pushing in order to work through a creative rut. “If you love what you’re doing, you’ll find a way to keep going.” “If you’re struggling, you’re not challenging yourself enough.” “If you’re blocked, you need to keep trying until something sticks.” “If your creativity is waning, then you must be out of alignment.” The problem with this mentality is that it forces people like me to think something is wrong with them, when in reality, it is completely normal for your creativity to ebb and flow.

My creativity is deeply personal. I put everything I have into everything I do, and I know no other way than to always be all in. Stewing in shame in the meantime has done nothing but dig me into a deeper hole. Dealing with creative burnout is new for me, and it has forced me to look at my creative process in a new light. It’s an opportunity to redirect my attention to hope and Truth, as they are creativity’s magic elixirs.

I’ve found that creativity is like a muscle. If you’re overworking the same muscle over and over again without proper stretching, it’s inevitable that it’ll get strained and you’ll be stuck with limited movement. Your creativity isn’t dead and gone, it’s just injured. And you can come back from an injury even stronger and more creative than you were before.

How do you heal an overburdened muscle? You stop using it and give it a break so it has the space it needs to be built back up. You don’t remedy a burnt out muscle with more reps, so why would you treat your creative burnout with more work? Treat your creative burnout like you would treat an injury. For me, this looks like taking a step back and reevaluating my creative process to see what is working and what isn’t. Where can I slow down? What creative muscles need more nurturing than others? What routines can I eliminate to make room for new routines that will better fuel my creativity? What new practices can I put into place that will allow it to develop its strength? This might look like experimenting with a new creative outlet every month such as painting or baking. Maybe it looks like finding new music to dance around my living room to. Or maybe it looks like making a commitment to read more for fun.

I’ve found that creative burnout doesn’t have to be scary or trigger an identity crisis. It’s an opportunity for reflection on what isn’t working and an invitation to access what needs to change. It’s also more normal than you might think. You aren’t crazy, and you most certainly will reconnect with your creativity again. It’s not a matter of “if,” but a matter of when, and the time in between is a lesson in patience. There are gifts to be found in the waiting, and we just have to be brave enough to take the time to find them. It doesn’t have to be a season that we survive, but one that we can choose to thrive in.