I would rather die than do one more thing.
Has this voice ever popped into your head in the frenzy of your workday as a Creative? Or perhaps it took a more “toned down” statement such as, ‘I am really tired and I need a break’, which basically translates to, ‘I need to get the hell out of my life.’
Too dramatic? Or maybe not. There is a book, “The Truth about Burnout”, written by Maslach and Leiter in 1997 where they described burnout as “an index of the dislocation between what people are and what they have to do.” They went further on to describe it “as erosion in dignity, values, spirit, and will- in simple words, erosion to the human soul.”
Creativity is cool, creating things is awesome and most especially, creating what you love for a living is exceptional. Many creatives would tell you they love their job if it is in line with their creativity, but sometimes, creatives may develop a love-hate relationship with their creativity, and this is where burnout comes in.
What is Creative Burnout?
Creative burnout is actually a psychological reaction to piles and piles of stress over a long period of time and it wears down on the physical and mental health. There is this accurate way popular illustrator, designer, and author, Frank Chimero, put it into words in an interview. He described it as fatigue happening to the body and described burnout as what happens to the soul. Long hours of wasteful drudgery rub up against the belief that anything is possible. What can you do with that other than collapse?
Burnout is in fact a normal part of the creative career with a higher percentage among millennials. This generation and the ones to come are raised and brought up in the hustle culture; it is all or nothing with your skills. But then, when with work comes a topsy-turvy tummy, mangled nerves in your body, hammering headaches, a deflated spirit, pushing tasks and repetition of the phrase,’ I’ll do it tomorrow’ becomes part of your everyday anthem while dreading the next day; are you sure you want to push on with this kind of relationship and have a complete meltdown?
There are a lot of articles and motivational videos on the web talking about the perspire to aspire movement, how to be hard working as a creative, pushing yourself past limits to be extraordinary, thinking outside the box and all that climbing the success ladder narrative. All of a sudden, the one thing you love doing becomes the one thing that stresses you out and makes you infuriatingly overwhelmed.
When your relationship with your creativity becomes unhealthy and borders on toxicity, what do you do? Do you stay and keep going and keep hoping things get better? Or do you leave and come back with a better version of your love?
Creativity can be fragile and sensitive to a lot of factors, some of which are exhaustion, high demand from creatives or work overload, need for perfectionism, self-doubt, stress, and many other factors. On the brighter side, these might not necessarily be a bad thing, because burnouts are your psych’s way of telling you that enough is enough, you and your creativity need a break.
Guides On How To Deal With Creative Burnout
Harry Potter might have had a magic wand, waved it in the air, and summoned, “Come hither, creativity”, or “Burnout, be gone,” and all cracks in the relationship with creativity might disappear. But we are no Harry Potter nor do magic wands exist. We are humans, and when things are not working out, we do the following instead:
- Take A Break
You know that Jean de la Fontaine quote that says, ‘Bend, but don’t break’? Well, a burnout is the breaking that happens when you bend too much.
- Take Your Time And Relax
Even though burnouts come with an overwhelming feeling and lack of productivity, you might be tempted not to stop for the fear that you need to keep creating to be productive, and another round of anxiety might kick in. It is easy for guilt to show up and for you to get the urge to keep creating, but that isn’t going to help.
Take your time and relax, your creative tank needs a refill, not to be exhausted to the very last drop.
- Explore Other Options
Everyone has got other things they love outside of creating. Take some time and spend it with your hobbies. Is it K-drama? Action? Watch it. Is it hanging out with friends? Go on ahead. Reading? Have fun.
Your creativity is the love of your life, but you need to spend time with other love else the relationship can choke.
- Step Into Your Boss Shoes
No, this point does not mean hopping back into work.
Working is good, but how was your work-life balance? Tons of motivational videos are heaped up on the internet about scaling through to success by putting in more hours than everyone else, but then, if the weight on your work scale is heavy, the balance tips over.
No one is an island, no one is a jack of all trades, and you will need help. Hire and delegate. Prioritize your tasks with a to-do list, set hours of work, and do not be afraid to communicate when things are too heavy for you to carry.
- Adopt The word ‘No’
Can you meet that client’s short deadline? Eliminate the maybes and settle for a no if you find the need to work overtime. Having the money is great, no doubt, but you do not want an erosion of your soul again. Mind and soul are important, remind yourself of that.
- The Voice In Your Head Is Not In Control
Your mind’s got a voice of its own, and when it begins to bash you for your lack of productivity, remember your own voice rules. Envelop yourself with compassion and believe you are good enough because that is the truth. As the podcaster, Summayyah Hassan said, you do not have to be productive to be valid.
- See Other Creatives
See other creatives or friends, and no, it is not cheating. Seeing other works revolving around your creativity or any other form of creativity can be relaxing, and speaking with your close ones about what you are experiencing can get a ton of load off your chest.
Of course, you’d get back into your relationship with creativity eventually, but now, it is all back to the honeymoon phase again. To maintain this phase, do not pour all that renewed energy and vigor at once. Careful now. Learn from your last burnout and prevent it from occurring again, and keep propelling your creativity.