It’s every artist’s worst nightmare. You’re churning out what you love, and suddenly you hit a block. You’re not just tired or uninspired. You can’t recreate that spark that gets your artistic skills flowing. It’s called burnout, and I got stuck there myself.
I love writing short stories, and I used to write at least one every day. I never woke up and had it on my to-do list, but I’d get inspired by something and end up writing anyway. Then I got a new job where I write for businesses all day long, so my creative writing began to take a back seat.
When I realized that I was struggling to come up with story ideas, it made me panic. Would I ever write again? What if I lost the skill I was so proud of?
I’m happy to report that burnout is not permanent. As long as you take some important steps toward self-care, you’ll be back to your artistic endeavors in no time. Here are all the steps I tried that helped me get back on my feet.
1. Take a Step Back
Burnout, in general, happens when you’re overloading yourself. Take a step back and look at your daily life with a fresh perspective. How many hours a day do you focus on work? Do you take your work home with you? When was the last time you did something for fun?
Even if you have a demanding schedule, make time for yourself a priority at least a couple of times a week if you can’t do it every day. Ten minutes in the morning or just before bed will go a long way in restoring your sense of self and creativity.
2. Start With Baby Steps
If you were a runner who hadn’t worked out in six months, you wouldn’t immediately tackle a marathon. Even if you’d been running all your life, you’d have to start at the beginning again. Try to think of it like the circle of artistic life and not a defeat, which is where my mind got stuck.
I started with online random generators created for writers. They churn out plot points, character names and even the first line of your story. It felt a little strange, but if you start with baby steps, you’ll gently begin to exercise the creative muscles that have been out of practice.
3. Brainstorm With a Friend
It’s easy to think that artists can finish projects on their own, but one person can’t do everything. The best screenwriters still have writer’s rooms where they collaborate and brainstorm with people to get the ideas flowing. Talk with your friends who share your passions and see if that’s what you need to get started.
4. Listen to Music
Ever start on a project and get caught up in your own thoughts? Music can help! Even if you work with a loud potter’s wheel, grab your favorite wireless headphones and get inspired by background music.
Avoid anything with lyrics, so you don’t get distracted. Classical music is free online, and there are tons of playlists out there for you to zone out to. Let your mind wander and feel the emotions the music stirs in you. You’ll practically be able to feel your creativity rolling through your fingertips.
5. Take a Vacation
When you’re away from home, you get to experience a new kind of life in a brand new place. Those experiences are invaluable to artists because your world view will open up and give you a new way to look at life. Even if you can’t take time off work, you can still take a quick weekend trip to get inspired again.
What if you can’t get away at all? Try immersing yourself in a movie or documentary focused on a place you’d like to visit or learn about. It can be anything from a fun romantic comedy to a documentary about the Arctic. You’ll still get that same fresh perspective if you learn on your screen, without sacrificing your budget or PTO.
6. Stop Setting Goals
One of the biggest mistakes I found myself making was that I constantly set goals for my creative efforts. It started small, like writing just one story a day. Then it became longer stories. Then it became novel plots. Soon, I still had that desire to write what was on my mind, but it was overshadowed with the bars I set too high for myself to reach in a short period.
Not reaching your own goals will extinguish your drive. I thought things like, if I can’t come up with the plot for a book right off the top of my head, why even try? Stop setting goals for yourself unless they’re those crucial baby steps you can definitely accomplish.
7. Be Your Own Cheerleader
Maybe your thing is photography. You wish you could capture pictures in a certain way or edit them to look different with your computer, but you can never seem to find the perfect subject. Forget you ever wanted that.
Instead, cheer yourself on for what you did accomplish. I gave myself a mental pat on the back when I managed to write for even half a page. Even if that story went nowhere, I still tried, and that’s what matters. These little encouragements will build your creative self back up until you’re at your strongest again.
8. Find What Makes You Happy
Sure, sometimes art comes out of life’s painful moments, but I find that I’m most creative when I’m happy. When my soul feels light and life is good, I’m not weighed down by worries. Little bits of stress will affect your mood and keep your creativity at bay.
Look for new hobbies if you’re not sure what makes you happy. Read inspiring, humorous books or watch a funny TV show. Get your mind in a happy place where you can be content with who you are and your creative abilities.
The only thing that can really cause burnout is yourself, so help yourself by changing things up. Just by trying a new experience or brainstorming with a friend, you’ll be well on your way back to making your art.
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