I’ve lost count of the blog posts I’ve started over the past few months that are currently sitting in my drafts folder. I have a running list of ideas in Evernote of posts and projects that I want to create but haven’t started. One side of my mind REALLY wants to do these things but when the pen hits the paper (quite literally), nothing is there. I mean nothing. I like to refer to this as creative burn out or creative exhaustion. What ever you call it, I have it bad.
Creativity = Money
I make my living from the creative side of my brain. I work as an Instructional Designer full-time from home for a large health insurance company. My day typically consists of taking information, processes, procedures, etc, and turning them into a training program that is beautiful, logical, and stimulating to the learner so they walk away from the training with a new skill. I love instructional design because I get to use that creative part of my brain AND help people at the same time.
I also run an online business on the side. This includes content creation, writing, photography, consulting work, social media management, etc. That’s where I thrive. That’s where I get to run the show without corporate policies and procedures. That’s where I get to do anything creative that my little heart desires and I get to create things about topics I’m passionate about like DIY, body image, style, and pets to name a few. This is the place where my soul is ALIVE. I know this because I feel a sense of euphoria come over me when I’m in the zone.
Not Enough Creativity to Go Around?
While I do like my full-time job and it keeps the bills paid, it’s not my passion. It’s not what fuels my soul. My dream and goal is to eventually replace my full-time income with my business. It’s a slow but steady process with a lot of bumps along the way! It takes a lot of mental energy to constantly keep churning out creative ideas and content for BOTH jobs. I’m at a point right now where I’m creatively exhausted and burnt-out with both. It’s not that I hate either job because I don’t! It’s more about stretching myself too thin for too long.
What Causes Creative Exhaustion?
Personally, creative exhaustion happens to me from a number of factors:
- Burning the candle at both ends.
- Not taking any down time.
- Personal and family issues/problems.
- Comparison to others that are more successful than myself.
- Working, working, working without acknowledgement or encouragement from other people.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been in a creative rut. I’m comforted by knowing that this too shall pass. Trust me that your creativity is still there. It didn’t dry up. It just needs some coaxing to come back out and play.
5 Tips to Survive Creative Exhaustion
When I can’t create the things that are “stuck” in my brain, it physically and mentally hurts because using creative energy is what makes me tick. I want to share a few things that work for me to survive creative exhaustion.
1. Rest and Relaxation
When your mind is exhausted, it’s your bodies way of letting you know you need rest. Even if you don’t feel like you have time for more rest, you need to make time. Trust me. Last year I went through a creative rut where my body literally couldn’t even move. I had been staring at the wall for a good hour without even realizing it. I told my manager how I was feeling and took a week off that same day! I did a lot of sleeping during that week without guilt.
2. Have Patience with the Process
Right now, I’m being patient with the process and just letting it happen. Sometimes that’s all you can do. Forcing the creative process doesn’t accomplish anything but crappy work. I’m trying to step away from the computer at the end of the day and let my mind and body rejuvenate. I say this because many days I’m “connected” from 7am until almost midnight with maybe an hour here or there that I’m not working.
3. Take Time Off
Taking time off is critically important for everyone no matter what type of work you do. I think it’s even more important for us creative types because you need to recharge your batteries so that those amazing ideas can start flowing again. I often get inspired the most when I’m away from the computer and outdoors in nature or just living life.
It’s almost the end of August and I just realized that I haven’t taken any time away from work this entire year for ME. The only days off I’ve taken are for doctor appointments, errands, family emergencies, and to work on my business stuff outside of my full-time job. No wonder I’ve hit a creative wall. I haven’t taken any down time to reboot. I just recently scheduled a few days each month for the rest of the year for ME. No clue what I’m going yet but I don’t care if I end up doing nothing!
4. Slow Down
The thing about creative types is that when we’re on a roll, we are going non-stop! It seems like when the creative ideas start flowing they don’t stop until you hit a wall like this. There’s an urgency to get it all done while you’re in the zone. This makes it really hard to remember to slow down before exhaustion even happens. I know personally I have to do a better job at slowing down during the “good” creative times so I can space out my work accordingly.
5. Do Uncreative Things
When I came back to work after my creative breakdown last year, I asked for work that was repetitive and didn’t take up a lot of mental energy. This helped me to ease back into my role by doing stuff that didn’t require a ton of thinking on my behalf. Of course that eventually got boring and I started designing again when I was really ready. If you don’t have a job that’s understanding then fill your time outside of work with things that don’t require a ton of mental energy. This is the perfect time to finish that show on Netflix, go for a walk, etc.
I have no idea if this post will make sense to you but I had to get these thoughts out of my brain. I haven’t been able to write a decent post in forever so I figured I could start by talking about why.
I’d love to know if you ever feel creative burnout or exhaustion? How do you deal with it?
“Creativity is a drug I cannot live without”
~Cecil B. DeMille~