Let’s talk about creative burnout.
No artist wants it to happen to them, and yet, burnout happens to almost everyone at one point or another.
How can you avoid it when there are so many different factors leading you that way?
Think about it! Despite the immense blessing of being able to do what you love for a living, it’s no secret that an artist’s life can be trying. There’s a feeling of no control, a lack of recognition at times, or disdain when you start to do the same tasks over and over again.
There’s always the chance of taking on too many responsibilities when you’re alone in the studio, and sometimes your well-being gets put on the back burner. We won’t even begin to discuss those perfectionistic or high-achieving personalities. And, that’s all on top of the pressure to constantly produce new work!
So when creative burnout hits, you need a plan of action to deal with it. A strategy to find your way back to your passion for making art, because you should never give up on what brings you joy.
And we have one for you here! Check out these eight ways to overcome creative burnout throughout your art career.
“Why am I feeling this way?”
You can’t fix a problem you don’t understand.
That’s why getting to the root of the problem is an invaluable first step. Ask yourself to really explore what’s causing this negative feeling that’s making you not want to create.
Is your schedule too demanding? Have you been creating too many similar works? Are you grasping at straws when it comes to new ideas? Do you feel exhausted? Has your self-confidence taken a hit?
You can see how each of these possibilities would have a very different plan of attack! Grab a journal or a friend for coffee and start thinking it through. Because the sooner you understand, the sooner you can get your passion back on track.
Let go of the shame
As artists, we often imagine our creativity as our sole identity. Being creative? It’s who we are. So, when we hit that mental roadblock and either can’t or don’t want to create, it can feel like a pretty excruciating blow to our self-esteem.
It can almost feel shameful. Causing yourself to worry, “What’s wrong with me?”
The pressure to produce and achieve in this day and age can be paralyzing, but shifting your view of the situation can help you ditch the burnout quicker.
As writer Nathalie Sejean puts it, “Creative burnout is not a fatality, it’s an injury.” And, that’s an essential one to remember in your art practice.
When you feel burned out, Nathalie advises, “You haven’t dried up your well of creativity, you’ve overworked your creative muscle. You forgot to stretch it. You repeated too many times the same movements, over-developing sections and weakening others.”
But, you can always get back in shape. Creativity is a process after all. Accept that burnout is just another part of that process. There will be times when you get stuck, and there will be times you marvel at your own brilliance! But rest assured, no matter how you feel in the moment, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and you can always break out of your funk.
So crumple up that shame and toss it in the nearest trash can. A mind full of negativity will only cloud your judgment and invite the burnout to stay longer.
Stuck? Move on to something else
Creativity comes and goes. But, it probably won’t come by forcing it.
Many artists admit to this trick for dealing with burnout—when you start to feel like you’re hitting a wall, move on! Whether it’s working on a different piece or another activity entirely, a change of scenery can help push the reset button in your mind.
Consider having multiple pieces set up in the studio that you can work on little by little. If you need more space than that, get out of the studio. Go for a walk. Grab lunch with friends. Turn on your favorite TED Talk or documentary. Take a nap even.
If you’re feeling a pang of guilt for leaving your work behind, then simply switch over to an equally productive task. Something that gives back—to your business or even your mental health. It could be as basic as deep cleaning up your studio space, taking 15 minutes to update Artwork Archive, or catching a mid-afternoon yoga class.
Don’t underestimate the importance of breaks for your productivity.
Speaking of breaks …
Artists can be notoriously hard on themselves. Many often doubt the process, hating how a piece is coming together until the very end. And perfectionism plays a big part in that. You want to work, work, work until you’re satisfied with your creation.
But remember our workout analogy? Your brain needs a break after working out its creative muscle, just as your body does.
Have you ever taken the night off from a project, only to come back the next morning with newfound clarity? It’s not some stroke of luck. It’s because your brain got the rest it deserved and now it’s ready for more.
Give yourself due process when gauging your place on the burnout spectrum. Would an afternoon off give you the distance you need? Or, is an entire vacation needed to recharge your creative battery?
Do what you need to do to protect your creativity, just don’t view it as being lazy. Self-care is not selfish. It’s nurturing the very core of what your art business needs to succeed—you! Commit to making it a priority.
Get your creative juices flowing
When being creative is your job (and you are working hard to making a living from it), the pressure can really start to mount. If that’s what’s causing you to feel burned out, then take some of the pressure out of it!
Sit down once a day and do something creative—just for fun.
The key here is no pressure. Don’t worry about composition or color palettes or the final product. Just create. To remind yourself how fun creating can be and why you became an artist in the first place.
It doesn’t have to be grand. Doodle on a napkin, sculpt with Play-Doh or relax with a coloring book—anything to let the creativity flow. Try a medium you’ve never used before, or check out one of these creative exercises. You can even use some of our favorite art prompts to get started.
If it sparks an idea, fantastic! But don’t pressure yourself. The only goal is to reignite your passion, so the burnout drifts away.
Never underestimate the power of friendship
Burnout can be isolating (exactly why we need to let go of the shame!). And, it can play serious mind games with our self-esteem.
The minute you start feeling the burnout, that’s when you should turn to your personal therapist or support group, A.K.A. your friends and mentors!
It is important to invest in a group of people who will support, nourish, stimulate, mentor and guide you to put your best foot forward. Odds are they’ve been through it themselves and will have the wisdom to help you, too.
But, it’s not all on them. It’s your job to communicate exactly what will make you feel better. Do you just need someone to listen and vent to? Could you use some words of encouragement or advice? Or, maybe you just need a good laugh and a partner while you get your change of scenery?
Don’t be afraid to reach out and trust that they are willing to help. And, whatever you do, stay away from all those Negative Nancy’s.
Give your confidence a boost
You are your own toughest critic.
So when you feel uninspired and down in the dumps, it can do a lot of good to reminisce about past accomplishments.
Whether you reread emails from happy collectors, positive testimonials on your Facebook page, or admire the awards on your latest C.V., you’ll be reminded of your abilities and why you chose to become an artist in the first place.
Another tip? Try making a computer folder or fill a box with these pick-me-ups to turn to whenever you’re in need. Skinny Artist’s Drew Kimble calls it an “inspirational first-aid kit” of sorts!
As an artist, what you do provides a lot of good in the world. Focusing on the positives of the job can help you regain your sense of purpose.
Egging on stress and negativity will only make matters worse in the creative burnout world. Let go some of the weight that’s been resting on your shoulders, and find a way to calm down your mind.
But, how, you ask?
Mindfulness can be a great way to take stock of what’s actually happening in your art business and eliminate the unnecessary stresses you impose on yourself. There are also proven ways to improve your positivity, like setting consequences for when you complain and actively practicing gratitude. Get the scoop here.
Finally, using tools that save you time on the tasks you dread doing can being a saving grace for your mentality. For instance, an art inventory software like Artwork Archive can take a huge amount of stress off your plate—and, it takes only fifteen minutes a day to keep your art business organized.
Artwork Archive makes handling your inventory, locations, show dates, clients, and professional reports a breeze!