Thursday, November 17, 2011

5 Ways to Beat Creative Burnout & Get Inspired!

This post is actually based on another piece that I wrote almost a year ago, but it seemed like a good time to revisit the topic.  It's easy to become overwhelmed this time of year, when holiday madness means working overtime.  And as we all know, feeling overwhelmed (and overworked) can eventually lead to some serious burnout.

For those of us who work in creative fields, feeling mentally drained or creatively stifled can prevent us from accomplishing what we need to get done - and enjoying what we do!  I've been working ridiculously long hours lately in preparation for the holiday season, and I've started to notice myself struggling to find my creative flow.  When this happens, I have several things I do to beat the burnout and get back in action.  Below are 5 of my most recommended tips for overcoming creative burnout and getting yourself re-inspired!

1. Look at pretty things for 30 minutes.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?  It is!  Put your feet up for a few and grab your favorite hot beverage (I have a mild addiction to soy chais).  If you're working online, close whatever you're working on.  Then take a half hour to read your favorite blogs, look around Etsy or online galleries, or browse through Pinterest.  Or turn on your favorite music and thumb through a magazine or design book.  Spending just a few minutes away from your work while you allow yourself the time to enjoy the work of others takes off the pressure and subconsciously reminds you why you like creating in the first place!

2. Leave your workspace.  Just get up, walk out, and don't look back!  If you live in the city, take a short walk and observe the shops, architecture, street art, and people.  If you live in the country, spend a few minutes breathing fresh air and basking in nature.  Or get in your car, on a bus or the train and visit a museum for one hour.  Or walk your dog.  Or go get a coffee.  Or just do a quick drive-by of the nearest Anthropologie (I wrote an entire post about how I pass by their window displays when I need to feel inspired!).  It doesn't matter where you go or what you do, as long as you get out of your house, studio or office for a little while.  You'll feel surprising refreshed when you return.

3. Create for Fun.  I'll admit that I have the hardest time with this one.  Although I've gotten better over the past year or so, I am a workaholic.  And what I do for a living happens to be creative, so it's difficult for me to separate the two.  When I'm feeling creativity block, it's often at least partly because I'm thinking only in terms of work and my businesses.  Even if I have to force myself (!), I've found that putting work aside for an hour or two and starting a project just for fun rewires my brain.  I'm reminded how much I enjoy the process of creating aside from work.  The pressure for perfection that I feel when I'm making something for my job disappears for a while, and I feel recharged.  Even if your job isn't in a creative field, giving yourself some time to work on something you enjoy can make your work week a little more enjoyable as well.

4. Keep an idea journal.  The subconscious mind is a powerful tool, and creative people tend to come up with the best ideas when we're not overly focused.  Make or buy a pretty journal or pocket notebook that you can carry with you and put by your bed at night, and when you have a creative thought (no matter how silly it may seem at the time), write it down or sketch it out.  You'll be surprised at what you can come up with when you're not trying too hard!  Keeping a record of my ideas alleviates a lot of the pressure I often feel to come up with new ideas during the workday, and allows me to be more productive in terms of turning my concepts into tangible projects.  If you're more of a technical person, you can also try my husband's method - he uses the notepads on his iPad and iPhone to record his ideas.  Another friend of mine makes voice notes on her phone that she can play back later.  Find what works for you, and try it out.

5. Banish Self Doubt.  This is the most important tip of all, because it happens to everyone.  We compare ourselves to others, feel guilty for not accomplishing all of our goals, question our abilities, or convince ourselves we'll never be good enough.  Guess what?  There is at least one person out there who thinks you are amazing, admires your work, and feels inspired by you.  I promise.  If you didn't have talent, you wouldn't create in the first place.  When I'm doubting myself, I make little signs with positive words or quotes and hang them up in my workspace.  Every time I glance at one of them, I am reminded that I can do whatever I set my mind to do.  Try it!  Just grap a few pieces of colorful scrap paper and a marker, and write out some single, powerful words like "talented," "inspired," "unique," and "amazing." I also have positive typographic artwork hanging all around me in my studio to help encourage me when I'm working.

What do you do to get out of creative ruts?

Images from top: 1. Bubby dog!  2. My Pinterest page.  3. Holiday Anthro window, via Anthropologie on Flickr. 4. Creative inspiration poster. 5. My idea journal. 6. Positive artwork via bubby & bean's shop.

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  1. Ahhhhhh I've been feeling the creative ruts for sure lately with everything going on. These tips are perfect!! I especially like the part about making something for fun and banishing self doubt. I am bookmarking this!! :-)

  2. Oh wow, thank you for following me. I've been a fan of your blog for a while (well actually, I think I visited about a month ago) but I am following!

    I really love these suggestions, I think that they could be applied for everything really, not just creatively :). It certainly helps when i am working to take some time out of where I work, or when I'm blogging and I need some inspiration to look at things on pinterest or pretty photos others have blogged (and also keeping an idea journal). Usually when I'm in a rut of any kind I just take some time out, and when I feel ready look online for some inspiration :).


  3. really cute ideas! my favorite is the idea journal. that is much needed! I came across your blog and I love it! FOLLOWING :) Xo. Nicole

  4. Thanks for the pep talk and great suggestions.

  5. from you today, this is my favorite line

    "Guess what? There is at least one person out there who thinks you are amazing, admires your work, and feels inspired by you."

  6. This is such a great post. Thank you for the inspiration!

  7. love these! sometimes i am brimming with creative ideas, and others i am completely stuck! i will have to re-read this post on those stuck days :)



  8. Such awesome advice! Even though creativity is not my job, I still allow the pressures (real or imagined) of blogging get to me. These are all great ideas that I will try!

  9. I think getting out of your workspace is super important and helpful!

  10. Timely topic! I resolved to find whimsy right under my nose and between my ears to hasten my recovery from an appendectomy two weeks ago. So, with my point-and-shoot in hand, we visited the alpaca farm just four miles down the road from us. Nope, it wasn't open, but what we explored instead was better than I expected. I reported back on my post this week: Wherefore art thou, Whimsy? (Part 1)

  11. These are so right on, Melissa! Whenever I need a dose of inspiration I look at pretty things via Pinterest or Etsy. I also do 5 minute drawing exercises, where I doodle for 5 minutes straight trying to fill of the entire piece in front of me. Its always fun to see what I come up with.


  12. Aww, I was really needing this post today. Thanks so much for sharing these tips! You're a godsend :)


  13. You guys rock. I'm so glad this post helped! Now I just need to remember to follow my own advice. :)


  14. Compliments for your blog!!!!!
    It's wonderful!!!!!

  15. Thanks for sharing this list, I do find it hard at times to stay creative, or even positive! So I'll try and apply some of these tips.. looking at pretty things is definitely a good start! xo

  16. Thanks for this inspiring post, whenever I'm in a creative slump, I'm going to refer back to it.

  17. All very useful advice, Melissa!

    The idea journal is a must. I first started placing a notepad in my youth when I woke up with poems in my mind and just HAD to write them down straight away. So, I know how useful this is.

    Unfortunately though, looking at pretty things for 30 straight minutes makes my head explode with ideas, so it is kind of overwhelming and I need to have my idea journal close haha.

  18. how sweet. i wish to be able to express myself better in English to write such a lovely posts.
    Creativity will save the world ;))))

  19. brilliant post- i found it through ...

    i've been having a burn out day today and can't help but feel guilty about it! it helps when other people post about how they're feeling and it reminds me that i'm not the only one who has days like this! i'm so glad that i've found your blog


  20. I am LOVING this post. You rock :)

  21. This is a fantastic list! Always great to see how people overcome this.

  22. This came along at the perfect time! Thanks for the reminder. I am making a conscious effort to be organized and calm this year. Say yes to the fun stuff and NO to the stressful stuff. Have a wonderful holiday!


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