Note: This is part 2 of a 3-part series about creating. I’ll use the topic of writing since that’s what I know, but the lessons can be extrapolated to any form of art. Part 1 covered How To Never Run Out Of Ideas, Part 2 is about Burnout (today), and Part 3 is on Validation (Thursday).
Burnout can happen for a lot of reasons.
- Being too difficult on yourself day in and day out.
- Allowing outside forces get the best of you.
- Getting bored.
From personal experience and from the experiences of people I know, the most intense burnouts happen with overwork and getting bored.
The others are usually more temporary.
How To Overcome Overwork (Time Off Is Not The Answer To Burnout)
We’re creatures of habit, so taking a vacation or extended time off probably won’t work for you. You’ll tell yourself “I’ll take just 1 day” or “1 week” and it almost always doesn’t work like that. 1 day becomes 2 becomes 3 becomes 4 …
If you have a boss then you don’t have the choice for it to work like that.
But as an artist, you are your own boss when you’re creating your art. Sometimes artists aren’t the best bosses. :)
The first question to ask yourself is: “Is this what I really want to be doing?”
Maybe you’re forcing yourself into your art and it’s really not for you. Maybe you went to a fine arts school, maybe you dreamed of being a painter since a young age, or maybe you’ve been hard at work on a novel for years.
It’s OK to quit. It’s OK to change gears. You won’t be alone if you decide on that course of action. Nobody worthy of your time will judge you.
Setting Limits To Set Yourself Free
On the other hand, if your art is your life and you don’t want to quit, the easiest way to overcome overwork is to define limits. I’m not a big fan of limits in the long term, but for short term it’s perfect. The article you’re reading right now is part 2 of a 3 part series. That’s a limit that I’m perfectly happy with.
How To Set Your Limits
If your desired course of action to deal with burn out is to take a vacation or just a day off do this instead: set a limit to only work for 30 minutes. You can still take a day off (except for the 30 minutes) and you can still take the vacation (except for the 30 minutes every day).
I’ll tell you what will happen right now before you even attempt this: your 30 minutes will be a struggle for the first few days. Let yourself struggle. Enjoy the struggle. After some time (maybe 1 day, maybe more) your 30 minute limit will naturally become unlimited.
When Is It A Good Idea To Take Time Off?
Is there ever a good time to take time off? Yes, when you’re not burnt out. When you’re not burnt out you’ll actually want to get back to work so it won’t be a struggle. 1 day probably won’t become 2 become 3 become 4 … although you know yourself better than I do so don’t take this advice if you know it won’t work for you.
Is A Digital Sabbatical The Answer?
Digital sabbaticals are all the rage these days. They only work for people who aren’t burnt out. Tread lightly with a digital sabbatical (meaning, you cut yourself off from all technology for X length of time) if you’re burnt out. It will do more harm than good.
This is what will happen: “Wow, that felt great, I don’t feel like getting back to work now.”
This is what’s supposed to happen: “Wow, that felt great, I’m fired up for work now!”
How To Overcome Boredom
The technique to overcome boredom is the same as overcoming overwork, with a slight difference: if you’re bored with your art you need a change of scenery, a change of pace.
For example, say you’re bored with the novel you’re writing.
During your 30 minute limit, don’t work on the novel directly. Work on writing something you’re not used to writing. Non-fiction, a poem, an essay. All forms of derivative art will help your chosen art.
7 Simple Ways To Stop Burnout When It Starts Creeping Up On You
In addition to the ideas above, here are 7 ways I guarantee will help you overcome burnout and achieve clarity. My favorite is #1, but they’re in no particular order.
My preference is riding my bike alone for an hour or two. When you’re exercising hard you can’t focus on much else except what’s happening in that moment.
If you hate exercise, get fit in just 1 minute.
2) Take a walk
Almost like exercise, but it lets your mind wander anywhere and everywhere due to the slow pace. It’s a different process than focusing on the moment and it might work better for you.
How To Relax. Sometimes we just need a few minutes to ourselves. Or, if you’re like me, you need a lot of minutes to yourself every day. :)
4) Do something scary
Karaoke is my recommended “scary” course of action for most people simply because most people absolutely refuse to do it. Guess what? Nobody cares that you can’t sing. Have fun, smile, and sing out of key. Karaoke is an exhilarating experience the first time, and it has never failed in getting my endorphins (natural pain and stress fighters!) pumping every single time I’ve done it.
But don’t cook your favorite meal or a recipe you know. Make it something that opens your taste buds to new flavors and forces you to stretch your skills and concentrate on the task at hand.
Alternate: take the mishmash of vegetables and whatever else you have around and create your own recipe. Who knows how it’ll turn out, but that’s half the fun.
6) Skype with someone who’s doing great things
Every single time I talk to someone on Skype who I haven’t spoken with before I get incredibly inspired. I don’t do these chats too often, but I absolutely love it when I do.
My preference is to connect with someone I’m already well-acquainted with, but have never spoken to.
7) Interact with a new social circle
It’s simple. Go to CouchSurfing.org’s Group for your city and see if anything’s going on. For most cities there will be! Go out and meet some new people. Meetup.com and Facebook Events are also good for this, but CouchSurfing is more international and exceptionally welcoming.
On Thursday we’ll cover Validation.
How do you feel good about your art if nobody sees it?
How do you share your art with the world? *Should you* share your art with the world? Is selling your art “selling out”?
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