Preventing Creative Burnout

Many of us identify with the sentiment that it is "better to burn out than to fade away". But why not find creative middle ground and allow yourself to rest, recharge, and fire those engines up again? Julia Cameron likened it to depleting your inner creative well without refilling it. There is only so much you can take out, without replenishing the source of your creativity.

Burnout usually occurs for one of two reasons. Very often, in the high-paced society we live in today, creative burnout is caused by trying to achieve too much from too little. Too little energy, not enough time or creativity, too few good ideas, too much pressure.

Many people try to juggle a day job with a creative dream, and very often these clash: great art ideas occur to you just before you’re due to lead an intensive international conference. And just when you thought you had a moment, your children, spouse, parents, neighbour, or pets need your attention.

Burnout can also occur while you’re coming off a highly creative streak where everything seems to have been going brilliantly and you can’t believe how much work you’re able to do and how much energy you seem to have. Your art seems to feed you and keep you going and, especially if you’re undisciplined, you may be skipping meals or sleep in order to work while the muse still loves you.

Naturally, if you don’t keep a balance in your life between your body, mind, and soul, a creative fire like this can lead to health issues such as insomnia, fatigue, hyperactivity, hypertension, lethargy, hypoglycaemia, muscle weakness, back, neck, and joint ache, anxiety, paranoia, and depression.

Usually once depression hits, creative block is not far behind, and it becomes easy to fall into a cycle of block leading to depression leading to further blocking.

What can you do to prevent burnout? Varying your pace, and allowing yourself time out to rest and rejuvenate, can do wonders for your health without spending much time or money. Set a limit on your maximum working hours per week.

Take a regular break from creating. This can be a full day, a week, or as little as giving yourself the first twenty minutes or hour of your day to meditate or relax in some way instead of diving into your artwork. Unwind.

Get outside if you work indoors. If most of your day is spent outdoors, go to a movie, theatre, museum, or art gallery.

Find a creative hobby that is the opposite of your creative job. Writers can dabble in art or music, artists could try journaling or writing poetry.

If you normally lead a sedentary life get yourself moving with an energising exercise programme.

If your mind is buzzing with creative energy try meditation to calm yourself before attempting to sleep.

This article was first published on BellaOnline in October 2005. © Elsa Neal

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