This article was contributed by Abhishek Talreja.
Most freelancers go through those dreadful days when nothing seems to work. Times when the creative juices go dry, and just about everything starts to bother you like an irritating little insect. You stare into the walls and empty spaces to understand what’s going wrong – the more you wish to get back to your real self, the harder it gets.
Creative burnouts can be quite demotivating – often a result of multiple factors: long work hours, non-stop work, a lack of inspiration, and so on.
What is Creative-Burnout?
Creative professionals are driven by their passion for their art. Burnout makes you lose interest in work – you tend to feel dull and feel like you lack purpose and interest. It can even stretch to a point where you start doubting your abilities as a creative professional and start thinking about alternative vocations. A strange sense of isolation takes over, where you stop feeling like interacting with anyone. You feel like escaping the situation and there is an odd frustration that overwhelms you.
Don’t worry, you can avoid getting into the rut with some simple yet useful hacks:
How to Avoid Creative Burn Out
1. Prepare Yourself for Every Project
There are times when you feel stuck because you’re dissatisfied with the quality you’re producing.
All types of creative work require some level of planning that gives you a visualisation of the output. Whenever you’re feeling stuck, take a while to mull over your ideas. Give wings to your imagination.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein
So, whether you’re working on a web page design or a magazine article, you need to have a sense of the outcome.
Once you’ve done your research and found pieces of inspiration, you’re almost in the right frame of mind to start execution.
For instance, whenever I’m writing a piece of content, I make it a point to take down notes while I’m doing my research. This gives me an overview of how I’m going to speak to my readers.
At this point, it’s always a good idea to give yourself ample time and space to give the project your best first-attempt. Also, keep the doubts and fears at bay and you’ll come out with flying colours.
You’ll realize that every time you put love in your work, you feel happier and more satisfied.
Planning and thinking put you in a mind-frame where you’re ready to build a connection with your audience and that’s when the creative process becomes a lot more exciting and enjoyable.
2. Don’t Get Affected by External Factors
Be it the pesky little emails in your inbox, or criticism from a client or a delayed payment, there are many things clogging your tiny little brain. Most external factors are hard to control and that’s why finding focus is such an uphill climb.
As a creative entrepreneur, you must realize that business adversities are inevitable and you must learn to get over them.
“The adversity I faced was a blessing in disguise. It got me to literally “see” my life differently. I began to be grateful for all the little things that we, as human beings take for granted.” – Michael Nova
- Be grateful for all that’s working for you including everything that you have achieved so far. Many freelancers write a gratitude journal to keep them away from feeling low because of a short-term failure or an obstacle.
- Observe yourself when overthinking a problem and make sure you get out of it as soon as possible.
- Don’t get bogged down because of the uncertainty of work and money. Keep using your time and energy to upgrade your skills, to look for new clients, and to build a personal brand for your business.
- If you’re struggling to produce quality then look for ways to improve yourself. You can attend a workshop or read a book to improve your skills. Take the help of a friend or a mentor to get feedback on your work.
Being a freelance business owner, you’re surrounded by uncertainty and it can become hard to keep performing to the best of your abilities. You should learn to take temporary discomforts in your stride and you’ll see yourself maturing as a creative professional and as a freelancer.
3. Be Generous with Yourself
As creative professionals, we all tend to grind ourselves. Plus, the pressure of deadlines can literally slay us, at times.
If you have a lot on your platter then look for ways to push deadlines. You can request your client for some extra time, for instance, or outsource some of your work to someone who you know and trust.
“If you have a goal to achieve career success, burnout is your biggest enemy.” – Hugh Beaulac
At times, we get so engrossed in the work that we forget to take a break. Breaks help you revive your creative energies. Absorb ideas and emotions while you’re taking a pit stop and you’ll feel refreshed and motivated.
So, you might want to travel for a couple of days or binge-watch your favorite TV series or meet a few friends for a cup of coffee.
A break means you’re not thinking about work and it also means you’re not replying to emails.
Many freelancers hit a low when they’re not enjoying working on a project. Don’t get stressed about projects that make you unhappy. Try putting them on the back-burner for a couple of days.
Keep boredom miles away, find ways to keep yourself inspired. As a freelance writer, I have the habit of working on multiple projects lest I may get bored of one.
Having an easy every-day schedule also ensures you’re not heading towards burnout. You can, for instance, give yourself short breaks after every hour or so – go for a walk or listen to some music. Letting your mind wander is a good way to start functioning again.
Creating something that’s not related to work has its pleasures – cooking or painting or doodling. When you play around and have fun doing something innovative all the time, you realize you’re shooing away all those feelings of doubt and fear that grip you while you’re at your work.
4. Take Care of Your Health
Many a time, creative freelancers experience burnout because they get exhausted and suffer health issues. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re not straying away from good health:
- Regular exercise helps keep your body in shape. You feel more active and find that your productivity is much higher. You can opt for a brisk walk or a cardio regime. Yoga can work well too.
- Practice mindfulness every day. Daily meditation practice is a good way to release pent up stress from your mind.
- Make sure you’re taking a nutritious diet and not skipping your meals.
- Avoid stress eating – this can cause you to become overweight and lethargic in the long-run.
- Keep moving around – sitting all day can affect your physical and mental wellbeing.
- Most freelancers need to be in front of a screen all day. This can cause your eyes to get tired and give you recurring headaches. Make sure you move away from the screen every hour. Close your eyes for a while to give them some rest.
- Being in silence and not doing anything can be quite effective in helping you to create a reservoir of positive energy.
We all need good health to stay happy – one of the essentials to keep those creative juices flowing.
5. Accept the Chaos
At some point of time, you realise that the creative process has to be unstructured. As Pablo Picasso rightly said:
“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”
Creative ideas come to you when you least expect them and don’t always follow a similar pattern. Not everything you create will be a masterpiece, and that’s ok. And you can’t expect yourself to maintain the same level of productivity every day. And that’s completely fine as well.
Accepting that you may run out of ideas helps you keep that much-needed mental balance.
Another useful strategy is to know you’re creative process because everybody has their own. Try to understand what lights up a creative spark in you. At the same time, make sure that you’re not getting stuck in these notions as they may be temporary. As individuals and as professionals, we all tend to change with time.
Be courageous to make mistakes and see failures in a positive light. Know that you can always, start all over again.
Over to You
Feeling stale and useless is quite natural – it happens to all creative freelancers so you’re not alone. Being aware that you’re facing burnout is the first step to get over it. It helps if you know why you’re going through what you’re going through.
Because your issues are unique to you, realizing what works best is always great.
Understanding your goals and yet accepting the chaos, is the key to not facing a burnout-like situation. And besides, you’ve got to keep your body and mind in a steady-state, and you know you’re on track.
When nothing’s working, it’s always good to let go, be patient, and make way for ideas to flow.
Abhishek Talreja is a passionate writer and an experienced content marketing expert. He has contributed to top marketing blogs and works with international companies to help them earn online visibility and reputation. He is the founder of Prolific Content Marketing.