Inspiration to ignite your creative life

How to recognise creative burnout

Staring at a blank page

Editors note: This is a guest blog post from our regular blogger Susan Roan. Check out her website for more productivity tips.

There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re a member of a creative workforce than staring at a blank page. A wide expanse of nothing which you have to fill. But inspiration has upped and left; you’ve got nothing to give.

Sound familiar? You may well have reached creative burnout.

With everyone leading such busy working lives, the ability to spot the telltale signs of burnout is becoming increasingly difficult. Everyone can suffer from it, from shop floor staff to boundary-pushing entrepreneurs.

When you hit burnout, it can often take weeks to recover. That’s lost productivity time, so, instead, let’s focus on spotting the signs of burnout and heading them off at the pass.

Here are 7 killer signs you’re approaching creative burnout.

1. You can’t sleep

If you’ve traditionally been a heavy sleeper but have recently found it difficult to nod off, your creative work may be to blame. Wireframes, drafts, stalled projects and impending deadlines are probably swirling through your head, preventing you from getting your beauty sleep.

The hours we spend asleep are arguably the most important. If you can’t sleep, it’s time to make a change.

2. You’re no longer performing your best work

You’re better than this. That last piece of work you submitted simply wasn’t indicative of what you’re capable of, and you simply can’t blame anyone else or an unfair deadline.

This is a classic sign that you’ve burned yourself out. Stress causes us to forget the essence of what makes us great at our profession. You can get it all back, but you’ll need to take some time out first.

3. You’re struggling to brainstorm

No matter which creative industry you’re in, brainstorming will take up a significant portion of your working week. The ability to conjure up unique, engaging ideas is what being a creative is all about.

If the ideas simply aren’t coming and you find yourself sitting in front of a blank whiteboard for longer than feels comfortable, you’re working too hard.

4. You’ve become hyper-sensitive to criticism

If there’s one thing you must accept as a creative professional, it’s that your job goes hand-in-hand with criticism. It may not always be constructive, but in order to grow and improve your work, you need to take it on the chin.

If your ability to do so appears to have vanished, and you simply want to scream at the people critiquing your work, guess what – you’ve burned yourself out.

5. You’re dreading going to work

But, you used to love going to work! It isn’t unusual for those working in creative industries to genuinely enjoy the hours they spend in the office. They are, after all, getting paid to express themselves and do something they love.

You do still love your job, but you’re dreading it because you’re tired – plain and simple.

6. You’re jealous of a colleague’s output

This isn’t you, is it? Looking across your desk at the colleague opposite, cursing the brilliance of their last project. You used to be a team and congratulate each other when one of you hit it out of the park.

If your colleagues are suddenly turning into creative enemies, it’s time to take a step back.

7. You’re turning down work

If you’re a freelancing creative, you’ll know the perils of taking on too much work. It really doesn’t hurt to say ‘no’ once in a while, but if you find yourself consistently turning down work you know, deep down, you should be taking in with open arms, a bloated work schedule could be to blame.

Conclusion

The above list represents the most common signs of creative burnout. Just one may chime with you, but that’s enough; find out which one it is and make some changes.

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Richard Lalchan is founder of Creatives Hub whose mission is to help as many creatives as possible get rid of the shackles of procrastination, break out of fear, grow in confidence and get stuff done. He also works with individuals and businesses to build their web presence, runs a podcast network and is currently writing his first sci-fi novella.

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