#5 — Navigating creative burnout
✨ Your spark isn't gone
Hey there, design friends!
Lately, I've been feeling tired — think cat-after-a-long-nap level of tired. It makes it challenging to find the energy to do creative work, and I bet some of you can relate. So today’s issue will be shorter and inspired by this lack of motivation. We’ll dive (safely) into the world of creative burnout.
I'd love to hear your best motivation and recovery tips, so please send them my way 🤞
Julie — @syswarren
Resources and links
📙 Just Enough Research - As a solo designer, you might have been put in charge of user research. There are tons of books and resources on this, but this one is a good and short guidebook of methods you can implement, even if you’re a team of one.
✨ Grids for Framer - I’ll be updating my portfolio soon 🤞 I’ll most likely use Framer to do this, and this is one of the templates I found quite affordable and also pretty good… or maybe I’ll do something completely custom.
💯 Places to connect with other designers
Layers - A home for designers so you’re less “solo” 🤝
read.cv - A “show don’t tell” professional network, very visual
Polywork - Partner on side projects, meet other designers and professionals… ask for feedback
Know any other places where we can hang out? Let me know 😊
It's not you. It's creative burnout
⏱️ Reading time: 3 min 6 sec
As a solo designer, your job requires being creative constantly. But contrary to what some people believe, creativity is not a simple on/off switch.
Lately, I've been tired, and it sometimes seems like all my creativity left me. I dread starting a new project because I know it’ll be difficult. Thankfully, there are still moments when I am creative, but they don't last long. I know I’m approaching creative burnout.
Is this creative burnout?
Maybe you're more tired than usual, or maybe this particular project isn't inspiring… just like your last several projects 😖
We're all unique in feeling creative. You and I could have very different reasons for having low energy, but burnout usually means we've pushed ourselves too far for too long.
This is what creative burnout might look like:
You’re anxious about going to work or starting a new project
You feel like you’ll not be able to create something good
Even simple tasks seem too difficult to handle
You're more irritable than usual
Other creatives make you feel like you're not talented enough… forgetting that you only see their best work.
There could also be external reasons you feel this way. You might be dealing with hardships in your personal life. Or you could be working in a toxic environment that makes your job more difficult than it should be. It’s important to acknowledge all the different factors to improve your situation.
How do we get out of there?
Burnout is hard on everyone, but it can be crushing for creative workers. It makes it hard to accomplish simple tasks, and innovative work becomes nearly impossible. So here are some ideas to fight creative burnout.
💡 Get your spark back
Ask for help: Talk with friends, coworkers, or your boss. Sometimes it’s a great way to better understand the problem and find solutions.
Take a break: Disconnect — forget about work, design, and do things for yourself.
Build energy: You can only be creative if you have energy. Working out, running, laughing, sleeping enough, eating well, and spending quality time with loved ones are good ways to feel energized.
Look back: You’re a talented person who convinced people to work with you. Look back at your past successes to fight self-doubt. You're in a temporary situation, but your creativity is still here.
Personally, I created a folder with screenshots of positive reviews from users and co-workers. I also have visuals of projects I'm proud of and articles mentioning my work that I look at when I need to feel better. I encourage you to create your own folder. It could help you when you’re not feeling great.
It'll also be helpful for your annual self-assessment or when you prepare for a job interview 😉
The feel-good folder
Prevention is the best medicine
Everyone experiences creative burnout differently. For me, it makes it hard to do anything remotely creative — from designing to writing a funny tweet or even cooking a meal (food is art, right?) But I know I can get out of this situation and could do a better job at avoiding creative burnout.
Your creativity didn't go away.
It's just taking a break because it needs rest.
Remember, your past wins didn't disappear, and others' apparent successes do not make you less talented.
💡 Be a healthy creative
Set realistic expectations: Don’t try to do too much to recover from burnout. It could have the opposite effect.
Take it slow: Warm up with small tasks to build momentum before tackling bigger projects.
Track your progress: Reflect on your progress, successes, and how you feel—list the work you've accomplished.
Build a healthy routine: Plan breaks and physical activities. Don't hesitate to talk with a friend, mentor, or health professional.
Limit anxiety-inducing situations: Big presentations or high-intensity projects shouldn't be a weekly occurrence. Set boundaries if you want to maintain your creative energy.
If I reflect on what pushed me to feel this way, I know that long daily debates with co-workers drained me of the last bits of energy I had left because I was struggling with personal issues. Since I’ve set boundaries regarding debates, I’m feeling slightly better, but getting my energy levels back up will take some time.
Creative burnout can have long-term consequences if not addressed… If you're dealing with stress, irritability, and self-doubt, here are some things you can do to feel better.
Get your spark back: ask for help, take a real break, start with small tasks, and look back at past successes to fight self-doubt.
Prevention is key: Reflect on your progress, build a healthy routine with breaks and self-care, and set boundaries to protect your energy.
Your talent is still there: It's just taking a break to rest. Others' successes don't make you less talented. Focus on personal growth and self-awareness to avoid and recover from creative burnout.
See you next week 😊
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