The Best Ways to Handle Creative Burnout

It always breaks my heart a little when I hear people say that they don’t think that they’re creative. I don’t think a person has to be an artist or writer of any sort to be creative. I really believe creativity is a muscle that we exercise, by simply being human.

Being a “creative type” for your professional or your academic field can be a lot of pressure though. Being creative can feel like an even more finite thing when we struggle with creative burnout. Being a Film major, I’m often thinking of story ideas to work on--sometimes it comes naturally and other times, not so much. But I’m doubtful that even the greatest thinkers and artists of the world came into the world automatically knowing how to compose a masterpiece and never experienced creative burnout.

Keeping the creative juices flowing can be a delicate balance so I compiled some methods that have worked for me in the past and serve as reminders for the future.

1. Look at inspiration

Returning to our favorite books, films or even beloved public figures (hello, Oprah!) can give us a sense of what our taste is, sparking our creativity back to life. Exploring new things we’ve never heard of can also introduce new ideas. This quarter, I’ve been taking two classes focused on the changing issues in technology, from predictive policing to big data, that have got my wheels turning on Black Mirror-type possibilities.

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So don’t be afraid to steal from real life and from other creative works. Nothing is truly original. So many stories--from the Bible to Star Wars--carry the same structure. All artists have someone that they look up to and study. Copies will never truly be copies because it’s impossible to replicate someone else’s work without putting in some of your own voice. Jim Jarmusch said it best when he said, “Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.”

2. Be creative in other ways

When I try to work on a story idea and nothing’s coming, it can certainly feel like I’m not creative...at all. But I remember that there’s nothing helpful about confining myself in that way and that creativity is a muscle. Being creative is a natural practice that we don’t need to always push for. Being creative can exist even something as small as a daily ritual. When it’s difficult to apply those creative energies to my film ideas, I like to be creative in smaller ways, like organizing a playlist for myself or reading random Wikipedia pages on topics I’d never heard about before.

When we realize that being creative goes beyond artistic fields, other areas of interest take on a new quality. Creativity and curiosity go hand in hand where we explore things for the simple sake of exploring them.

3. Forget about it!

Many times, the most counter-intuitive piece of advice is my favorite. In this case, that would be relaxing and not trying so hard to be creative. There’s a reason some of our best ideas come when we’re drifting off to sleep or are #showerthoughts. Soaping up in the shower or counting sheep before bed are times where our minds are at rest and can naturally think of novel solutions.

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In addition, a change of scenery can also help open up our mind and see things differently. Being at UCI, sometimes I feel stuck in the college bubble and try to escape to other parts of SoCal to find new things to discover. Taking a break and just living life without expecting yourself to be churn out idea after idea can be just the antidote to creative blocks.

Being burned out creatively is not something to afraid of. It’s often a sign that we need a break or we need to try something new before returning to our work. Next time, you experience burnout, slow down and get away from your work until you feel it’s something you really want to come back to.

If you don’t think of yourself as creative or you’re experiencing a drought in your creative rainforest, I hope some of these ideas help. While taking a breather, check out other Her Campus at UCI articles for more inspiration.