Creative burnout: What is it and how to get past it

Feb 3, 2023

Jada Parrish

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Creative burnout: What is it and how to get past it

Feb 3, 2023

Jada Parrish

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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As humans we always have a desire to do more, be better, and move faster. That doesn’t mean we always do, but the desire is there. When you are in the groove, you can push out new work, create, and make at hyper speed. When we do hit that stride, it feels amazing. Until suddenly it doesn’t. That’s because you can only sustain that kind of pace for so long without balance.

The World Health Organization defines burn out as:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

Marathon runners don’t sprint the entire time. They pace themselves. If you want to sustain any type of intense act for an extended period of time, you have to find some sort of rhythm that allows for periods of push and periods of rest.

David and I built 100 sets and executed 100 photoshoots in one year. It was intense. Our goal was to build an entirely new portfolio of creative work as quickly as possible. Ultimately, we did complete our 100 set goal and successfully built a new portfolio. While I clung to the pride of my success, I also felt exhausted and completely burnt out. What followed were several months of feeling lost and uninspired.

Pushing yourself to create at such hyper speed just is not sustainable for a long period of time. Here’s how I worked my way through the burn out. If you’re struggling with burn out, I truly feel for you and I hope these tips help!

Rest.

Get in bed and rest. Watch movies. Be a complete sloth for a few days. Your body and mind need to recalibrate themselves because their resources have been depleted. Listen to your body. If you keep pushing, things will only get worse. Don’t hang with friends or add any additional stress to your life. Your future self will thank you. Most importantly, be kind and patient with yourself. It’s ok to rest when you need it.

Spend time in nature.

I was begrudgingly forced by David to spend time outside. This was hard for me because I thought it seemed pointless, but it was exactly what my soul needed. Start going on a walk every day and just listening to the sounds around you. Pay attention to how the light hits the trees. Try not to use headphones and be fully present soaking in just how beautiful the world is. If you live anywhere close to a river, ocean, or lake, spend time there. Something about water really soothes the soul.

Start journaling.

I started journaling this year when I was working my way through burn-out and it was tremendously helpful. Getting your thoughts, feelings, and frustrations out of your head and onto the page is so theurapeutic. I think it makes space for new thoughts and ideas to start coming to you.

If you’re just getting started with journaling, start with journal prompts like:

  • What is filling me up? What is draining me?
  • What are 10 things that I am grateful for and why?
  • How is (insert whatever crappy situation you want) the best thing that has ever happened to me?

If all of that seems like too much, try keeping a captain’s log where you write down things like “12:03pm: I ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch” and see where that takes you. Or just start doodling. The goal is just to get some thoughts and feelings out no matter what that looks like.

Seek out inspiration.

Once you’ve gotten the rest you need and sorted through your feelings a little, it’s time to soak up a little inspiration. If you’re an artist, it might be best that you explore a medium other than your own to get started. Go to museums, attend a concert, read, watch movies, or flip through art books. This is such a great way to start slowly filling your mind with new thoughts and ideas.

Come up with 5 new ideas.

Sit with your journal in a quiet place. Play some frequency music, and challenge yourself to come up with 5 new creative ideas. Challenge yourself to sit there until you come up with 5.

For me, I try to come up with 5 new photoshoot ideas. Sometimes this is incredibly challenging, and other times ideas just flow out of me. I’ve found that as long as I sit there in silence long enough, I am always able to come up with 5. Usually these area ideas I never otherwise would have thought of.

Act.

Once you have an idea what excites you enough. Start moving forward with it. Build on it and move onto the production phase.

For me, the success I feel after successfully acting on a new creative idea is unrivaled by any other feeling. If it’s the same for you, harness that energy to keep moving forward and continue on with your creative journey.

I am by no means an expert on any of this, but these actions are what helped me personally move through a really intense phase of burn-out and creative fatigue. If you have any other tips that you think are helpful, send me a DM on Instagram.

Here’s some links to my favorite journals, pens, and books to help get you through your burn-out!

These three books inspired me and got me through a tough spot!

  • The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho – If you haven’t read this yet, I’m jealous because it is a life changing book filled with so much wisdom.
  • How To Be An Artist by Jerry Saltz – It gives artists new ways to break through creative blocks, get the most from materials, navigate career challenges, and above all find joy in the work. It’s a quick easy read and left me feeling inspired and capable.
  • The Art of Living by Bob Proctor – This book made me aware that the thoughts I think create the life I live. I changed how I see the world and myself. A really great read for anyone struggling to find their footing.

About the Author

Jada and David are mixed media artists who innovate digital imagery to create surreal works of art and stimulating visual content. They specialize in custom set design and photography. When creating they do not limit themselves to one medium. They incorporate aspects of painting, sculpture, photography, design, and motion to tell compelling visual stories in an impactful, unique way.

David is a sculptor at heart and uses this talent to build and create liminal sets filled with color and optical illusions. With a background in theater, lighting design is his second passion and each set is designed to have lighting integrated seamlessly into these complex installations.

Jada is most at peace with a camera in her hand. She is able to produce images that embody powerful emotions and complex thoughts because of her ability to make her subjects feel at ease in front of the camera. Her dramatic style of portraiture lends itself nicely to work in both fashion and the music industry.

Together, Jada and David are a dynamic creative duo that execute the set design, lighting design, and photography of all of their projects. You can find more of their work on their websiteInstagramYouTube, and their blog. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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