It can be scary when you’ve scheduled time to do your creative thing, and suddenly, you’re just not feeling it. Especially when you let that thing defines how people see you, how you see yourself and/or how you make money.
It’s disappointing and terrifying. When it first happened to me, it felt like I was falling out of love, which sounds dramatic, but it felt dramatic. After trying to ignore these feelings for months, it got worse. Suddenly, the thought of making jewellery filled me with anxiety. The thing that brought me so much joy was now affecting my mental health. I had to stop before I completely burned out. Cue the existential crisis.
I’m making jewellery now, so yes, I got through it. And yes, I love making jewellery again. And yes, sometimes the feelings return, but I’ve learned not to fight it. To avoid creative burnout, this is what I’ve been doing (and I think you should try) instead:
Try not to beat yourself up when you don’t feel like doing that creative thing. You’re not broken, you just need a rest. I’ve played this game for years, and now that I’m on the other side, I can safely say that it’s a whole lot of wasted energy.
Sit with your feelings for a bit. You might not find an answer for why you’re feeling this way, but you may just uncover something. It’s happened to me a few times now, and I’ve been getting better at recognising it for what it is. For me, this feeling has stemmed from a moment of growth and change, or a neglected need.
Take a break. Yes, an actual break. Your customers/followers will understand. You’re a human deserving of joy. Sometimes being creative in the same way day in day out can be tiring and draining. Your work will be better when you’ve rested and you can get back to it with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. It’s not going anywhere.
Try something new. Explore other ways of being creative. In the short breaks I’ve taken over the years, I re-discovered writing, which I turned into a side-hustle and study venture. I also found joy in cooking, weaving, drawing and cutting my own hair (although I think we can all agree that my hair looks better when a professional cuts it).
Don’t know where to start? Follow your curiosity. Here are some weird/fun places that my curiosity has taken me:
I successfully low-FODMAP-ed and veganised my favourite peanut butter choc chip biscuits.
I attempted to become well-versed in classic French cinema. This didn’t last long. It turns out I’m not as classy as I thought I was.
I turned my feelings into haikus. I now have over 50 haikus. I have many more feelings.
I did an online yoga challenge and can now crow pose for 5 seconds without toppling over (small victories).
I found a way to wear THAT hat without looking like a pretentious hat person (I think you know what I mean).
These things may sound like a waste of time, but they’ve helped me realise that I don’t need to be defined by just one thing. It’s also helped me level-up my skillsets and even add something to my resume. Now I can tell you the plotline of the film Mon Oncle, show you the difference between Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 pose, write you a poem, bake biscuits that almost anyone can enjoy, and look damn good in a hat. Follow your curiosity and see where it leads you, your creative self will thank you for it.
It’s never going to be perfect timing. Although you might feel like you need a break, there may be a deadline looming or a bill that needs paying. Sometimes, you’ll have to make the call and just push through. When this happens to me, I put my head down, turn up my favourite podcast and reward myself with snacks until it’s done. Then I take a break. I find this tactic works well in the short term; but keep pushing long enough and I end up making big mistakes, resenting my work or starting to burn out. Eek! Not worth it.
So, go forth and do whatever you want. Don’t worry, you can pick up your creative thing when you’re ready. As long as you’re not harming other people, I give you permission to play.