How to Avoid Creative Burnout

My recent untitled kayak painting

I live to create, whether I’m making stories or paintings or various other types of projects. For me the act of creation is vital to life. Without it I lack energy, motivation, and find it very hard to be happy.

But sometimes I push myself too hard and that’s when burnout threatens.

I don’t know about other artists. Maybe you can write thousands of words daily without a break and not ever get tired. Maybe you paint or draw for hours every day and never have a need to stop. Maybe you never get burned out.

I wish I were that way. I typically get very excited about a project or a medium and work feverishly on it without a break. I may give up sleep and the orderly state of my home to squeeze more hours out of the day working on it. But after too much time pushing myself at the same thing, I suddenly find myself wanting out.

That’s when I may discard a project or at least stuff it in a closet so I don’t have to think about it anymore. Sometimes those projects can stay hidden away for months…even years. That’s no good. It would be better to avoid burnout altogether.

Here are several tips to help avoid burnout:

  1. Don’t push yourself too hard. Often I get burned out because I began my project with too much exuberance, putting all of my energies into starting it off big instead of pacing myself. A sprinting mentality isn’t going to help me finish a marathon. A little every day is better than spending all of my motivation the first week and having nothing left to make it to the end.
  2. Don’t create unreasonable goals. Along with that initial excitement comes lofty expectations. I enjoy setting goals, but when a goal starts cramping the rhythm of my life, it’s too stringent. Creating unrealistic goals is only setting yourself up for disappointment. You know what you can handle (or you’ll soon find out), and if you need to relax a deadline a bit, then don’t hesitate to do so.
  3.  Switch methods of creativity. When I get burned out, one of the things I find most refreshing is switching gears. Last month I took a break from my writing and spent a good deal of time delving into my paints instead. I didn’t neglecting my creative side, instead I exercised a different part of my right brain. I was rejuvenated and got a lovely painting out of it.
  4. Hang around other Creatives. There’s nothing like hanging around a group of friends and talking about current projects to spur creative motivation. Excitement is contagious and often by the end of the evening, I’ve regained my motivation and am ready to tackle the problem again.
  5. Finish another project. Sometimes burn out comes because I’ve been working on one project for too long. It can be agonizing when the finish line isn’t even in sight. I find it beneficial to take a short break from the current WIP and switch to another unfinished project. The good vibes of completing something else can be encouragement enough for getting back to work.

Do you ever get burned out of writing or other projects? What’s your method of dealing with burnout? Have you found any tricks that work?

You might also be interested in:

The Cure for Writer's Block via Stephen King

One Creation Sparks Another

Inspiration by Osmosis


4 thoughts on “How to Avoid Creative Burnout

  • This is such a great post Becca!

    I’ve been pushing myself steady for many months now. It seems when I do have time to work on my projects I just feel like curling up on the couch and vegging out.

    I’ve come to realize that some nights I just need to do nothing. Yes I could be editing or writing or reading or working on my art, but if I don’t have that down time then I’m not giving my body a chance to rejuvenate.

    Thanks for this reminder 🙂

    • You’re welcome!

      That’s awesome that you’ve been so dedicated on your projects. But it’s also important to know when to take a break. Sounds like you’ve got it down.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  • Oh I am so guilty of number 1! That’s probably my worst habit and has been my curse through over 15 years of writing. My enthusiasm runs away with me. Great post and right on target!

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