Welcome back to our monthly series Ask Angella, where we do exactly that.
If you’ve ever had a potentially sensitive creative question, we want you to throw it our way so that we can hand it over to Angella: our resident art writer, expert, and all-around kind, funny and wise human being. Here’s the question we’ll tackle this month:
“How do I overcome artistic exhaustion?”
Without a doubt, 50-percent of managing your creative career will mean managing creative burnout. Burnout includes lack of interest in your work, intense fatigue, and having trouble coming up with ideas. Though discouraging, burnout is natural. You don’t have to beat yourself up about it when it sneaks up on you. Burnout can happen in increments: hitting at the end of long weeks, after a few months of being on the go, or at the end of a longer season of continuous work.
Replenishing your creative well takes time and I have a few tips for you to make sure your number one creative resource is preserved and cared for: YOU.
Let yourself feel it
You don’t have to be physically engaged to feel exhaustion. It’s real on every level: mentally, emotionally, and creatively. Millennials have been called the Burnout Generation for a reason: as a majority of us are freelancers, we’re always on the clock, constantly connected, and usually broke. A living wage is hard to come by as rents soar and collective debt climbs. You are tired for a reason and failing to acknowledge it won’t relieve it. So face the mirror, look yourself in the eyes and admit “I’m exhausted.”
Let go of guilt and shame
Exhaustion is also totally normal, so don’t beat yourself up for not being superhuman. Besides, intense productivity is a capitalist scam. Spending quality time with friends and family is just as valuable and, ultimately, contributes to your overall wellbeing. Being a workaholic shortens your lifespan and stunts your emotional growth. So cut yourself some slack, take a guilt-free nap, and call your friends. Try doing nothing. You won’t regret it.
Set new boundaries
Working too much? How can you relax if you’re never off the clock? Consider setting some boundaries to carve out space to *not work.* If you decide to take the weekends off, create an “away from my desk” auto-response for your email. What would your free time be like if you turned off your notifications? Too scary? Just try muting them for 24 hours and take note of how your head space changes.
Take a break. I mean it!
Leave the room and go outside and take a breath. Staying in one place while you work can paralyze your creative flow. Turn off your phone while you’re at it. Give your eyes and hands a rest. If you can, schedule a massage or consider a sensory deprivation experience. Turn off the lights, put in some ear plugs and lay still without stimulation. We live in a fast-paced, image-saturated world; sometimes you just have to cut off all input and let your brainwaves and creative vibes repair and relax.
Give yourself a confidence boost
When I’m in a creative rut, I like to tackle my easiest tasks first just to give myself that endorphin rush that comes with finishing something, anything. Checking one task off your list, even if it seems minor, relieves pressure and frees you up to tackle bigger projects. Another easy way to source some confidence is to look at past projects or artwork that you’re proud of. Make a list of your top three talents, your most successful gigs, and a few things you’re grateful for. Tell yourself you’ve made work before, you’ll make work again. And it’s true! This will pass and you’ll be back on the horse in no time.
If exercise is a possibility for you, I recommend taking a quick walk around the block. If you’re indoors for winter, consider some jumping jacks or a 15-minute stretch. Shake out your hands, rotate your neck. Getting your blood moving in your body will stimulate your stubborn brain and give you a fresh jump on your project. But seriously, if you can, go outside. Release your inhibitions, feel the rain on your skin.