The warning signs of creative burnout

Lessons from personal experience.

The warning signs of creative burnout
Turkish coffee cardamom buns that I made and photographed for my baking with coffee article. Baking is one of my hobbies that I occasionally turn to for preventing burnout.

The warning signs of creative burnout

I once thought it would be a good idea to join an agency. Agency work provided some resumé experience fodder, and I also thought, why not make some money writing blog posts for a client?

It turned out that my part-time agency work had me managing 10+ social accounts and reviews for five clients in three cities. Part-time meant 20 hours a week. I may not had to handle the contract negotiations or payments, but I did have to source/create content, communicate with the client for the content calendar, and respond to everything on their social accounts. If they were similar in business type, audience, and location, perhaps four hours a week per client would’ve been doable, but they were not.

Writing blog posts worked in that I was able to prove my digital marketing industry knowledge, but it did not free up my brain for other projects. My mind would melt after researching and writing about stats.

What I wanted, through steady income and good work experience, was to have that “day job” cover my financial base and then free up my mind to focus on creative projects. What happened instead was that I needed all that downtime to recover from the day job. Because the creative part of my brain was creating social graphics, writing social media copy, and writing in-depth articles, it was exhausted at the end of the day. I did not want to write anymore—I had started associating being at my desk and on my computer with work. It didn’t matter if I wanted to write a personal essay—it still felt like work.

I stopped generating good ideas. Every idea that I did have felt like a generic one. Surface-level. The flow state never happened. I felt like my writing became stale and repetitive. Eventually, I started to be resentful of every customer complaining on social media to my clients (don’t they know there’s a person behind the account?). The nature of social media has you jumping between accounts, which made it more difficult for me to focus on anything in the long term.

I was on a hamster wheel and knew I needed to get off, but didn’t know how or what I would do once I was off. I realized that the agency work and writing were not doing me any favors. If I were to have a day job, this was not the right combo. What I actually needed was a diverse set of projects and clients, so it would be more difficult to burn out. AND I needed to let myself explore and experience new things without tying it to capitalism or productivity.

I’m not going to tell you a magic solution for resolving creative burnout because there isn’t one. I have to actively work to prevent it. Some weeks have better success than others, and that’s okay.


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