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4 Tips for Avoiding Creative Burnout


Creativity is a fickle beast. Sometimes you worry you’ll never have an idea again, and other times the dam bursts open all at once and you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night scribbling notes in the dark while your husband mutters “not again” into his pillow. (Is that just me?).

We’ll talk about dealing with dry spells another time, but today I want to focus on how to keep yourself out of them in the first place. Because while creative surges are awesome—so many ideas! make all the things! go go go!—they can be taxing. Even your passions will wear you out eventually if you don’t restrain yourself just a smidge.

So here are my tips for avoiding creative burnout. Which I plan to start practicing as soon as I’m done with all the holiday DIYs. Really.

Tips for Avoiding Creative Burnout @idlehandsawake

Take a break already.

I know what you’re thinking. This is an obvious, unoriginal, utterly pointless tip and you already knew it.

But—are you actually doing it?

It’s so obvious because it’s also so true. Taking breaks is essential so the brain can rest and replenish. (See scientific evidence here and here. Oh and here).

Put down the mouse or the watercolor brushes or whatever tools you use and walk away for 5 to 10 minutes. I like to set a timer on my phone every 55 minutes when doing blog stuff so that I don’t accidentally power through the whole day. (Though admittedly I sometimes hit snooze a couple times).

A few simple stretches, maybe a walk around the block, some pets for the cats, and I’m ready to get back to all that creative work.

Practice saying “no.”

You’ve surely seen the half motivating, half shame-inducing You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé quotes. Well I am here to tell you, even Beyoncé can’t do it all. And we don’t have nearly as many assistants as she does. (If you do have any, please oh please send one my way.)

When you’re bursting with creative energy and are motivated and your dreams are big, it is tempting to do.all.the.things! Admit it, you do this all the time. Yeah, me too.

Overcommitting is the surest way to wear yourself out. Instead, pick one or two creative pursuits that are the most important to you and say “no” to the rest, at least for now.

Don’t want to lose all those ideas and opportunities? Write them down to get back to later. Chances are they’ll still be there when you’re ready.

Diversify your creative routine.

If your brain is anything like mine, it probably gets bored quickly and often. I am a chronic rearranger of rooms and changer of minds. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you are in the creative zone a lot it means you may have to strategize a bit to avoid creative burnout by boredom.

An easy fix is to work on multiple projects at once. NOT to be confused with overcommitting yourself!

I simply mean, having a few projects on hand to cycle between can help keep you interested and approaching each creative effort with fresh eyes.

Rather than spending an entire day photo editing and the next day just writing, I try to switch between various creative blogging tasks so my brain doesn’t scream at me enough already. Same with making the actual blog DIYs. I LOVE a good challenging project, but I know I’ll be more interested and also more effective if I take a break from sanding and staining to play with clay for a bit.

Do something totally non-creative.

This is a big statement that opens a whole philosophical can of existential Wittgensteins for me, as I happen to think that everything is creative in some way. Ok most things. Ok maybe not ironing clothes. But most other things.

The point is, no matter how much you love it, all DIY all the time (or all music all the time, or all cooking all the time, or all painting all the time…) is going to be too much. And will also lead to neglected cats and husbands who glance at you resentfully while you mumble to yourself about blog stats and where you left your leather punch tool.

Experience and inspiration are the twin banes of creative burnout. So drop that gold foil and go out into the world! Meet your friends for coffee! Take a rock-climbing class! Pick apples! Volunteer for meals-on-wheels! Feed your creative brain by living life! Use all the exclamation points!!!

In other words, do well at what you love by not doing it for a bit.


Now the trick is to follow my own advice. I’ve been super steeped in creative mode since coming back to the blog, making holiday DIYs, and being one of the group wranglers for The Holiday Collective. Trying—TRYING—to make myself take a break before I end up exhausted. It’s just so much fun though…

What do you do to try to avoid creative burnout? And, any suggestions for how I can hire a team of Beyoncé-level assistants on no budget?

Other thoughts on creativity:

Author: Marlene @ Idle Hands Awake

Maker, baker, cat momma, total nerd, perpetually covered in glitter/sawdust/paint. Blogging DIY and design for modern creatives.

13 comments on “4 Tips for Avoiding Creative Burnout”

  1. Oh the crazy fury of creativity. Sometimes I feel like I’m being dragged behind a truck on a rope that I’m voluntarily holding onto. Creativity is the truck and I just can’t manage to let go of the rope, no matter how bedraggled I become. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Great tips! I’ve found that taking a few weeks off during the summer each year has been a huge boost to my creativity and ability to keep pushing forward with the blog. Sometimes stepping away for a significant time gives you the space you need!

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