When many people describe creative burnout, they describe feeling unmotivated, disengaged and as if their passion has gone. Life looks grey and dull, their senses are numbed. They have used up their well of creative energy, and it’s not coming back anytime soon. My experience with burnout has been very different.
You see, I’ve never had a problem with ideas. I have tonnes of them. Need ideas for a creative project? I’ll be on stage like Oprah Winfrey, throwing them out to anyone who wants one.
“You get an idea! And you. And YOU!”
My mind races at a hundred miles-an-hour, and my issue has always been how to stop and focus. I often think to myself, life would be much more straightforward if I had just one big goal. But I don’t. And that’s something that’s not going to change.
Currently, my ideal future looks like this:
I’m a well known director on the horror circuit. Every few years, I make something creatively and financially rewarding, and in-between, I shoot music videos and commercials, whilst keeping up my blog and obsession with writing about creativity.
Every couple of weeks, usually when my freelance diary isn’t looking quite as full as I’d like it to, I throw another idea into the mix.
“You know, I shot a few food videos recently. Maybe I can also become the go-to food videographer.”
“I think I’ve found a niche in the local music scene. Maybe I should diversify the blog and start an event night.”
“There’s still money to be made if I start my YouTube channel properly now, right? Right?”
So I end up with an already ambitious career plan, plagued with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them micro-ideas, which I usually throw out approximately two days after the initial “Eureka!” moment.
So of course, the logical conclusion to this head full of ideas is to become a master of productivity. You better believe it. I must have spent weeks of my life looking for the next productivity tip that was going to be the one.
Pomodoro Technique? Get me a Tomato Timer and leave me alone for the next 25.
Rigorous Daily Schedules? Don’t even try to talk to me, I’m busy with my fifteen minute Instagram slot before my twenty-three minute lunch break.
None of it made any difference. Not because these techniques aren’t viable in their own right- I currently use a mix of several productivity techniques in my daily work. The reason it didn’t work was that I was burnt out.
The gears were clogging up. The ideas were merging, the lines blurring, my ambitious career goals looking like something a nervous school kid scribbled down at a career fair just to complete the task. I needed a complete 180, to hit the reset button and buy myself some time to figure everything out.
ENTER STAGE RIGHT: PASTEL WASTELAND
“Pastel Wasteland is a creative brand without borders. Our focus is on collaboration, producing unique original content and showcasing the world’s most exciting creative talent.”
It took months for me to get that tagline down to two sentences. Pastel Wasteland started early in 2018, as a t-shirt brand I created on Etsy (one of my micro-ideas that actually had a bit of logic behind it. How hard is it to find cool, weird clothes in the UK right now?) After realising that my projects, and the projects of my peers, weren’t performing well online, I conceptualised a production company and blog that would take care of both content production and promotion.
On the blog, I have interviewed creatives across the world as part of the series “#Creatortalk”. We talk about a range of different topics, but it always comes back to one thing- the creative journey, and the trials and tribulations that come with such a career choice.
There is one question I ask every single interviewee, without fail:
“In this kind of economy and industry, it can be tough to feel like you’re moving forwards sometimes. How do you battle these feelings when they come up and do you have any advice to others who may be feeling the same?”
This is a conversation we don’t have enough, in my opinion, especially when it comes to the idea of progress and measuring up against our peers. Every creative person has no doubt had these periods in their life, where things seem hopeless, as if your work is transmitting into a void somewhere in space, taking your hopes and dreams with it.
This question makes people think, and often do a double-take. And that is what I want to achieve. As up and coming creative professionals, it’s a silent rule to only share the best parts of our journeys, to appear like we all have everything under control. But we so often don’t, and I think if we all were more honest about things, without the fear of trying to appear like the perfectly polished stars we see on social media, things would start getting a whole lot better.
If we are to enjoy the pursuit of our dreams and the eventual rewards that wait for us, we need to get more comfortable measuring up to only one person- ourselves. It’s a cliché to say “everyone is on their own path, it’s not a race” etc, but the core of this cliché is true.
Since I started to share my stories and help others share theirs, not only do I have a new confidence in my work and purpose, but burnout is at the back of my mind. The Pastel Wasteland blog has given my career a structure and a platform, which I can now share with other people who are on this same crazy journey.
If you’re at risk of burning out, I’m not saying the whole process of creating a blog is the answer. But reaching out and sharing stories, learning about the problems your peers are facing and having honest conversations will do the world of good.