What is Creative Burnout?

It’s hard to explain to people what creative burnout is. It’s one of them things that you have had to have had to understand what it is and how it creeps up on you.

The best way I can describe it to someone who has not had it or has any idea of what creative burnout is. It’s that you lose your design **mojo**. Remember that burning passion that got you in to design to start with, the enthusiasm that you’re going to change the world one day at a time? It slowly dies inside you. It dies day by day until you no longer care about creating designs anymore.

Once your mojo has gone you start to doubt yourself, your passion and your ability that you once trusted. At the time I was still producing work that clients and end-users liked but design started to feel like a chore. It started to feel mundane. There was no passion there, there was no burning desire to stay up till dawn tweaking design anymore.

I didn’t know that I was burnout, tired and lost.

Laying down bad foundations

Like most people on the web I am self-taught. I came across design in late 2007/early 2008 and it was the first thing in my life that I felt that I really enjoyed this and that I could make myself really happy doing this as a career. It felt natural.

This is the point where I decided that I wanted to take the plunge and have a go at this design thing as a career. I started to read every book and article that I could consume. I spent hours mocking up designs for fun in photoshop with no end goal. Just learning the trade. I did this for the next couple of years. There was a hunger and a belief that I could create something great inside me, I just needed to learn skills first.

I was lucky enough to get a job with a design agency nearly straight away and they let me work on some fun projects at the time and I was starting to have success with some of them. This was fueling that desire and need to create even more. I would work a full day in the office and go home and work on freelance projects or read more. There was no off switch.

This proved to be one of my biggest downfalls and mistakes.

Fast forward a couple of years and my working environment had changed. I was no longer working for local agencies as the itch to work on *cool freelance projects* was to hard to turn down and I went in to freelance full time. I no however didn’t need to consume book after book, article after article as I had enough foundations in design now to understand what I was creating and why I was creating them. I was starting to produce good solid work.

However now the hunger for needing to learn had changed. I now no longer needed to read all the time but now I had to create. Even when I was able to step away from the computer to spend time with family, friends or girlfriends I was constantly checking emails, dribbble, twitter etc to see what people was saying and if I missed something.

The foundations for creative burnout was set.

Relising I had creative burnout

I stayed doing this routine for over a year or so. Slowly the passion that I had was going. I no longer would look at magazines in the waiting room thinking this is great or that I wonder what limitations the designer had on that movie poster. I just felt it was normal as I was too busy with work.

Then overtime I started to not interact the the community that I once loved. I started not talking to friends who I have come to know over the last couple of years. *But still I didn’t think this was a problem*

I would no longer wake up in the morning, get out of bed and love what I did. Designs around me started to look all the same, all the articles I would see now and again looked the same. I felt bored with everything around me. I wasn’t producing anywhere near my best work. I let some clients down and decided I needed to take a break.

Taking a break.

I decided to take a few weeks holiday. I had enough money to go and party with friends, and then just take a week or two on my own to reflect if this is really what I wanted to do and where its going. If I was happy with my choice of career.

This was the first time in years that I didn’t feel like I needed to check emails, tweets, dribbble or anything remotely work related. It felt good.

After having some time away I noticed that ideas were starting to come to me. Not just ideas on projects but ideas for future projects. I started to notice things that was designed for a purpose again. It seemed like I was content with things again.

I decided to do some reading online and see if what I was going through was something other creatives have had. There was a couple of posts that rang home about this thing called Creative Burnout.

It then hit home that I did have Creative Burnout

How I got over Creative Burnout.

Once I returned to work I decided that I was only going to work a set number of hours a day. This didn’t feel natural to me at first as I have just come from two extremes of working all the hours I could to hardly working any. I decided that after x amount of hours I would turn off the computer. I would watch TV, read none design books or just spend time relaxing and not to feel guilty about it.

This wasn’t a quick get over creative burnout over night, it took months of dedication not to work more hours even if a project was going well and I wanted it out the door.

I also started to spend more time away from the desk. I started eating healthier, exercising and just plain relaxing.

After time this got easier and I started to feel the passion again. I felt like I was over creative burnout.

Where I am now…

Getting over Creative Burnout has allowed me to have a different outlook on life now, a new routine. I now am no longer switched on for sixteens hours a day, I don’t feel guilty if I waste a day here and there or take weekends away from the desk. It has allowed me to start producing good work again and work that I am proud of again.

The passion is now just as strong as it once was all them years ago. I can see the big picture again and looking forward to creative some really amazing stuff and working with some really amazing clients and people.

I just now know how to turn it off