Find the Spark: How to Break Out of Creative Burnout

You’re sitting at your desk, sketchbook open, pencil in hand…but instead of feeling motivated, you’d rather be staring at the ceiling than at this blank, taunting canvas in front of you. Welcome, friends, to the wonderful state of creative burnout!

We’ve all been there. Unlike creative block, creative burnout isn’t so much a lack of ideas as it is a complete lack of motivation and energy; an artistic depression, if you will. Just like you can get physically exhausted, creative exhaustion is very real; and it can be kind of scary! After all, when the thing that makes you feel most alive all of a sudden feels blah, what does that mean? Where’d the spark go? Is it coming back??

But don’t fret! Though it might feel like it, creative burnout is not forever, and there are things you can do to ease out of it. Here are a few tips on how to re-light that flame of inspiration and crush creative burnout.

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Work on art just for YOU

“Starry Starry Coffee” from I Love Doodle’s Artist Shop

What ever happened to doing art just for fun! When you don’t let yourself do creative work that’s free of client or “will it sell?” pressure, art can start to seem like a chore. Mix that with the uncertainty that can come from promoting your work (and those marketing efforts not paying off right away)? That can lead to burnout by getting you caught in the “what’s the point?” trap. Andy J. Pizza sums it up perfectly on his podcast, Creative Pep Talk:

“If you’re at the beginning of your career and you don’t know if any of these efforts are going to work out, if any of the stuff you’re making, this creativity, these side projects, the marketing, is really going to pay off…it’s really easy to get burned out on the stuff that you’re doing.”

– Andy J Pizza

Doing some art for yourself once in awhile that you’re not just “doing for the likes” or for a job can help you re-light that spark by getting back in touch with your love for the craft!

Take some time to recharge

“Draw Harder” from Andy Rado’s Artist Shop.

Take a break before YOU break! It’s easy to feel guilty during the times you’re not honing your craft. But when stepping away to recharge helps your creativity in the long-run? It’s not distracting from the process; it’s part of it! Take it from our very own Katie Lukes:

“Taking breaks and taking time for yourself is seriously important. If you’re starting to feel burnt out, take a step or two back and get distracted by something other than your work for a while. It always helps me get out of a rut and gets me excited to get back into the work I love.”

Schedule in some breathing room

“Break the Cycle” from Mo Kardaras’ Artist Shop.

If you’re feeling creatively burnt out, look at your calendar! You might be over-scheduling yourself without even realizing it. I hit a point of total and utter creative block recently and had no idea why. But when I looked at my planner, I realized I had social plans every single night. And as an introvert? That was keeping my energy level at a consistent 5%.

Take care of yourself

“Never Skip Leg Day” from Pugs Gym’s Artist Shop.

A car can’t run without gas: feed the machine! It’s easy to underestimate how much taking care of yourself physically can help your creativity. But the mind/body connection is real, folks; if you don’t take care of one, the other suffers. Eating healthier (and eating in general if you’re a work-through-lunch type) can feed your creative stores, and working out and getting better sleep can replenish those energy levels. Plus, you’ll feel better!

Be social!

“Endless Creativity” from Againstbound’s Artist Shop.

Creative work can get isolating, and humans are social creatures: even us introverts! Allowing yourself some time to grab dinner with friends, or even to do a drink and draw can break you out of obsessing over your creative burnout long enough to give your brain a good ‘ol reset.

Learn something new

“Let’s Go Explore” from I Love Doodle’s Artist Shop.

When I’m mid-writer’s block or burnout, I find that the more I try to force it, the more I get stuck in a tunnel-visioned rut. And learning something new can seriously help break out of that. Expanding your mind helps you look at things in a different and creative way, which can be a huge help when trying to re-discover inspiration.

Keep calm and don’t freak out

“Thousands of Candles” from Zen Pencils’ Artist Shop.

Creative burnout happens to all creatives. And this rut doesn’t mean you’ve lost your spark or passion or skill; it just means you might have to give yourself a little bit of a break. So put your hands up, step away from the pencil, give yourself a break, and don’t freak out! This will pass.

Want to discover more Artist Shops? Click here!

Featured image is “It’s What’s Inside That Counts” by John Tibbott.

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Carlyn Hill

Dad joke aficionado, cartoonist, & contributor for sites like HelloGiggles and The Mary Sue by night. When I'm not writing or drawing, you can find me in my cave of a room hanging out with my boyfriend, Netflix.