How to avoid creative burnout and keep your ideas flowing

Guy suffering from creative burnout

Sometimes a blank page can be cruel. A flashing cursor staring back at you, mocking you with its readiness to execute your next brilliant idea….

When you work in a creative industry as a copywriter or graphic designer, for example, your ideas are your bread and butter. You have to come up with the goods every day and while some ideas come quickly with a flash of inspiration, many are much harder to produce. This is especially the case when you’ve got a lot of work on.

There comes a time when we all feel the dull edge of creative burnout. That feeling when your brain feels overworked and wrung out. It might be after a day of pretty intense work or in the middle of a particularly big project. You feel like you just can’t go on, but you must.

Prevention is the best cure and I think the best way to overcome creative burnout is avoid it. Easier said than done, I know, but these tips will help you keep your creative juices flowing.

Creativity is just like any other skill. It can be practised and honed but there comes a time when you’ve reached your working limits and you’re simply not inspired to carry on. The blank page mocks you and you just don’t know what to do about it.

I wanted to share my tips on avoiding creative burnout and I’d love to hear yours.

Step away from your desk

Your desk represents a hive of productivity but it can also saddle you with all the other things you need to do to keep your business moving. Emails. Accounts. Proposals. Social media. They all cry out for your attention and that can steal away your creative energy.

Take some time out to do something else: go for a walk, read a book, or sit and enjoy a cup of tea without thinking about work for a while. When you do this, you’re also feeding your brain with inspiration from the world around you.

Understand when your productive hours are

Most people have an inkling of when they work best. It might be first thing in the morning or late at night. You might work best after you’ve sorted out some of that pesky admin or you might need to get straight into it. When you know the times of the day when your creative brain is freshest you can plan your work accordingly and neatly sidestep that creative burnout.

I know that if I’m starting a new copywriting project, I have to do it first thing in the morning. I can’t let myself be distracted by emails as before I know it, it’s lunchtime and my lovely fresh brain is a little worn out.

Give yourself enough time

Inspiration usually strikes when you’re doing something entirely unrelated so it’s important to make time to let your brain breathe. It can be hard to do when you’ve got deadlines to meet but I find that if I’m not rushing to get everything done, my creative brain can mull an idea over and let inspiration bubble to the surface.

This is especially important for big projects. I recently completed the copywriting for a very big website. I found that halfway through I was running out of the inspiration I needed to give each page’s copywriting a consistent energy – because I didn’t have any energy. Rather than push on and deliver something under par, I moved onto other projects for a few days to get my mojo back.

Distract yourself

I find that watching a movie, reading a book and exercising engages me in a way that I find very relaxing. By doing something that takes up your complete attention you give your subconscious time to digest information and pick out details that could just be the inspiration you are looking for.

Exercise will also give you a great rush of endorphins. Your muscles will release tensions and your blood will flow. You’ll breathe in lots of oxygen, fuelling your body and your brain. If you manage to exercise outside then you’re also taking in the world around you and opening the door to inspiration.

Break your task down

Sometimes creative burnout can strike when you’re simply overwhelmed by the work ahead. By breaking your task down into smaller chunks and starting with the easier stuff you can ease into the right creative space.

So there are my tips. Now it’s over to you. Have you experienced creative burnout? How do you overcome it once it’s set in or do you try to avoid it altogether?

The Copy Detective

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A little bit of magic from Belinda (The Copy Detective)
Belinda is a marketing and seo copywriter who confidently walks the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. You don’t have to choose between them! She's teaching what she knows so you can write copy too. Be the first to hear about her next master class.

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  1. My tip would be to preview. Once you’ve finished a piece, don’t send it off straight away. Go and make yourself a cuppa or nip to the shop, do anything that is completely unrelated and then come back to it and have a second read with fresh eyes and a fresh brain. I find that by doing this I often spot mistakes and find better ways of phrasing things so I end up with a much better copy to send to the client.

    • I have to admit that I struggle to find fresh eyes in less than a few days. I do agree that fresh eyes and brain time is a must to ensure you don’t just get white noise when you read your copy back! 

  2. Belinda, creativity and spontaneity play a fundamental role in my life – as in yours, I suppose!

    In order to closely understand each proposition in this elegant – and seminal – article, I’ve tried to unveil its perspective: it is (obviously) a discourse around the act of discoursing. It’s seminal because suggests a new approach to the social media blogs: the metadiscourse, i.e., writers discoursing about the conditions, forms and logic of the social media discourse itself.

  3. THANK YOU!  I do some work for a transcription company where the style
    is to always use ‘inquiry’ in British English regardless of the
    context.  It grates every time I have to write it wrongly.  Their
    argument is that the words are interchangeable, but it seems a bit over
    the top on most occasions.

  4. [...] what about work-life balance? I have been working harder, not smarter, and I knew the risk was creative burnout, not to mention becoming “the boring friend”…And so begins The Friday Experiment.The what?I [...]

  5. Sian Phillips says:

    Great tips thank you. If I’m stuck on something I do a few different things – walk my dogs, take time out to read, do another task that needs doing or even clean!! Thanks for sharing on Bizsugar.com

  6. [...] of the tips I have – to avoid creative burnout – is to give yourself enough time to be creative. But what does that really [...]

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