I’m in a bit of a pickle.
Every week all I can think about is finishing all of my work early on Friday and having time to write aaall weekend.
Except then the weekend comes and I can’t do it.
See, because I’m a copywriter, I spend my entire week writing. For the last 3 weeks I’ve been doing nothing but write product descriptions. So far I’ve done about 60 of them at 200 words a pop. Most of the products are really similar and yet I make sure they each sound different and interesting and awesome.
And then I get to Friday and it feels like I’ve used up my word writing quota for the week. I’m an empty shell, devoid of creativity.
I cycle through feelings of disappointment, frustration, sadness, anger, resentment, and then comes guilt… because what the hell am I doing complaining about getting paid to do one of the things I love? The ultimate #firstworldproblem
“But this was your DREAM!”
The irony’s not lost on me. We all spend our lives trying to pursue our passions and turn them into money makers… Most of us won’t succeed and will in turn have to shelve them, labelling them “hobbies”.
But here I am having achieved the “passion as a day job” dream not once, but twice. First as a performer in commercial musicals and now as a copywriter. Oh, and the former went a little bit this way as well. In fact, I got so burnt out that I quit. Walked away from a contract so I could clear my head for a year… which turned into 4.
I learnt something from that voluntary break from my dream job. It’s that none of the problems I used to complain about from when I had the job EVER compared with the misery I felt from letting it go. In other words, that break put it all in perspective: Imperfect dream job is better than no dream job.
So how do you cope with “too much of a good thing”?
Ultimately, I think what I’m experiencing (and quite a few friends I’ve spoken to say they can relate), is creative burnout. Creativity tends to enjoy ebbing and flowing, appearing in short, intense bursts and then cooling off. But when you take it on as a 9-5er, you force it to keep producing without a break. Can you blame it for getting tired?
Experience has shown me that neither complaining nor quitting is the answer, so I’m on a journey to find out what IS. Some of the following points are theories, some I’m currently experimenting with. If you’d like to contribute your own, please do via the comments below!
1. Take more breaks
I find that 1 productive hour usually equates to better results than 8 unproductive hours. Rather than setting yourself a goal of working non-stop for 8 hours (totally unrealistic), break it into small, task-based chunks and don’t be afraid to walk away from the desk to smell the roses (or caffeine).
2. Stop trying so hard
Go easy on yourself. We have good days and we have bad days. It’s not a reflection of your ability or worthiness as a creative, so stop beating yourself up. Not feeling the project you’re working on? Switch focus for a bit. Or, if you want to press on, do it gently and embrace the imperfection – you might look back on it the next day and realise it was pretty good after all! (Or you won’t, but you’ll realise it the world didn’t end because of some lacklustre work)
3. Find creative outlets (other than your usual)
Just because you’re a writer or a singer or a graphic artist doesn’t mean that’s the only way you can express yourself. Experiment with other mediums every now and then to help unlock your creative block. Also consider changing your outlook and atmosphere by switching rooms, going outside or playing some music. Change is as good as a holiday!
4. Exercise more
Exercise doesn’t just get the blood pumping, it’s been shown to get the ideas flowing as well. I’ve found that some of my best brainstorming sessions came when I was on the treadmill at the gym or having a walk outside. Not only that but the weeks where I’ve worked out consistently, I’ve noticed my focus improved, my head was clearer and I felt more positive in general. Gym for the win!
5. Learn from others
Half way through writing this article I called a time out (gotta practice what you preach, after all!) and had a bath – which is basically just my excuse to get 45 minutes of uninterrupted reading time in. I’m currently reading Big Magic (Creative Living Beyond Fear) by Elizabeth Gilbert and every single time I open it up, it refreshes and encourages me. Other days I might read a biography or something specific to my work. The content isn’t all that relevant. The point is it takes the focus off you for awhile, opens your mind, and likely teaches you something new. ALL good things when it comes to creative pursuits.
6. Do nothing (or meditate)
Sometimes you just need to tap out for awhile, whether it be a day or a week. You might be someone who likes to practice mindfulness or you might just want to take a creative vacation and give yourself permission to switch off. There’s no right or wrong way to do this – just try them out and see what works for you.
7. Get the <bleep> over yourself
Most importantly, if your problem is like mine, you are one of the lucky ones. You might have tough days and feel a little bit sorry for yourself at times, but whatever you do, don’t let it linger. If it’s truly a problem – as in, your creative pursuit is causing you ongoing unhappiness or even depression – just quit. Seriously, what’s the point? If it doesn’t bring you joy, you shouldn’t be doing it. On the flip side, if you love what you do and the struggle is short-term, then STOP COMPLAINING. Your struggles are the best ones to have and you WILL get over them. If anything, you should practice gratitude anytime you have the privilege to complain about your creative struggles.
Keep on keepin’ on.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you believe you were born to do something, just bloody do it. Whether you’re getting paid or not isn’t the point… if you’re living a life that allows you to pursue your passions in some way, you’re already winning. So keep at it and tell yourself to stop being a baby. 😉
Have you experienced creative burnout or are you grateful for every day you get to pursue your passion? Please tell me about it in the comments and let me know if any of my tips helped you with your creative journey. Thanks for reading! x