"The way we define burnout is creative output without direction"
- Samir Chaudry on Emma Chamberlain quitting YouTube
I'm writing this post from the cafe of my hotel in NYC before I head over to Central Park. A few weeks ago, I booked the trip with no agenda and no travel buddy. Just a 5 day solo venture to experience a change of environment and to visit my (current) favorite city.
When I bought my tickets, I was at a creative standstill. It was challenging to think of new content ideas, it was difficult to create around the ideas I already had, and I lost confidence in my ability to create something engaging and meaningful.
It felt like I had nothing left (even though I knew that wasn't true).
But the thing about burnout is that it isn't a permanent state of mind, and it's not a direct reflection on you as a creative. It's something that everyone experiences and needs to learn how to manage.
But I think the quote from Colin & Samir above sums up a vast majority of burnout cases.
Creative output without direction is painful. It's hard to keep going when it feels like there's no purpose or meaning behind what you're creating. It's enjoyable to create things for fun, but when some of your content is part of your career and your brand, losing the vision is like athlete forgetting why they love and started playing their sport.
You can't put your full time and energy into something that you don't have direction for.
I found this graphic from Ness Labs that highlights a few burnout symptoms:
Being aware of burnout is huge but to reduce its effects, we need to learn how to manage it. This is going to look different for everyone, but these are a few things I've done to get unstuck:
Burnout is challenging to manage, but learning to do so is essential to maintaining a creative career. The work you do is hard even though it may seem like a walk in the park to someone who's never done it before. Don't discount yourself. We're all on a journey and trying to figure it out day by day. There's no roadmap for us to follow like there is in corporate careers so losing direction can happen at any time.
By prioritizing and being kind to yourself, recognizing the symptoms, and learning what solutions are most effective for you, you can maneuver through your creative career without fearing the inevitable feeling of burnout.
Also read: How to Come Back from Creative Burnout