Creative burnout is a challenge every content creator faces at some point in their careers. Churning out months of videos, posts, and witty Twitter replies can take a huge mental toll, leaving you exhausted and unmotivated. If you don’t take care of yourself, creative burnout may overwhelm you and cause a setback in your career.
However, if you’re vigilant, you can prevent burnout before it happens. Here are a few signs of creative burnout you should be on the lookout for and what you can do about them.
If your perfectionism is causing procrastination…
You want your content to be the best it can possibly be. You won’t upload a video until it looks absolutely perfect. Anything that doesn’t meet your nearly impossible standards isn’t worthy of being uploaded. Sometimes, when you can’t film a video that’s good enough, you just don’t upload at all.
While taking pride in your content is good, this level of perfectionism can be debilitating. Being too hard on your content means you’re being too hard on yourself, which can hamper your creativity. It can lead to complete burnout once none of your content matches up with the idea you have in your head.
To overcome your own perfectionism, take a step back from your picture of an ideal channel. Go back and watch a few of your earliest uploads. Reminisce on what it was like to upload videos for yourself rather than for an audience. You might even read a few comments from the viewers who found your channel first.
Next, focus on challenging your inner critic. When you start to have a negative thought, such as, “Not enough people liked the video, therefore I failed,” replace it with something more positive, such as, “That video didn’t get as many likes as the last one, so next time I’ll try a different video format.”
Finally, create a new list of goals to guide your channel. Keep them simple and attainable, such as “upload a new video every Friday” or “reach a hundred thousand subscribers by the end of the year.” When you’re creating these goals, focus on your own aspirations rather than comparing your journey to others’.
If you feel stuck in a creative rut…
The ideas just aren’t flowing like they used to. Every video from the past month on your channel looks the same. You feel like you’re recycling ideas or just jumping on the bandwagon whenever a new trend comes along. Filming has become more of a chore than a privilege.
If you can relate to any of the above statements, then you’re probably stuck in a creative rut. Feeling stuck can lead to a lack of motivation. Worse, your viewers may get bored, which can cause your numbers to tank.
To get yourself out of this rut, you need to find your inspiration again. Start by challenging yourself to think in a new way. Create a video that you would never have thought to put on your channel before. For example, you might attempt to paint a portrait of your cat or upcycle your old clothes into a new outfit. You could also try cooking a new dish or redecorating a room in your house. The point is to get your brain thinking differently while still thinking creatively.
Once you’ve gotten your creative juices flowing, try a few brainstorming exercises. Get out a piece of paper and a pen. Set a timer for ten minutes. Then, don’t hold back. Write down as many video ideas as you possibly can. Don’t limit yourself on budget, timeliness, etc.
When your ten minutes are up, look back over what you wrote and circle the best, most viable ideas. Write them on a new piece of paper and set your timer again. Then, write ideas that branch off the ones you wrote previously. Once you’re finished, you’ll have a plethora of video ideas you may not have thought of before.
If your entire body feels stressed…
Creative burnout can manifest physically as well as mentally. You may start to feel physical symptoms of stress, such as brain fog or fatigue. You may also experience headaches, back pain, or stomach aches. All of these symptoms can distract you from your work, creating a barrier to your creativity.
The most important thing you can do now is rest. Use a backlogged video or create a quick blooper reel to satisfy your weekly upload schedule. Then, take the time you would usually use to film and edit as an opportunity to let your body rest.
As a creator, you need to prioritize your physical health as much as your mental health. Your career requires a lot of sitting and screen time, so you need to take time away. Try weekly yoga or fitness classes. Go on walks with your dog or with a friend. Start your week by meal planning so you can make sure you’re eating well. Fill your pantry with healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruit so you don’t reach for chips for mindless munching.
It’s also important to work relaxing activities into your typical schedule. Invest your time into a hobby that keeps you away from your phone or laptop, such as painting or baking. You might also try to read every day, write in a journal, or sketch. If you want to get outside, try gardening.
If you don’t feel fulfilled in your career anymore…
When you first start making videos full-time, it’s the best thing in the world. You’ve finally made it to the point where you can do what you love the most as a career. You get to spend your days creating videos, just like the creators who inspired you. However, after a while, it becomes your new normal, and the excitement wears off. You might find yourself bored with your content or itching to try something new.
A lack of fulfillment can make you feel like giving up on your channel. If it’s not making you happy, then it’s just a job. You probably didn’t start your channel just to have a job, but as with any career, you need to allow yourself to grow.
When you no longer feel fulfilled by making videos, it’s time to undertake a new creative project. Allow yourself to bring the creative dream you’ve been entertaining out into the real world. It might be a podcast, a book, a short film, an album, or a photo shoot. Working on this new project will give you a new goal to work towards, which can help you feel fulfilled again.
Helping someone else achieve their dreams can also help you feel fulfilled in your career again. You might work on the crew for your filmmaker friend or reach out to a photographer you know who’s in need of models. You might also offer consultations for up-and-coming YouTubers who are trying to grow their channels or local businesses that need help growing their social media presences.
Creative burnout is a challenged faced by all creative types, whether they’re making YouTube videos or high-grossing films. Beware of the signs of creative burnout so you can prevent it before it happens.
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Kristen Harris enjoys listening to a wide range of music, from Taylor Swift to, on occasion, Celtic instrumental. She also spends her time writing, reading, and baking.