The life of The Modern Artist is emotionally demanding. At moments, we spend more time daydreaming about apocalyptical futures and meteor showers rather than focusing on the relevant. We inevitably wind up at the doors of creative burnout depleted, harried, and mind fogged, unreliable of ourselves to carry on forward.
Mundane tasks take on a monstrous form and all of the sudden, without notice, you’re sitting there in front of a twinkling bar praying to the Muse, the Universe, Keanu Reeves, or freaking Voldemort to shower you with a pint of inspiration enough to get the ball rolling. Frustration strikes fast when the call isn’t answered.
It would be make believe to say there’s a cure-it-all solution to ease such paralyzing condition. Or at least that’s what all us creatives can aspire for in a bright future where Big Pharma diverts it’s intentions into the Limitless Pill. In the meantime, we must be practical to impede it from sticking our feet in the icky mud.
Here are a series of practical hacks you can try for yourself to smash through creative burnout in an elegant Hulkish fashion.
1. Unplug from work, immediately
Did you already? Ok great. Moving on.
For some weird masochistic fixation, we artists and creatives love to pound our heads against the wall hoping for the next breakthrough idea to crack open from our bruised skull. That my friends is not the way to tango. Ideas belong to an elevated sphere of consciousness which cannot be accessed through brute force. This higher level of awareness is forever present, forever accessible, and forever trainable like a muscle, it strengthens with every rep.
Waiting for new the next iPhone-idea to drift ashore the islands of our mind is utter fantasy. Sometimes we have cast the net and let the fish come to us rather than savagely ramping up behind them. Therefore we must demand ourselves to unplug, put the pencil down, and man-up to the barren desert of no-ideas-whatsoever land.
Let the lack of inspiration act in your favor.
2. Embrace boredom
Time to dust-off that electric-blue fidget spinner your grandma gifted you for Christmas. And if that’s not your case, then just Google “Fidget Spinner“ and play with theirs. Discover a digital marvel.
Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, defines boredom as “a search for neural stimulation that isn’t satisfied“. In other words, when your brain isn’t consuming bits and pieces of dopamine from our compulsive feeder, it will naturally revert into itself for resolve. The “aha!“ moment arrives when active-inactivity forces your mind into bridging new neural connections, the recipe for birthing ideas.
Although I’m a big advocate of both, yoga and meditation are in fact counter-productive for this purpose only, as both demand a certain level of awareness. On the other hand, activities such as swimming laps or closing your eyes, shy from any external stimuli like music, are just what’s needed to let your mind wander freely, like Willy.
Pro tip: Resist the urge to scroll next time you’re in a “boring“ situation. Let it kick in, get into your mind, resolve your problems by using human’s most powerful tool. Don't take it for granted.
3. Hug a tree
Figuratively and literally. White cubicles and Nespresso machines have subdued us into a worryingly deficient state. Depressed in interactions, deficient in range of movement, not to say deficient on overall physical activity. We have piggy-backed ourselves into a health crisis sponsored by the Rat Race.
Studies show how spending time outdoors can have a huge positive impact on our mind and body. Connecting with nature means coming back to our roots, to our very life fabric. Creative burnout is frightened to the core from nature escapes.
Going back to nature is fundamentally asking the universe for a refill—free of charge.
Twenty minutes of the day outside is what your body needs to replenish, restore, and reboot. Read that again, twenty minutes. That is 20 in digits, XX in roman numerals and zwanzig in German. No need to run an ultra marathon on handstand for the Guinness World Record. A simple walk in the park will do it.
Run, Forrest, Run!
4. Spill out your to-dos
Suggested by Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule, this nifty trick helps empty your brain and free up some storage space for new ideas to come. Throughout the years, I’ve noticed that creative burnout is a byproduct of mind overload alike. Deadlines, aspirations, taxes, relationships, personal favors, meetings, exercising, caring for your goldfish, and God knows what else.
Our life is constantly picked by the restless industrial drill of anxiety, and more often than not, we feel like we’re balancing ten blowtorches on a monocycle. Once again, this is the moment in which the practical must kick in.
Mel’s method is to simply grab a piece of paper, whip a pen out, and write down every single task on your to-do list. Every single one. Bring your goldfish fish to the vet? Take the trash out? Fold clothes? Call your mother-in-law? Pick up the chewing gum wrapper you just remembered fell in between your couch’s pillows? Again, every single one.
Once done, grab a highlighter and begin marking those which need to be done non negotiably. The life or death or jail ones. The your mother-in-law may become upset otherwise ones. Now that you’ve got them down go actually do them because they won’t do themselves, right?
Congratulations! You just lifted off a huge weight off your shoulders and hopefully trimmed enough undergrowth to allow your Muse back in.
5. Pivot like Jordan
In creativity like in basketball, acing the right sequence of moves can lead to a great outcome. When facing creative burnout, you must think of it as an opponent that has carefully watched, studied, and planned out what your next move is going to be.
Therefore, pulling off a never-seen-before zag may be the right formula to throw it off balance.
Surprise your opponent by shifting your focus onto another task with different creative demands. Want to pick up writing or journaling? Take a moment to ink a couple of sentences on paper. What about that clay sculpture you had in mind? This is your time to put your hands onto it. Aim for a manual task. One that doesn’t require much thinking rather doing.
With time and experience, your opponent will become more and more predictable. You’ll be able to identify the moment it begins lurking around the corner, and when that happens, you know it is the time to pivot.
Don’t let creative burnout win your ground. It happens to every single artist and creative looking for resolve. What separates the beginner from The Modern Artist solely is the ability of dancing with it with style and grace. Acknowledging it, embracing it, dismantling it.