The Three Steps To Overcoming Creative Burnout
Let's talk about the dreaded Writer's Block for a moment. Whether you're a freelance photographer, designer, or a writer (who falls into the traditional trap of the "Block" terminology), you're probably all too familiar with the notion of your idea bank running dry. How do you combat it? How do you tap back into the creative juices that got you started on this crazy, wild solo ride to begin with?
Often, it's a whole lot easier said than done, right? You expect more from yourself, and certainly the dozens of clients and brands knocking down your inbox's door expect your peak performance at a moment's notice (no matter how spread thin you are)—so why does it often feel like we're grasping at straws to make those daily creative moments feel truly alive?
In this modern day and age, creative entrepreneurs are feeling burn out harder, faster, and more frequently than comparable counterparts from ten years back. Blogs were only just taking shape back then, plus news and general information was attained at a speed that we could all follow along with. But now, with the advent and exponential growth of social media, it's alarmingly easy to give up on voicing creative ideas altogether because of how quickly it disappears into the masses (raise your hand if you've all but given up on Twitter because of the lightning fast, unceremonious burial of a thought!)
Writer's Block, then, isn't so much about a lack of creative ideas as it is an overabundance of them. I can't even begin to list all of the lightbulb moments and ideas I've had this month that were quickly dashed because so-and-so had already done it, or because the trend or motif was already old news. While we were in school, this idea trumping might have cost us a letter grade, but now it costs us a paycheck.
Contemporary creatives are being asked to not only leap ahead of the times and trends, but to be one step ahead of their cohorts, too. To quote myself from my last article: I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
The good news is that, like all things, you can adapt to these changes and you can triumph over your Writer's Block, however it manifests itself in your daily routine as a freelancer. But you have to think—get this—creatively.
Sure, I could spout off a list of ways to jump start this ideation, but it's just not going to be enough. Frankly, chasing the trends in the hopes that you'll miraculously be able to outwit one of your peers with an idea first (said with the utmost respect for my brilliant fellow bloggers, by the way) will only set you up for disaster. Instead, you have to think outside the box—like miles and miles outside of the box.
Make New Freelance Friends
Start by limiting your check-ins with your peers—at least your professional check-ins. Make social calls and continue to personally build one another up, but the competitive instinct inevitably weasels its way in if you start talking about business ideas.
Instead, consider making friends outside of your industry and add their links to your daily blog roll. If you're a writer, follow along with a successful graphic designer, or if you're a photographer, get your creative inspiration from a writer who puts the same type of life moments into words rather than .JPEGs. Getting a truly fresh perspective from someone who's not even in your box is the first step toward killing Writer's Block.
Consider making friends outside of your industry and add their links to your daily blog roll.
Create The Next Trend
Secondly, don't fixate on how you can cash in on the trends. Instead, brainstorm ways to create the next trend. Again, easier said than done, but it is possible. Intentionally ignore Pinterest for a week and travel, talk to new people, shop at a store you don't usually stop into. Slowly but surely, those trend-formulated blinders will slide off and you'll spot something new to build on.
Try, Try Again
Finally—and this may be the hardest of all—dump those old ideas and run. I sidle right up to Writer's Block for a long, hard cuddle every time one of my ideas falls flat. I fixate and dredge in the disappointment for days and, inevitably, that negative place is where all of my good ideas go to die. The effect is cyclical, repetitive, and heartbreaking. Instead, I'm working to combat the process of going from idea-to-disappointment-to-fixation-to-rebuild to idea-to-discard-to-idea-to-success.
I'm working to combat the process of going from idea-to-disappointment-to-fixation-to-rebuild to idea-to-discard-to-idea-to-success.
As a freelancer and the hub of your entire business, disappointment is inevitable, but wallowing in it doesn't have to be. You've definitely heard this before, but it bears repeating: oftentimes, the very best ideas are born out of failure and the ability to promptly pick yourself back up again.
Ultimately, the Writer's Block plight has a new face in 2015, and it will have a new one come 2016 (if it's even able to wait that long). But we're freelancers for a reason, and that is because our creativity and our bright ideas are worth tapping into and sharing. Don't give up and don't give in—we'll all make it to the other side with brilliant, original, worthy-of-celebration ideas to show for it.