CCA Pulse Magazine
The Creative Spark Burning Out | Sophie Harasha
At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced creative burnout. Creativity is a very intricate thing to balance, too little causes less inspiration and lifeless work, whereas too much can be messy and overwhelming. Creativity must be properly fostered, without too much direction or limitation. It must be given space to grow, develop, and change, but forcing it can create meaningless and uninspired work lacking a creative voice. Clearly, creativity is very delicate and with its delicacy, creative burnout is a disease easily contracted and hard to get rid of.
I’ve dealt with creative burnout a multitude of times, especially this year. With college applications, filmmaking, and journalism, the amount of creative work required causes easy burnout. While watching a film that I made one time, which was supposed to be heartfelt and emotional, I felt nothing. I asked a fellow filmmaker if words can lose meaning. Those words that are so impactful, had suddenly lost their value because I’d stared at them too long and I’d heard them too much. I remember shooting those words, actors reciting them over and over. Now, they’re just hollow sounds; lacking the proper substance. That was when I realized I was experiencing burnout.
I’ve noticed that there are many ways burnout can happen. When artists are not satisfied with their work it can cause a lack of motivation. This dissatisfaction for me mostly stems from the inability to express what I am trying to convey. I often want to convey an emotion or a feeling, but I struggle to find the words or the right way to express it. I have come to realize that sometimes it is intangible. No matter how many words or how much art is put into that feeling, the ability to manifest the emotion for others to understand is virtually impossible. But by trying and trying again, burnout can occur as there will inevitably be dissatisfaction with the finished product, creating a lack of motivation, inspiration, and consequent self-doubt as a creative. Another way I burn out, along with the lack of tangibility, is the lack of understanding. While doing college apps, there are sometimes questions asking to pinpoint a value or a feeling that most speaks to the writer. With those questions, I soul search for an emotion that I don’t fully know or understand myself. Not only that, I have to identify this emotion in a short span of time to write the essay AND express that unfledged emotion in an eloquent, clear way. By forcing me to dissect myself in such ways in a short amount of time can easily cause confusion, existentialism, and ultimately frustrational burnout. Plus, there are so many facets of myself I want to show to colleges, and forcing all of that introspection into 250 words can feel discouraging as I know that I am leaving out so many important parts of my identity. That lack of expression causes burnout for me. Lastly, I also burn out due to deadlines. Deadlines are inevitable. We can’t have all the time in the world for perfection because often our work won’t even be deemed perfect. Deadlines are beneficial to an extent, but rushing things and rushing creativity doesn’t work. By being pressured by a date, often the artist must force a feeling or message that doesn’t resonate with them and the work is sometimes rushed, sloppy, and ingenuine. It forces artists to produce something, not the work with the creator’s true creative voice and talent.
From all my experiences, I’ve found ways to deal with and prevent this creative burnout. The first one may seem obvious but it’s so important. To take breaks. At some point, after hours and hours of staring at a blank page, the answer won’t suddenly appear. By staying there, trying to work at it over and over, there won’t be some epiphany. Creativity can’t be forced. It has to just come. So take a break. And by revisiting the blank page even an hour later, maybe some sort of inspiration will be found.
This brings me to my next point, which is to go to a new environment to work. Go somewhere that isn’t associated with your personal creative burnout. Perhaps a new environment will foster new ideas. Working in the same space can be confining and limiting to the creative process.
Another thing that’s helped me with burnout is to find new work that inspires me. When I have time, I try to consume new media. Hearing and seeing other creative voices helps cultivate my own. I’ve started to read poetry and find a new poem each time. This type of creative writing has helped expand my vocabulary. Sometimes these poems are able to capture delicate emotions or feelings, so it gives me ideas and inspiration on how to convey my own feelings. I’ve started to write down lines that resonate with me or innovative ways to write simplistic things, which has helped me with my college apps and with my ability to speak and write more eloquently.
The last way I try to curb burnout is to read or watch my old work. In moments of extreme burnout, sometimes I feel like my creative identity is lost forever. All the work I produce seems ingenuine to myself. But by revisiting my old work, I am able to remind myself of my creative voice. By reviewing the work of my past, I am often reminded of why I create and my values as an artist. I am able to find my voice again and that inspires me to continue creating.
Creative burnout is inevitable, but hopefully this has provided some helpful ways to identify it and cope with it. Finally, my main piece of advice is to never stop creating. When burnout hits like a truck, the most important thing is to overcome it, and never to wallow in it. By remaining a captive of this burnout, you may lose your creative identity entirely.