Experiencing Creative Burnout? This Creator Is Here to Guide You Through It

ilovescreatives founder Puno guides us through her experiences with creative burnout -- how to own it, manage it, and create through it.

A girl working on her laptop while talking on two phones at the same time

Illustration and design by Slam Media Lab

Another year means another Worklife Next Summit, our annual future of work event featuring the latest trends in the future of work and the creator economy. Our summit introduces the next era in creative thinkers, makers, and founders revolutionizing the workplace. Empowering employees and employers to think outside the cubicle, ilovecreatives founder Puno shares tips on how to manage the high-pressure demands of always being on. In this session, we hear Brand Curator Michelene Wilkerson in conversation with Puno about how she owns, manages, and repurposes her creative burnout to help others do the same.  

Near the end of the hot-button movie Don’t Worry Darling, Florence Pugh (spoiler alert!) uncovers her husband’s plot to kidnap her away from her 30-hour hospital shifts to a VR fantasy of 1950s-style “domestic bliss.” Her husband (Harry Styles) accuses her of hating her past life, always coming home burned out and miserable. Pugh screams at him, “I wanted to work, I loved working! It was my life!” 

We know what that’s like. Not the whole “kidnapped into a virtual existence,” more the “burning out on something you love.” 

There’s the old saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” We tend to side more with Florence Pugh–you can love your work wholeheartedly, but eventually you’re going to hit some burnout, especially if you’re a creator.

63% of creatives are concerned with creative burnout, and almost the same amount of creators are finding it harder to disconnect from their work, increasing burnout rates. 

So we tapped ilovecreatives founder Puno to guide us through her experiences with creative burnout–how to own it, manage it, and create through it. We cover: 

  1. Identifying types of burnout
  2. Signs and symptoms of creative burnout
  3. Tackling–and accepting–creative burnout as a content creator
  4. Tips to combat creative burnout

First, meet Puno.

Self-Styled “Slashie,” Puno Is All Things Creative

 Hey Puno, what’s a “slashie?”

Some might call them “multi-hyphenates.” To Puno, they’re “slashies.” And even though Puno is the definition of multi-hyphenate–creator-designer-teacher-leader-cat photographer–slashies are so much more.

Puno founded ilovecreatives as a spot for creators to branch out, expand their skills, and add a few slashes to their profiles. They offer courses in all areas of creative interests, including:

When we hear the word, our minds jump to the usual multi-hyphenates: actor-writer-director, creator-designer-developer, singer-songwriter-producer. Puno takes us beyond the norm, giving way to the Renaissance, jack-of-all-trades slashie.

To be a slashie means spreading yourself pretty thin at times, which is why Puno is the ideal person to help you identify creative burnout and use it to your advantage. 

Is it Creative Burnout? Identifying the Different Types of Burnout

The first step in dealing with your burnout is figuring out what exactly is burning you out. Is it creative content? Or is another part of your life feeding your burnout?

We identify the most common types of burnout:

  • Creative Burnout
  • Life Burnout
  • Emotional Burnout
  • Employee Burnout

Creative Burnout

Over 60% of creators admitted to creative burnout in the past year. So what is it?

Creative burnout is the feeling that you’ve exhausted all your creativity. Ever feel like you have no new ideas left in the tank? That the creator part of you jetted off to The White Lotus on holiday? You’re likely experiencing creative burnout. 

We’ll dive into all the signs and symptoms of creative burnout with Puno. 

Life Burnout

A leading contributor to creative burnout, life burnout is all the social and personal factors that drain your drive. Toxic relationship? Election worries? Family visiting for a long weekend? All of these can cause life burnout.

Puno wants you to prioritize life burnout. 

“If it's something that really needs to get figured out you need to figure that out,” she says. “If it's something where you're in a relationship that isn't working and it is messing with you, you need to deal with that. Because it's gonna keep bleeding into everything else. Not just your creative life, your health, your sleep, your everything. So I think it's just being really honest about what is bothering you and what is consuming your brain space or your heart. And give it that moment to deal with it and work through it.”

Emotional Burnout

Emotional burnout often travels hand-in-hand with life burnout. Over 30% of the American workforce confessed to some form of emotional burnout (we suspect it might be higher). 

It is critical to identify if you are suffering emotional burnout before it becomes unmanageable. Some clear signs of emotional burnout include:

  • Excessive self-doubt
  • Overwhelming detachment
  • Feeling trapped
  • Decreased motivation
  • Recurring negative outlook
  • Lack of sense of accomplishment

As Puno instructs, giving life and emotional burnout your immediate attention is the first step in battling creative burnout. 

Employee Burnout

The most commonly reported type of burnout, employee burnout has long been a part of the work life culture. 

“Rise and grind.” “Hustle.” “Get rich or die tryin’.” These aren’t movies in the Sandleraissance. They’re mantras for pushing that extra hour, checking that 2AM Slack ping, and ensuring you’re going to burn out by the weekend. 

The majority of adults working in the U.S. have experienced employee burnout. If your work is in content creation–as more and more people launch careers in content creation–the need to curb employee burnout is mandatory. 

Building a culture in the workplace that fosters creativity rather than rewards rising and grinding can boost employee performance and increase revenue.  

Are You Experiencing Creative Burnout? 

Creative burnout can pop up anytime and anywhere. Halfway through writing the Next Great American Novel? Mental hand cramp. A half-dozen more strokes on the artwork to spark a revolution? Creative burnout creeps in.

How can you tell it’s creative burnout instead of an actual hand cramp? Puno shares the signs. They include:  

  • Boredom as a signal
  • Physical and mental isolation
  • Negative self-feedback 

Boredom as a Signal

Boredom is bad. The opposite of creativity, there are no good uses for boredom in content creation. Right? Wrong.

Puno uses her boredom as a signal to shake things up. She shares: 

“When I was bored with myself, it's because I was kind of doing the same thing just going with the motions. I wasn't reinventing the wheel. I wasn't changing things a little bit differently [either]. And I use that boredom as a signal. But if you use that boredom, then you can either brainstorm or you can spiral, and if you brainstorm, you're gonna come up with an actionable plan.” 

Boredom can be a breeding ground for creative burnout and negativity. It can also be the signal you’ve been waiting for to break out of your creative slump.

Physical and Mental Isolation

Creatives are more at risk for isolation than in-person employees by the nature of their work. With a nine-to-five, employees still suffer burnout, with the possibility of detaching. Creators create in the middle of the night, during other jobs, and while they are already creating for a second or third project. 

COVID-19 only added to the isolation for everyone, and 40% of workers saw increases in their burnout rates due to longer remote hours.

Isolation bleeds into boredom, compounding creative burnout. Something as simple as going for a walk can rejuvenate your creative side. 

Negative Self-feedback

When creative burnout sets in, the most likely culprit is the one in the mirror. At least, that’s what you’re telling yourself.

Puno shares, “ If you spiral, you're just gonna say, I suck. I'm not unique, I'm not blah, blah, blah. And you just start spiraling. That's not helpful at all. I think it's just natural for people to start spiraling and self-sabotaging. It's so easy to do and I hear it a lot at two points:

  • [Most creators self-sabotage] right before doing anything at all. That's when it usually happens. 
  • And the second time is when they're doing something a lot and they feel bored of themselves.”

It’s all connected. Boredom, isolation, and negativity are all pieces of the pie chart labeled ‘Creative Burnout.’

How do we handle creative burnout, and use it to our advantage? Puno has solutions. 

Dealing with Your Creative Burnout

Burnout is burnout. It comes in many forms but it leaves you drained and uninspired no matter its source. Creators are familiar with all forms of burnout, and most experience creative burnout on the reg. 

So how do you handle and mitigate your creative burnout? Puno has answers.

Puno is a pro when it comes to handling creative burnout. It took a few tries. 

“I feel like I'm very good at saying no now. But it's because I got burned out. And I think that we are–as a society, as a community–we're all saying burnout is such a bad thing and we're trying to avoid it so much, but in the sense it's unavoidable.” 

We couldn’t agree more. So what’s the solution?

“I somewhat embrace it.”

Embrace your burnout. Got it. Next—wait, what?!

Let Puno explain.

“You wanna catch it before it gets too crazy. But you can't avoid it because, if you're a creative person, you're always gonna try something new. You've never done it before, and you get excited. And that excitement means you're gonna work on it for a really long time and you're going to not wanna do anything else. And that equals burnout.”

It may sound like we’re endorsing the hustle culture. Puno offers some tips to embrace your creative burnout for you to become a better content creator, while leaving the hustle on the side. 

They are:

  1.  Be sure you’re dealing with creative burnout. Thinking your emotional burnout is creative burnout delays the recovery process. As Puno says, “It's really just about that self-awareness: is this an emotional burnout right now? Is this a time burnout? What kind of burnout is this?”
  2. Embrace the burnout–but don’t overdo it. Burnout is unavoidable. Burning out entirely is manageable.
  3. Perform regular self check-ins. To keep from going off the deep end, Puno checks in on her mental health daily. She says, “This is something that I learned that I had to do after I got really burned out: I would check in [on myself] once a day. My reasoning for this was because I would only check in for my yearly review. That's not giving myself enough chances to just check in with myself.” 
  4. Accept your limits. Creators want to build the next big thing. That’s a great mindset. It can also lead to creative burnout when your podcast is overlooked by the Webbys. Puno wants you to know you’re in good company: “That's where generating ideas doesn't have to be that exhausting if you remember that your flavor is a huge component of it. You don't have to be all big ideas all the time. You don't have to be like, This has to be the most unique fucking thing I've ever heard of in my entire life, otherwise I won't do it.”
  5. Practice vigilance scheduling. Life burnout can quickly bloom into creative burnout if you let it. Puno manages her thriving business, content creation, and a newborn (yay, Puno!) through vigilance scheduling. “I have learned so much about vigilance scheduling. I have this spreadsheet–I love a spreadsheet–and I think that step one for me is, how do I find time in the day? I literally have to make a spreadsheet and find the time.”

If you check-in on yourself regularly and keep yourself in check, you can power through creative burnout to keep the content flowing. 

If all else fails, at least take a break once in a while!

Creative Burnout in a Creator Economy

Puno offers one question to ask for creatives facing creative burnout: what’s the worst-case scenario?  

“Every creative person is always living in this state of uncomfortability. You don't know what's gonna happen. So, just brainstorm for a quick second. What is the worst-case scenario?”

Embrace some creative burnout, check up on yourself regularly, and accept your limits. When creative burnout does subside, remember to push those limits and create. 

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