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How to beat creative burnout

From artists to designers we talked to successful creatives about how they avoid burnout and break through blocks.

How to beat creative burnout
[Photo: Free Creative Stuff/Pexels]

Creative burnout–that specific kind of burnout that comes from having to produce creative product for your job, paycheck, or career– is something all creators come to fear. Whether it’s the struggle of getting words to the page, an image to the screen, or a design in the sketchbook, being asked to constantly produce so you can pay the bills is exhausting.

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It also can result in mediocre work, which may have a negative impact on your career. In a series of conversations with Fast Company, five creatives from a variety of industries shared what they do to combat creative burnout and prevent it in the first place.

Surround yourself with new environments
— Patrick Robinson, CEO and founder of Paskho

“When [I] can’t find the inspiration, that’s when I leave, even if it’s for three, five days,” Robinson says. “I escape … and sketch some place that I’ve never been. There’s something about the mixture of nature, the foreignness of a place that brings it all back. There’s a whole clarity. It comes back and that’s always helped me get to that next place.” Before founding fashion brand Paskho, he used to be global creative director at Armani Exchange and EVP of Global Design for Gap, and he had a limited-time collection at Target.

Robinson noted the importance of travel, but if that’s not accessible, he said you can simply work with new materials or approach your creative process in a new way as well. For him, just stepping outside at his home can make a difference.

Challenge yourself with something completely different
— Amy Pastre and Courtney Rowson, partners and founders of SDCO

“We try hard to take on projects that we feel in alignment to,” Rowson said. “That helps motivate us in ways that we didn’t anticipate in our career, but we really rely on those partnerships to motivate and push us creatively.” At creative agency SDCO, they’ve worked with companies like Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James, Le Creuset, West Elm, Target, and more.

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The duo also realized early in their careers that accepting too much of the same kind of work–say, only coming up with campaigns for companies within one industry– is a surefire path to burnout.

A solution? Take on a project for something you’ve never done before. “That immediately opens up your mind. You have to do some research and learn about it,” Pastre said.

Take basic care of yourself so you can bring your best self to work
— Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, founders of AUrate Jewelry

“On a personal level I think a lot of creativity has to do with a clean approach. You need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, you’re well rested, and you’re able to tackle a new collection like a blank page,” Kahn said. “Don’t get me wrong, that is a feat in and of itself nowadays, but I think it’s an extremely important foundation in order to foster creatives at every level because at the end of the day creating is a sport.”

When you’re feeling your best, you can be aware and present at work and you’re less likely to miss out on inspirational moments. Ezzahraoui says listening to these moments is key for creativity. “For me it comes down to the simplicity of that: listening. I love drawing inspiration from people I meet and places I go.”

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About the author

Anna Meyer is a Minneapolis native and J-school alum from The University of Kansas with a keen interest in how technology and innovation will shape tomorrow. During her time as The Riveter magazine's digital editor, her work appeared in print and online covering a variety of topics within the scope of women's lives and interests

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