If you’re a brainstormer, innovator, and marketer, creativity is often the foundation of your work. Your job is to use your expertise and creativity to catch the consumer’s eye and inspire them to take action.
After weeks, months, or years spent on projects, it’s easy to feel that your creative juices have been fully squeezed out. You may be tempted to say that you’re experiencing creative burnout.
What Is Creative Burnout?
Burnout is a buzzword that’s been flooding the creative industry. Although I find burnout to be 100% valid, I think many creatives are feeling “uninspired” more than anything.
Creative burnout is the feeling that you’ve drained all of your creativity. I prefer to think of this feeling as a lack of inspiration rather than a burnout. Burnout makes my mind jump to physical symptoms like a lack of sleep, dizzy eyes, and a foggy brain.
“Burnout” seems to have some simple solutions. Taking time off, getting extra rest, and eating a filling meal can all help alleviate burnout. Managing burnout calls for a conversation with your employer and yourself on how you can restore your energy.
On the other hand, a lack of inspiration is something much more difficult and complicated to tackle. You can’t simply ask your boss to restore your inspiration in the same way that you can ask them for tools to help refuel your energy.
How To Restore Inspiration
If you’re finding that you’re feeling a lack of inspiration rather than a complete creative burnout, then it’s important that we get you out of this rut. The way that we refuel our creativity is by finding new ways to get inspired.
A lack of inspiration or creativity can be an external or internal dilemma for you to overcome. When external, you may need a change in your surroundings or atmosphere. Internal solutions call for a change in perspective and outlook to reignite your passion.
If you’re struggling to find inspiration, then you’re more likely dealing with a dull external atmosphere: your life is boring you.
If creativity isn’t hitting you as it has in the past despite having plenty of sources of inspiration, then it’s most likely an internal issue: you’re seeing life like it’s boring.
Sometimes it’s clear as to which dilemma you’re struggling with and you can focus on handling the one. At other times, it’s not as clear what problem you’re solving for and you’ll need to do some trial and error testing.
Either way, we’ve come up with a few ideas that should help you fight creative burnout and get your mind whirling again.
2 Effective Ways To Find Creativity Internally
1. Change Your Thinking
Design guides and creative briefs can often feel pretty limiting. This isn’t a message to ignore your guidelines, but to simply think about them differently.
If you’ve been given a guide that tells you to create something “energetic, fun, and bold” take a minute to reflect on what that means for both the client and the industry.
In a world of sassy words and saturated colors, a more bold statement may be the use of subtle colors and sophisticated words. You should always justify your interpretation with research, but definitely consider thinking above the obvious.
Thinking in a disruptive or contradictory way can reignite a flame that’s been put out by rules and regulations. Even if your thinking starts becoming too outside of the box, it can inspire you to take bits and pieces into the box when you return.
2. Get Back To Basics
There’s a thin line between great work and innovative work. For an idea or practice to be innovative, it has to retain the value of what’s come before and be revamped into something new.
The improvements don’t need to consist of loud and wild additions, they need to be just that: improvements. Getting back to basics may make you feel as though you’re taking steps backward, but have faith that they’ll inspire something completely innovative.
The longer we spend in an industry, the further away from the basics we get. Although it’s great to evolve and not have to follow textbook practices, they were developed for a reason; they work.
Have you ever heard the expression “know the rules like a pro so that you can break them like an artist?” Well, that’s sort of the same idea that I’m trying to share with you. You may find more creativity in red, blue, and yellow than neon green, coral, and burnt orange. Give it a try!
3 Powerful Ways To Find Creativity Externally
1. Revisit The Past
All trends come from the past. Sometimes it’s best that a trend is never revisited, like exercising in leg warmers. Yet, a lot of them end up getting recycled. Why?
Because if they were cool and creative in the past, they have the potential to be cool again.
A brand that brought the past to the future, even with some terrifying inspiration was Bala. Bala Bangles aren’t anything new. The Bala brand took the function of wrist and ankle weights and the “style” of leg warmers and combined the two into a product that’s had great success so far.
Revisit the past, and find something that was once a smash hit. Find out why it died out, and then find a solution that might bring it back some fame. Perhaps it was too far removed from the basics or was the right idea at the wrong time – this is up to you to figure out.
2. Look Towards The Future
It’s good to have ideas grounded in reason, but sometimes the past and present can feel limiting and can kill your creativity. Think outside the box by skipping a few steps and imagining the future. Brands like Soylent did just that.
Soylent was originally designed as a powdered substitute for food. It wasn’t created to provide protein or one vitamin, but to be a source for complete nutrition. The product may seem super relevant and applicable to today, but it was designed with a vision of what the future has in store.
The product was named in homage to the novel “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison. It’s a dystopian sci-fi novel that explores population growth and world resources; think Brave New World or Soylent Green.
Soylent may not be a product that everyone finds necessary, but it’s definitely one designed for the future we’re headed for.
Find creativity by thinking about the future. Will we live in a world where everything is simplified into squares, triangles, and circles? Or will we live in a world where e-mails are a thing of the past and we only listen to voice memos?
Reinvigorate your creativity by thinking about things a few steps ahead of where you are now.
3. Get Out Of The Office (Literally or Metaphorically)
It’s hard to turn off your marketing brain and just be a consumer, but one of the best ways to be inspired is through immersion.
If you find a way to flick the marketing brain switch on and off, that’s awesome (I’m seriously envious). Use that ability to immerse yourself into the world of your consumer. Play pretend and be your consumer; it should give you a new perspective and a new creative outlook.
If you’re like me and unable to turn the marketing brain switch on and off, start talking to non-marketers. Kids are great for this exercise as well.
Ask your non-marketing friends what their favorite ads are, the last e-mail from a brand they opened, or what comes to mind when you mention your client. Even push them to come up with a marketing tactic with zero marketing background.
They might not know what a tactic is, so just ask them what they would do in your circumstance. Their ideas may not be great, but they may inspire you to think of something in a way you hadn’t before.
Marketing is becoming less business and more human-oriented anyway. You may see that this change in perspective brings a whole new life to your entire marketing team.
Come Back Better Than Ever
As you’re getting back to work with your newfound inspiration, make sure it’s not squandered by self-doubt or burnout. Some rational thinking backs every method given for regaining inspiration.
Don’t let your doubts get the best of you and avoid slipping back into the same old routine because you “know it works.” Your process may have worked in the past, but ultimately it killed your creativity. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Overcoming creative burnout often requires thinking of ways to challenge the status quo.
Try not to confuse burnout with a lack of inspiration. Take a day or week off and see if your creative juices come back. If not, you probably just need to be reinspired.
It’s really important that you pinpoint the difference to avoid making a mistake. You don’t want to leave your industry for no reason or get stuck pushing out the same work as if you’re a machine and not a creative.
If you’re burnt out, feel better! If you’re uninspired, get to work!