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EPISODE 67: SOS – An Honest Conversation About Creative Burnout

by Jan 4, 2022Brand Your Voice, Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Acknowledging the effects of experiencing a collective global trauma
  • How to view your burnout from a healthier, kinder perspective
  • Tips for navigating through a phase of creative burnout

We’re starting a New Year in the midst of the Great Resignation, an ongoing global pandemic, and the experience of a collective global trauma. For many of us, the majority of our mental and emotional energy is being spent on meeting our basic survival needs.

There are some jobs you can complete relatively easily while distracted. Writing is typically not one of them. Creative professions, especially writing, require a high level of emotional engagement. It requires you to dive deep into your own brain, and that’s a scary place to be when you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed. 

If writing is your profession, sometimes it can feel like your livelihood depends on you being a bottomless well of creativity. For example, when a client doesn’t have a specific idea and asks you to “come up with something” that’s fun on some level…but also stressful! Especially in the midst of writer’s block or burnout {Episode 66 has tips for overcoming writer’s block, if you’re interested}. 

Although creative burnout cannot necessarily be conquered, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s normal. If you’re in the midst of it, remember that your self-worth is not a product of your creative output. You’re still a writer, even if you’re struggling to write right now.

 

Here’s a few tips to help you navigate creative burnout:

  • Listen to yourself and trust what you hear. Honor your need for rest as much as possible. Make sure you’re getting as much food, water, exercise, and sleep as you can. 
  • Ask for support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Polaris Writer Lounge is a free resource to connect with fellow writers for support, ideas, and advice.
  • Consider other opportunities for income. Are there other ways you can have fun and make some extra money? Even if it’s not related to client work or creative writing, you can always come back to writing. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. 
  • Do your current best, even if it’s not your all-time best. There’s something to be said for just slugging through it and producing something. A sales email sequence doesn’t need to be on the level of the Great American Novel.

 

Homework: 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Marie:
Okay. Welcome to an episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. And I sound really, really perky considering what this topic is about, which is an honest conversation about creative burnout. I have the lovely Madeline with me again today.

Madeline:
Hello.

Marie:
On the podcast and also happy new year. We are recording this back in the ancient days of 2021, but it is now being released in 2022. So yeah.

Madeline:
I still feel like it's 2019 sometimes honestly.

Marie:
You're not wrong. Yeah. You know, it was earlier today about like, you know, there's like dog years. I'm like, I think there's like pandemic years.

Madeline:
Yes, for sure. For sure. Still processing 20- 2020.

Marie:
Yeah.

Madeline:
And now it's 2022. So here we are.

Marie:,/b>
But I think that's relevant to what we're talking about today, right.

Madeline:
For sure.

Marie:,
Creative burnout because we have experienced and are in the midst of experiencing a collective global trauma right now. And that is unsurprisingly maybe, affecting people's ability to be creative. And when that's your job, that can be a little scary cuz that can be affecting your livelihood. So, yeah, but you know, we were trying to be intentional about this episode and at first I was like, oh, conquering creative burnout. That's nice. And alliterative. And then I was like, no, no, this is one of those things you just kind of like check off and move on from burnout.

Madeline:
Yeah. Put conquer creative burnout on your to-do list and just-

Marie:
That's Tuesday.

Madeline:
Tuesday, we're gonna conquer creative burnout.

Marie:
That's great.

Madeline:
And then we're never gonna have it again.

Marie:
Yeah, yeah. So we wanted to just, yeah, come together and have an honest conversation about it. Also, because when we've talked with you, all our listeners, this is overwhelmingly been something that you're telling us that you're experiencing. So, it would be I think, just papering over it to say, yeah, it's the kind of thing you can just check off in a day.

Madeline:
Yeah, for sure. For sure. You know, I think that, like you said, we've seen this kind of collective trauma that's causing this burnout in pretty much every industry. I mean, I think this would be a whole different podcast episode, but like with what people are calling the great resignation and the hiring shortages and everything, I mean, people are just, they're, they're done, they're throwing up their hands and being like enough. Like I can't, you know, I can't do this anymore. And that's interesting for, you know, creative professions, because I think there are some jobs that you can continue to do at least for a short amount of time. Maybe not, you know, 20 months, but there are some jobs that you can continue to do relatively successful while being, you know, burnt out or anxious or stressed or depressed, or whatever the case is. And writing is not necessarily one of those jobs. Because I mean, even if it's copywriting, even if you're just writing a, you know, a sales sequence or a sales page or something that has like a clear template, just the act of writing requires you would be really present with your own brain and your thoughts. And that can be a scary place sometimes.

Marie:
Yeah, yeah. For sure. I mean, you know, when, whether you're digging into sort of the pain points approach or the empathy points approach that we take, or, you know, you're telling someone's story or, you know, you're trying to be persuasive, like all of that requires you to engage emotionally when your emotional well may be tapped out. And so, you know, coming up with catchy taglines, maybe one thing, but like heartfelt content that is designed to be strategic is like, you know, this isn't easy work. So we're here to validate you if you are feeling this right now, because it is totally understandable.
And, you know, in the last episode if you wanna check out episode 66, we talked a little bit about to, in the context of, what am I trying to say, writer's block, which a bit more of a temporary word block, relevant, you know, which is maybe more of like a temporary thing, but some similar principles, right of this idea of like Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And like when that stuff that's like your basic stuff is uncertain or being threatened, it's really hard to be creative. And in fact, this morning I was chatting with a friend of mine who is one of the wisest people I know. But she was also talking about like, there's a reason why a lot of creativity seems to come out of the developed world as opposed to the developing world, because in the developing world, people don't know if they're gonna get home safely that night. Yeah. You know, and we're getting a taste of like constant, low level fear and anxiety right now, all of us, and so we're getting a taste of what that must be like and why it's challenging when you're literally just trying to like take care of today in the next day.

Madeline:
Yeah, for sure.

Marie:
So...

Madeline:
Interesting that, also exists with like, it's very common to like, see quote, unquote, great art or like this amazing shows of creativity coming out of like intense pain. But you know, maybe that's more emotional pain and less pain of, do I have food for tonight? Cause yeah. I mean, even as somebody who lives in a developed country, I can say, there's no way that I'm going to write well, if I'm hungry, it's not gonna happen.

Marie:
For sure. For sure. Yeah. I mean, that was one of the things to, you talked about actually the last episode, right? Yeah. Like if you're feeling like you're hitting writer's block, like maybe you check and see when's the last time you ate something.

Madeline:
Get a snack, eat a sandwich.

Marie:
Right, right. So I think, you know, we don't wanna necessarily be gloom and doom here. We just wanna be honest and just say that like creative burnout is normal and it is not something to be ashamed of. Like if you're in the, if you're in the midst of it, I think... there's a note I put here ahead of time. Like your self worth is not a product of your creative output.

Madeline:
Yes.

Marie:
Or is your self definition, like you are still a writer, even if you're struggling to write right now. And I've struggled with that myself, like, especially in like the creative writing front this year. Well, 2021 as I'm recording this the last year as you're listening to it, I've struggled with that. Like, am I a writer? I haven't been like consistently writing fiction since April, but like, you know, that's not, I'm not less of a person or less of a writer because I'm in a burnout phase right now.

Madeline:
Absolutely. Yep. One of my, this is a little off topic, but maybe, but, so one of my favorite, well my favorite classical composer is Rochmaninoff. And I love him partly because of this story that he had this like massive failure with his, I think it was his first piano concerto. Like it was just, you know, whatever the equivalent in like 1920 or 1910 was of just like critics being like this sucks. Like no one likes this you're a terrible composer. And he went into this like deep, deep depression for years because of it. And one of, of the ways that he got out of it was he did hypnotherapy and his like hypnotherapist would just tell him, you are a great composer. You will compose great music over and over and over again.

Marie:
Wow.

Madeline:
And he wrote his second piano concerto, which is one of the most famous piano pieces ever. And I, so I have on my, I have a bunch of posts on my desk and one of them says, you are a great composer. You will compose great music.

Marie:
Oh, I didn't know this story.

Madeline:
Yeah. Yeah. So I don't know. I just love that. And you know, obviously that's music and not writing, but both obviously very creative enterprises and just, you know, no that even if you go through, I mean, it was years that he couldn't compose anything because he was so depressed and you know, now he's people are like, yeah, he was, he was one of the greatest piano composers of all time. So didn't make him less of a composer or less of a brilliant artist that he went through a period where he wasn't able to produce anything.

Marie:
I love that. His music always scares me cuz he has huge hands and I can't-

Madeline:
I know, and-

Marie:
I play anything.

Madeline:
I know I'm a pianist and it makes me cry that I can't play any of his stuff because my hands are so tiny.

Marie:
Same! But yeah, no, that's, that's a beautiful story. I think that's totally true. And I think that one of the things that's coming up for me and that Madeline is this belief or tapping into the belief that this is still temporary, that like this is a phase I'm in a season and it will not always be this way. And so like, if you're able to believe that then you know, you can kind of point your nose in the, in the direction and keep the faith that this is temporary. And also I think as much as you can, as much as your finances allow or as much as your client projects or roster allow like, can you honor your need for rest? Can you seek help or support in whatever way that is to give you more space.
So that cuz burnout again is not one of those things that like, I'm not an expert in this, but like it's not one of those things that like you turn off. And it is something that takes time to come back from. But from what I understand, the more you're able to focus on healing from it and recovering from it, the faster it can go. So if you're doing that while also doing 1200 other things, you know, even if you step back from writing, for instance, if that's the thing where the burnout's showing up, you know, it may take a while if you're also a busy parent, volunteering for 800 places, and have like another demanding job and whatever, you know, like, as opposed to like, could you drop something? Probably not a child, probably not a job, but like, could you drop like something volunteerism or something like that? You know, or just have one fewer social thing a month or whatever it is to just help you clear the space to be able to process what you need to process and regain that creative energy.

Madeline:
Yeah, for sure. And you know, it's tough sometimes to be able to say, okay, this is something where I need to step back and take some time away from this or whether it's a thing of, I just need to push through and do it because there is, I mean, there is also something to be said for just sitting down and writing something, even if you're feeling like super burnt out and unable to create something.
Last episode we talked about fighting writer's block on it deadline. And so I think, you know, that that would be a moment if you had a very important, you know, client deadline or something that you absolutely couldn't miss, and that would be a time when you would just have to sit down slug through it. And you know, often I, at least I find the act of just producing something, is it goes a long way in validating, okay, I am a writer and I can write something if I need to. And it does, you know, even if it's not your best work, like a email sales sequence, it doesn't have to be the grid American novel. And I think, you know, writers, we, us creatives, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to always like everything I write needs to be brilliant and groundbreaking and it, it doesn't necessarily need to be that.

Marie:
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Like if you're able to sit down and ask yourself, like, what am I just trying to accomplish with this? Like what is the goal? If I can do that great. If it does these other 12 things and it's clever and blah, blah, blah, like great extra great. But like, it just accomplishes the gold and like that's good enough.

Madeline:
Yeah. Like you don't, I think you don't need to walk away from every project you write being like, that was the best project I've ever written. Sometimes I might be like that wasn't great. But it's done.

Marie:
Yeah.

Madeline:
And that's enough for today.

Marie:
Yeah. For sure. There was something, you know, you and I were chatting about ahead of the recording where, overwhelmingly novelists will take a look back at their manuscript after they finish it. And some of what they've written was written in this muse inspired fever dream, like everything just flowed and it was wonderful and they love writing and everything was great. And this was why they're on this planet. And then other parts of it were just like, I have to finish this chapter. Because I to finish this chapter, just write the stupid chapter.

Madeline:
Yep, yep.

Marie:
And overwhelmingly, they cannot tell a difference in the quality of those two different types of sections of the book that like at the end of the day, trust yourself, right. That, you know, your craft, you know how to write, that to copywriting as well. And that like, even when you're not feeling inspired, like it's probably gonna be just fine.

Madeline:
It's gonna be fine. Your clients probably will not know. I mean, it it's like really, really bad maybe, but you know, I don't know. I, there was a, I, there was a time, I think it was my junior year of college and was writing this paper. And it was for a professor who I had had for like almost the full year. So she had seen a lot of my writing. And I had to write this paper and like, I was not in a good mental place at the time. Like I had already asked for an extension on this and like was just really struggling. And I was like, well, I just, I have to write this. And I like just cranked it out. And I did not feel good about it at all. And then she got it back and she was like, this is the best writing you've ever done. Like, this is the best writing I've seen from you. I was like, really?

Marie:
This is- not experience of producing it.

Madeline:
I'm like, okay, glad you liked it. But you know, it's, I think that's a good illustration of like, no one other people are not gonna be able to tell. And in some cases you might look like, I'm sure that if I went back and read that paper now and compared to the other, the other papers that I had written now, I've been like, man, that's about the same, like.

Marie:
Yeah. And actually there's something kind of nice about the detachment. Like, you know, when you write some tagline that you're like this is so good, and then you hand it over to your client and they're like, what? Because you know, creativity is subjective is like this, like it pains you to have that reaction, right. I mean, you have the Rachmaninoff like, cuz he was so like, you know, attached to this beautiful piece of art that he created through music. And so it's like the pain of having to edit or revise, something I think is so much higher if you feel the attachment.

Madeline:
For sure. It's the whole thing about like killing your darlings or whatever.

Marie:
Yeah. You know, if you like don't have the emotional capacity to have a darling, then you're just like, whatever striking that, like moving on.

Madeline:
It's fine.

Marie:
So, you know, are, are there silver linings that you can find.
The other thing that we were chatting about ahead of time too, is like if you're a freelance writer, chances are probably most of the way that you make money is through for you writing for your clients. And if that is what is just sounding worse than gargling something horrible, I don't really even wanna say what I'm thinking is it's I've been watching horror lately. How about you saying gargling a bunch of sea water, cause that doesn't sound fun.

Madeline:
You have to do that when you have strep throat, which is not fun. So yeah.

Marie:
Okay. So if, you know, if it sounds worse than having strep throat, then, you know, are there some other ways for you to make money in your business that actually could be fun like, you know, or just sort of opportunities that are just sitting there waiting for you.

Madeline:
Right.

Marie:
We have templates that we have created. We created them for ourselves because we started growing our team and we were like, yeah, we should have like a standardized way of approaching an email sequence within a launch or, you know, a sales page or, an about page for website copy. You're like whatever the thing is. And so we started making templates and there's obviously room for creativity when you approach the template, because it's really just like a bulleted list of like this section needs to do this, that needs to do that.

Madeline:
It's a guideline.

Marie:
Yeah, exactly. But like A, those were helpful for us because, uh, when we started creating, you know, a new sales page, you didn't have to just stare at a blank page, but you like literally were just filling in a template. But B then we were like, oh, you know, other writers could use these. And so we started selling them and they have taken work to create on the front and they've taken years of experience to hone the templates. They took time to test with our own writers on our team. It's not that it was effortless, but we'd already expended the effort at that point. So then all that was left to do was to be basically just turned this thing that we were already using into a product for the public to be purchased. And then, you know, they buy it, we don't have to do anything cause there's an automated delivery system. And so it's a way to make money in the business that like literally requires no further expenditure energy beyond just making updates to the templates over time or like the front in effort of creating them. Almost spill my water on my computer. I didn't. My heart. If you could feel the adrenaline.

Madeline:
Adrenaline just spiked.

Marie:
Woo. See that's all, you know, I still love writing cause I'm like, no, I can't lose my precious keyboard.

Marie:
Yeah. Well I was, I mean, I was just gonna say like, just, and you know, just because you decide to, you know, you find other ways to kind of, of make money that aren't the client work or the creative writing. That doesn't mean that you can't come back to the client writing. You know, it's not like, okay, well I had my time of being a writer and now that's over it's-

Marie:
Farewell, sweet career.

Madeline:
Yes. It's like, maybe you're going through a period now where you can't really write, but you can find other ways to make money. And then later when you're feeling a little better, you can get back into writing. Like it's not this black and white all or nothing thing.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. Or maybe there's certain projects you actually are doing okay with like, you feel like you've been working with that client a long time, you know, their voice really well. Like, you know, it feels kind of easy at this point. And so maybe you just say, Hey, I'm just gonna pull back. Instead of working with these 10 clients, I'm gonna work with these five clients and then supplement the income from those other five clients with these other things that maybe use a different side of my brain. Maybe they use a different type of my creativity, you know.
So, you know, we are here to make money and create careers in livelihoods for ourselves and to have fun doing it as much as possible. So it's not about like, just pushing aside forever and saying, I give up to eat Raman noodles and dirt. I don't know. But like, you know, how can you have fun in a way that that can also make you money, right?
Like, or the, have you looked at affiliates, right? Like, did you take a course or something that was really helpful for you? And you feel like in full faith, you can recommend it to other people. And so can you approach them and say like, Hey, I would like to be an affiliate partner for you. And every time I helped you get a sale, you give me blah, blah, blah, percentage of what they paid like that is still money coming in the door.

Madeline:
Yes.

Marie:
It involves you having conversations with people, but it doesn't actually involve you sitting down and writing sales copy. You know, so, or maybe, you know, writing sales copy about something that you actually really care about or your own experience feels easy. And so you can do some affiliate sales copy, whereas, you know, writing something for a client where you're not as like, you know, emotionally invested in their business feels a little harder for you. So maybe just swap one out for the other, like what are some ways you can have fun and make money.

Madeline:
Yeah, absolutely. So, I think just the moral of the story here is be gentle with yourself and just honor wherever you're at, whether you're in a prolific, super creative inspired season, or whether you're in a season that says, if I see another blank, Google doc word document, I am going to die. Cause we've both been in both of those places before and can tell you that you're still, you're still okay. And you're still a writer.

Marie:
Yeah.

Madeline:
And you're probably a very good writer. You're probably much better than you think you are.

Marie:
Yeah. I love it. Okay. Quick homework assignment. Two things, one join the Polaris writer lounge, if you haven't yet, this is a free community for writers, where you can talk about all of these things in a supportive space.
And the second thing is if those templates sound supportive for you so that you don't have to stare at a blank page, you can grab those as well. So if you just head to our website, northstarmessaging.com in the menu, you'll see there's an option for templates. So you can just grab those. We have two different ones. One's for website copy one's for launch copy. So whatever you're facing right now, you can grab those and hopefully those are helpful for you to just take the edge off a little bit.
But I think the biggest homework assignment is just assess where you are right now. See what season you're in and honestly, what, what you need. And what's what would be helpful for you in this period. And to know that, you know, if you're in a period where you're struggling, it truly is temporary.

Madeline:
Absolutely.

Marie:
Thanks for listening.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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