Creativity is a muscle, and we exercise that muscle every time we create. Just like any other muscle that you flex, it can get overworked, strained and you can experience muscle fatigue. For me burnout is when that creative muscle gives out. It can feel like you’ve pushed that creative muscle beyond the point of recovery. But, there IS recovery in burnout.
I know his because after following the 5 steps that I’m about to give you, I’ve found a renewed sense of joy in what I do it again. Gradually I find myself getting excited, and I’m having new ideas again that I’m actually working towards. Getting through a burnout phase takes work, lots of patience with yourself, and it takes time. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, but we can get pass this dark phase, together, utilizing these 5 following steps :
1.) Remove the pressures and remember your “why”.
I’ve found this step to be somewhat of the source of my burnout. At some point I began feeling frustrated, lost, unproductive, and uninspired I could remember myself thinking about how I needed to keep going so I can prove to people that I can do this. I remember thinking how I have to do this to make good money to take care of family, and pay off student loans. I had all of these thoughts that were basically functioning like heavy weights that I was continuing to load onto my shoulders. Unnecessary added pressures.
When I first wanted to be a filmmaker I had one reason why this was the job for me, I freaking loved it. I loved everything about it. The conceptualizing, the planning, producing, I love production and the production environment, and post production. Sometimes we have to remove the weights, or unnecessary pressures and get back to the basics. Why did you fall in love with film to begin with? Remember your initial “why” and you’ll remove the complications.
If you don’t know why you’re doing something anymore you wont see the point in doing it at all. Be honest with yourself about your why. You can’t have a clear direction about where you’re going if you’re not honest about where you’re really trying to go. You’ll be going in circles, and you’ll burnout fast.
2.) Take it slow, prevent being overwhelmed by taking baby steps
Baby steps are still steps. I read this quote while I was looking for ways to be motivated. I was overwhelmed with everything on my plate and I was shutting down. I started feeling like no matter what I got done there was still more to do. I found that being productive was extremely difficult. I could literally see myself, like an out of body experience, walk pass my computer, hit the fridge, an then binge watch all the shows on Netflix I wished I had created.
I didn’t feel compelled to get anything done because I had too much to get done. I had to remind myself that sending that email, scheduling that casting, looking at head-shots, selecting that clip, was all good work even if it didn’t feel like the most significant task. EVERY task in making a film is significant. If that one small task isn’t done it’s always greatly missed.
3.) Create More short term goals, little victories motivate
Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Make short term goals within your main goal, so that each goal met, gets you one step closer to the ultimate goal. Instead of sitting down to write 40 pages for your new short film think about splitting it up. Writing your script seems more doable if you break it down into smaller parts. Set a goal to write 5 pages a day.
If you’re just getting back into the swing of things, try setting a goal to just write something towards your script everyday day. I find that setting a daily goal that you can meet will greatly boost your confidence, and you’ll find yourself doing what you love again, daily. Remember that small steps is still progress and little victories will motivate you to keep pushing because the goals you set are attainable.
4.) Focus on other projects from time to time that aren’t film related
When I feel overwhelmed because I have too much on my plate I tend to shut down. I can’t seem to come up with just one idea, and conceptually I’m all over the place. I think its a great idea, when feeling like this, to not think about your project at all. Leave it alone. Step away from it and do something else. Something that still exercises your creative muscle but in a different way.
Personally I like to do tasks that require me to follow a very specific set of directions. Like a DIY project, or baking, or sewing. You see the main concept of these projects are already there, you already know what you’re doing and what the finished project will be so now you’re already focused on one idea. Now you use your brain and your skills to just follow directions. As your creative muscle is flexed you’ll begin t put your own touches to it, and when you finish you’ll be excited with the outcome and inspired to create again.
5.) Embrace the breakdown
First you must identify the issue. Understand what burnout feels like and if that’s really what you are experiencing. For me, burnout felt a lot like depression.
•When it came to working on anything film related I found myself exhausted. I dreaded getting out of the bed and once I did I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Uninspired and no energy.
•Drinking, eating, smoking instead of working. This was my pattern: Let me pour a glass of wine so that I can loosen up and the ideas can flow. Now I can’t focus because I’d much rather be watching my favorite show, and now the wine has made me sleepy so I’ll start agin tomorrow.
•At one point I would never be seen without my camera, now it’s been months since I’ve picked it up or taken it out it’s case.
•Everything felt grey and I began to think, this is it. I’ll be working this job forever, sitting on the couch, drunk, watching shows I’d wish I had the guts to create.
The last point for me was the scariest. I realized I had a problem. I didn’t know what that problem was just yet but I knew this couldn’t be my norm. I began to look online and research how I was feeling. I came across a few articles that mentioned burnout and I felt like, wow. This is it! This is the issue! In identifying this issue I realized very quickly that I wasn’t alone. I had been embarrassed about not feeling motivated. All my friends and my family seemed so excited about life and their work. I had been such a hard worker for so long that when people would see me out or at functions they would tell me how proud they were of me for going for my goals when I KNOW I’ve done nothing but sit on the couch, eat, and sleep.
Finding other people with similar issues showed me that there is no shame in breaking down. Everyone has highs and lows. It’s what you do after the breakdown that determines who you are and there is no time frame on this. Identify the issue, embrace the issue because times like this builds character. Start taking the necessary steps to beat your situation. Reaching your dreams is NOT easy, and everyone at the top has a story to tell. This phase in your life is just a chapter in your book, it’s not the end unless you want it to be.
6.) Bonus: Be yourself, and do what you like you.
You can’t please everyone so why even try. Please yourself. Do what it is you’re proud to do. Learn to say no, turn down projects that don’t interest you. When you find yourself working on everyone else’s idea, or ideas you could care less about, the joy in the project fades fast. Do stuff for you that you’re excited about.
Pick a day to have a care free photo day or video day. Don’t plan, just pick up your camera and explore new places. Discover new things in your city or town. You’ll find yourself capturing images that are awesome to you because it’s your first time experiences. This gets you excited again about seeing your work. You’ll find that you’re capturing images that you like, without thinking about how many likes you’ll get or if the client wants this or that. I find that an unplanned photo or video day can take you back to the basics, and it can help you recall that feeling you had in the beginning.
Film making, at least from behind the scenes, is not about the destination. It’s ALL about the journey. Stop thinking of how much time your journey takes, and don’t compare your journey to anyone else. You’ll experience highs and lows along this path and you’ll eventually meet your goals but ultimately as long as you’re working or producing content then it don’t stop you’ll always be on this journey and we’re on it together. So welcome aboard, or welcome back. Either way let’s create
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