Creative Burn Out


What would you do if you stopped being creative? If there were no more ideas? If you woke up one morning and went to sleep that day without having a good idea — or any at all. Not for only one day, but for years?

Many creative people define themselves by their creativity. For some, it is the unique characteristic that make them themselves. It makes all the other attributes they ascribe to themselves matter. Attributes that without creativity are regarded with skepticism or are even evaluated negatively: good observation, honesty, attention to details. Attributes fundamental for an artist but without the necessary nimbus of creativity, they make the person someone-you-do-not-want-to-spend-time-with: A nitpicker. A spoilsport. Someone who weighs your words and gives you change. And, more importantly, someone who you yourself do not want to be any longer.

You stop, you try to listen to yourself, but you hear only static, or worse, nothing at all. Like a burned out star — no matter whether you went like a supernova or quietly like a black dwarf. Only some remnants left, some that went on for a while, others that collapse in itself.

A terrible stage.

Yes, a stage. Personally, I do not think that a fire that has gone out cannot be rekindled. Question is, what prevents the fire from burning again?

If we exclude lack of creativity due to lack of time (you are in high demand), change of position (you no longer receive input with which you can be creative), or over-reliance on expertise (you think you know the answer but do not try it out), in most cases, it’s the creative him- or herself.

Figuratively, this person holds the wick with thumb and index finger, trying to feel the last remnants of heat, which is fine, but you cannot rekindle the candle without burning yourself. So you don’t. Often this is the case with people whose fear of having no ideas prevents them from having ideas. It’s like having sleeping problems, or erectile dysfunction — you want to sleep so desperately and worry so much that you cannot relax to fall asleep, or you’re so terrified of failing that you cannot do anything but fail. It’s the fear of the fear that’s hardest to fight, here it’s the fear of being uncreative that makes you uncreative.

Humor is a good medicine is this case (creative burn-out, sleeping problems, and erectile dysfunction) — you need to get distance from yourself. If you trying to force the issue, it will not work. Period.

Yes, it’s hard to stop thinking about an issue, especially if it has become an issue. And loosing something that is crucial for your identity, that makes your other attributes “positive”, is hard. But is creativity really the only thing that makes you you? Is it really necessary to be valued?

And yes, I agree, some characteristics like good observation, honesty, and attention to detail are — unfortunately — not cherished by many. But do those who do not like these attributes really matter? Could they ever become friends? Are you really creative for them, or are you creative for yourself?

Creativity is not a competition, it’s not something that is necessary for a person to have a value. It’s not something you can trade for recognition or for time with your friends. It’s not something you can fake, by dress or accessories. These things only distract and prevent you to be original, to be yourself. Use your good observation, your honesty and your attention to detail in dealing with the world, the creativity will come in time.

Leave the wick alone, the flame will burn again, by itself. 🙂