How to overcome creative burnout & self-doubt

You sit there, staring blankly at your computer screen. You’ve been moving the mouse around on the page aimlessly for about 10 minutes now. The cursor flashes at you; taunting your lack of inspiration.“Ugh, I can’t do this,” you say to yourself as you gently lower your head to the table, rubbing your eyes. Been there?

Yep, it’s an awful feeling, and it happens to the best of us– that oh-so-lovely combination of creative burnout and self-doubt. As if the two independently weren’t bad enough. 

If you’re a creative entrepreneur of any sort, one of your main roadblocks is always going to be feeling – “stuck”. It’s different when you work for someone else’s dream, you just clock in and clock out and churn out the work. But when you’re slaving away, day and night, at your own vision? 

There’s no one there to tell you what to do, when to do it and how to make sure it works. There’s no one to blame, no one to suggest better ways and sometimes, no one to encourage you. Just you.

It’s empowering, liberating and utterly terrifying all at the same time. And so it should be, because after all, you hold the keys to your own inspiration and your own livelihood. That’s some serious pressure.
So, when those moments strike, you can either:

  • Repeat as many “I didn’t choose the entrepreneurial life, the entrepreneurial life chose me” mantras to yourself as humanly possible while you hurriedly scrap something together; or
  • Take a moment to take stock of the situation, figure out the root cause of your burnout and doubt and then punch it in the face. If you’re nodding along to Option A, this isn’t the article for you. 

If you’re a “Let’s punch those roadblocks in the face!” sort of person…. I like you. Let’s do this:

1.Work out the “why”.
It’s entirely possible that you’re just tired and there’s no deep reason for you feeling burnt out and fearful – that’s okay. And if you’re just tired, close this article and go take a nap or take a walk or get away from your computer screen, trust me. But, chances are, you weren’t feeling this uninspired and incapable yesterday, the day before or the week before. So what changed? Are you nervous about a deadline, or have you never tackled a project like this before? Have you had a bad experience with a similar reason previously? Keep thinking until one of those thoughts hits a nerve – you’ll know it when it happens. And when you have your “why”, you can easily sort out the steps to move past it.2.

2.Write out your feelings.
So, you’ve got your “why” and now you’re majorly bummed out because not only do you doubt yourself, but you know exactly why you doubt yourself. It’s okay, that’s part of the process! Now, write down all your feelings. It doesn’t matter the structure – it can be a letter to yourself or just a brain dump of everything that you’re fearful of happening. Write it down. Feel the emotions flowing from pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, if you’re new school). It’s important that you write down whatever is in your head and not try to engage in any sort of editing process – remember, this is just for you. And not only will it help you get all those feelings out, it’s also a great exercise in creativity and inspiration; forcing you to dig deep into your brain.

3.Walk away.
You heard me. If It’s a work project that’s got you feeling stuck and throwing a one person pity party for yourself, leave the office and go do something just for fun. Go to the movies. Shop. Play on a playground. It doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure that it’s completely recreational. If you catch yourself out thinking about the thing that’s got you stumped, allow those thoughts to play out (see: mindfulness) and get back to your recreational activity of choice. There’s a reason why play is crucial for development as a child, and it’s just as relevant as an adult.

4.Ask for help.
If there’s one thing that most creative entrepreneurs struggle to remember, it’s that you’re not alone – ever. So many of us spend so much time and effort making sure not to involve anyone else but realistically, sometimes we just need a sounding board. “But the only person who’ll listen to my ideas is my mother/sister/partner/best friend!”

I don’t care. They’re still a person. And even if they don’t entirely (or at all) understand your projects or what you’re going through, they’ll try. Sometimes, simply asking someone for advice can open up a whole world of possibilities that you hadn’t considered. Sometimes it will reaffirm your own suspicions, other times it will challenge them. That’s okay!

Worst-case scenario? They won’t be at all helpful, and you’ll have at least got your feelings out into the world and off your chest. Not so bad, after all!

5.Remind yourself that inspiration is random and unpredictable.
Truth bomb: you aren’t in control of your inspiration. Sometimes it comes from within, sure, but it also comes from external events that are out of your control.

People. Places. Things. Essays. Videos. Images. Pictures of cats on Tumblr at 2am.

6.Give yourself permission.
Finally, I need you to promise me something. Promise me that you’ll stop telling yourself that it’s not okay to feel burnt out or incapable.Remind yourself that you’re only human and that you have your limits, and that it’s perfectly okay to give yourself permission to feel uninspired and generally crappy for as long as you need to feel that.

Because, when you give yourself permission to play out that emotion for as long as you need to, you allow yourself the space to grow out of it and find new inspiration again.

Finally, remember: this too shall pass.  By being a creative entrepreneur, you’re already taking a great risk that few others do –and part of that risk is putting your creative rhythm on the line. 

But with great risk comes great reward and in those moments of self-doubt and “Holy crap, I don’t know if I’m good enough!”, take solace in the fact that you are enough. Just by being you, you are enough. And whatever you create is exactly what you needed to create in that moment. 

These are just some of the things that can inspire you. Now, you know why you’re feeling burnt out and doubting of your abilities. You’ve gotten your feelings out, you’ve asked for help and you’ve taken a break. This last step is one of the most important of all, because it’s not at all up to you. It’s about letting go of that pressure that it’s all on you, and acknowledging that creativity comes and goes. Just because you’re in a funk today doesn’t mean that you will be tomorrow. Take this opportunity to get out of Introspection Station and move on to Research Road – what inspires you? Search, stumble and hunt, with no end goal, and let the magic happen. Because sometimes, when you’re not looking for anything in particular, the best inspiration strikes.

Anastasia AmourBiography: By day, Anastasia Amour is an author, eating disorder survivor, body image educator and rule breaker; dedicated to helping women across the world harness Fearless Body Confidence and love the skin they’re in – flaws, imperfections and all. By night, she works with female run and focused businesses who want to change the world. http://anastasiaamour.com/


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