Avoid Creative Burnout | The Nerd Nest

A version of this content originally appeared in an issue of Nerd Nest News in January 2015.

If you have made creativity part of your life, then burnout is bound to happen now and again. In fact, some of the things that help keep you creating on a regular basis, such as having ongoing projects or fitting creating into your habits and routine, can be the very things that bring about burnout.

You can’t be productive if you aren’t feeling it with your creative work. True, sometimes you need to push through, but to stay in love long term, sometimes you need to make just to make something.

You don’t want your creative work to become a chore. This week, take a bit of time to put everything you NEED to do on hold and make something just because you WANT to.

Avoid Creative Burnout | The Nerd Nest

This need to make just to make holds true especially for me (and maybe you) because creating is part of my job. My creative passion is integrated into my work. I always have a long list of things I need to create.

Usually I choose the things I make: I need to make paper crafting projects with the next Freckled Fawn Kit, for instance, but what I make with the kit is entirely up to me. I need to work on content for my workshop Pocket Your Year. We’re doing a Challenge a Day in the course for August, and everything I make for class is still memory keeping I’d want to make for myself. Often times having small limitations like these gives me ideas and helps me to be more creative, but other times wanting to avoid my to-do lists shuts me down entirely.

It’s the same for craft projects. Earlier this year, there were lots of little craft projects I wanted to work on, but because I’d resigned that all of my extra creative time should have gone into The Never-ending Room Makeover, sometimes I ended up making nothing at all because I didn’t want to do that big thing on my to-do list. This makes no sense: was it really better for me to play Lego Harry Potter than it was to make a Batgirl painting? Either way, I wasn’t working on that room. But if I’m making something, not knocking things off of my to-do list can feel like cheating. It feels like I’m wasting creative energy.

But this is not the way I should be viewing things. Making things just to make keeps me passionate, improves my skills, and can generally be useful for my job anyway, even if whatever I’m doing is not the next thing that needs to be accomplished on my list.

If I, and you, view making just to make as a necessary component to staying a creative person, then we can all remove some of that unnecessary guilt about making things that aren’t useful or at least aren’t the MOST useful.

Avoid Creative Burnout | The Nerd Nest

When I originally wrote this post for my newsletter, I was feeling the need to scrapbook, but I didn’t really want to edit and print photos, which is my least favorite part of the memory keeping process. So I decided to thumb through my box of unorganized photos and pick the first one that jumped out at me. I chose this photo of me (terribly) doing the backstroke my first summer on a swim team when I was 12 or so.

I have other photos I’d like to scrapbook, so I know that I can save the longer story for those pages. For this page, I decided I mostly wanted to play. I sifted through the embellishments in bowls on my desk and pulled out all of the packs with red and aqua pieces and did the same for the bowls with little free-floating bits. I added these embellishments on the page in a stair-step arrangement, situating the big pieces first and filling in the gaps with smaller things like enamel dots and tiny shape stickers.

This style is totally not what I usually go for, but it was dang fun. And afterwards I was ready to tackle the creative things on that to-do list.

What will you make just to make this week?

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