Every day, thousands of musicians and artists experience creative burnout. The experienced ones would anticipate it and welcome it like the tides, but if you’re new to this feeling, chances are…you’d take it seriously and consider it as a sign that you should give up music entirely. Please don’t. A burn out is simply a sign that something is out of sync either internally or externally.
Recognize it when it comes and don’t just sweep it under the rug. Here are the things you should do if you’re experiencing a creative burnout:
1. Make sure it isn’t just your mood.
Are you hot? Maybe find a good air conditioning to find out it isn’t just your mood getting affected by the summer heat. Studies show that the environment greatly affects mood.
Are you thirsty? Make sure you drink water. Are you sleepy? Maybe you just have to take a nap and everything will be clear again. Your mood shouldn’t determine your drive but it’s not so easy. Most of the time, our mood controls us. So make sure it isn’t just your mood. If you feel blue, let it pass. And if all else fails, have a good cry. Really break down. Crying is excellent therapy.
2. Take a break.
If, let’s say, you realized it’s not just something to do with your mood because you’ve been experiencing it for months already, then you’re really experiencing a burn out. The reason you’re having a burn out is because you’re trying too hard and working too hard. This causes physical, mental, and psychological strain. The best cure is to have a break. Seems easy? It’s not. Especially if you’re a full-time musician with gigs lined up, especially if you’re a workaholic who just can’t stop. Besides you really can’t keep on doing this or else you might sabotage your music career.
3. Don’t beat yourself up for still having a day job.
If you’re a part-time musician, chances are you’re frustrated that you are not playing music for a living. You think you’re not good enough that’s why you haven’t leveled up. Block these thoughts because they are toxic. Always remember, that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. If you’re a full-time musician, I swear to god you will also miss your life as a part-time musician–where you have the pleasure to experience life outside music. When your music is your life, you’ll have less time with your family and you really have a different set of problems that can also lead to a whole new set of creative burnout inducing problems. It’s all perspective. When you start to beat yourself for still being a part-time musician, when you start to hate your job simply because it’s not music-related, then you have to turn off those unhealthy voices in your head and start looking at the good stuff. The good stuff? Being able to have a well-rounded life where you can pause anytime you want. Enjoy this moment. It might be a moment of becoming, a step on the ladder…or this might be it. Isn’t it a pure blessing to have a day job that allows you to make the kind of music that you really like, at your own pace? And isn’t it an equally pure blessing to play music to add spice to your day job? Try to remember this when you hear that heartless voice in your head again.
4. Find a hobby.
Preferably not music-related. Preferably something that lets produce endorphins like sports. However, you have to make sure it won’t eat up your time because you’re going back to your music. The purpose of this hobby is to distract yourself from your worries and stress in your music, but not take you away from it.
5. Ask yourself if there’s a trigger for this creative burnout and deal with it.
What is the source of your creative burnout? Is it fatigue? Is it poor compensation? A bad feedback? Be really honest with yourself and address the issues. It is not enough to motivate yourself to be more driven, patient,
6. Go on a trip and don’t think about your music.
It doesn’t have to be a trip to Japan, just go somewhere that recharges you. The important thing is to be in a different space so you can clear your head. Do not think about your music while you’re there because that trip will be all about relaxation. Think about your slump on your way home. Because you’ll be able to zoom out, this will hopefully give you a new set of eyes to look at things in a new way.
Cliche but it’s really helpful. There are so many guided meditation videos online so there’s no excuse not to give this a try, whether you’re having a burnout or not. It’s like massage for your well-being and it requires only little effort!
8. Consult with your mentor, manager, or guru.
These people know more about burn out than the average person and they will give you the most practical tips for handling your burn out and rebooting your career in general. Go for someone you really respect and admire…but if you’re feeling fragile, make sure you go to someone kind, who can be brutally honest with you without making you feel like you’re a hopeless case.
After doing all of these, I am sure you’d be back in the game again. If not, then allow yourself to take a long break. It’s not a sin.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.