Five Ways “The Makers Club: Starting Up!” Teaches Students to Deal with Creative Burnout
Aqilah shows signs of burnout when she takes on too many creative projects.
No matter how confident you are at juggling school work and creative projects, at some point, even the most talented of writers, artists, and musicians face the dreaded “B” word. Creators – yes, you can be a creator while being a full-time student! – invest a huge chunk of their lives to bring their visions to fruition. Sometimes, however, the pressure to achieve perfection, self-doubt, stress, and the general feeling of being stuck can lead to creative burnout, which can affect an individual emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Burnout can feel mentally and physically exhausting! What once excited Aqilah now fills her with dread, and she finds herself doubting the work she once found pride and joy in.
Creative burnout is not fun… we know. Oftentimes, exhaustion and dread seep in, and the thought of creating anything feels like an insurmountable hurdle, especially when responsibilities at school are added to the equation. Even things that once sparked joy no longer do. It is a complete 180, and a change that isn’t within your control. At this point, relaxing may feel like an effort, and even the most menial of tasks may seem daunting. If you are burnt out, or if you know of a young creative who is starting to struggle with their creative pursuits, there are ways to cope with creative burnout – here are some.
When Aqilah faces creative burnout, she finds herself unable to come up with new ideas for the first time in her creative journey.
Embrace burnout as part of the process
Juggling school work, your social life, and being a student creative can be difficult. But creativity is a process, and burnout is a part of it. Remember that while there may be times when you feel like you hit a wall, there are also times when you feel like you’re on a roll! If you’ve broken out of your funk before, you can do it again. The best way to deal with creative burnout is to take a step back and focus on how you feel, acknowledge it, and resist delving into the shame game.
It can also help to talk to people that you trust about your struggles. Share your feelings with family and friends, or teachers and mentors – they may or may not be able to relate, but even a short conversation can lift off some of the burden! Try talking to other student creatives – more often than not, they’d have gone through the same thing, and be able to give you some tips on how they overcame it. However, do keep in mind that everyone copes with creative burnout differently, and what works for someone else might not work for you. Still, shared experiences – or even a chat with a friend – can help you to find the best coping methods. Most importantly, trust yourself, and the process!
When Aqilah gets multiple requests for her creations, she gets excited, and takes on too many projects.
Set boundaries and communicate capacities
You might be tempted to answer a resounding “yes” to any project that comes your way. However, it is important to know when to say no and communicate what you feel capable of. Oftentimes, your creative work can serve as a reprieve from your commitments at school, but it should not be so demanding that it overshadows your academic performance.
Passing on an opportunity does not always mean it’s gone forever, or that you’re letting someone down. When Aqilah struggles to craft a creative request from her schoolmate, she feels as if she’s letting a friend down. However, explaining your situation may help – a good friend should understand your predicament. Alternatively, if you want to fulfil their request in the future, both of you can work something out then! Learn how to say “no” to projects that you don’t currently have bandwidth for. If it’s an opportunity you cannot resist, be sure to communicate a realistic timeline for your deliverables, with some breathing room for yourself factored in.
If you are feeling burnt out while working on a project that clashes with responsibilities at school, highlight the most important and immediate tasks and complete them to the best of your ability. Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. While it’s healthy to be critical of your work, try to recognise the potential of your work, and why you took it up in the first place!
Aqilah gets overwhelmed as she finds herself juggling her creative work, social life, and school work.
Schedule breaks… and take them!
Creatives may sometimes feel irresponsible when they take time off from their craft. However, creativity isn’t a limitless fountain from which we can draw from, and breaks are necessary to avoid or overcome burnout. Working through burnout can make you feel worse, souring your experience and turning you away from what you love. Scheduled breaks, as such, should be considered an integral part of your creative routine. It can give you time to recuperate, thus actually making you look forward to your projects, which leads to higher productivity. Don’t worry, you don’t need a month-long vacation – even switching off for a day or two can help!
Take your breaks as seriously as you take your projects. When you schedule “off” days, resist ruminating on your creative project and give your mind time to breathe and discover new inspiration. Try doing something completely different to get your mind off your project, such as taking a walk with an unrelated podcast on, or having brunch with friends. Self-care is not selfish; it is essential to nurture the entity that works hard to produce great things – yourself!
Aqilah feels a world of difference after she talks to people who she trusts, such as her mother, and her good friend Yong Qiang. She even plays a little basketball with him to let off some steam!
Find an unrelated hobby that you enjoy
Having a hobby outside of school and your creative work can reduce stress, and provide an entertaining and necessary distraction. It helps not only with unwinding, but also with personal growth and to keep your mind open to new ideas. An unrelated hobby is also a great source of unexpected inspiration for work beyond the possibilities and ideas you’ve previously explored or considered!
So put down the pen and pick up a paintbrush. Set your easel aside and pick up a sewing kit. It could be anything you fancy at the time: engaging in a sport you enjoy, playing chess, or baking. Any activity that is done just for the sake of enjoyment can engage different parts of your brain, and counteract the effects of creative burnout. Try to dive into these new activities with no pressure – you just need to have fun!
Yong Qiang and Aqilah bond over their love of the Banyan High series!
Enjoy the creative work of other people
Remember the joy of reading when you were younger? A parent or guardian may have brought you to the library or bookstore, giving you a limit to how many books you could borrow or buy. You may have spent hours selecting the perfect book, then excitedly spent days devouring your latest acquisition. Recreate that feeling by revisiting a book from your childhood, or pick up something new and exciting like that graphic novel you’ve been eyeing.
Similarly, put on a film that reminds you of happy times, or one that makes you sob. Listen to music – the song with lyrics so relatable you feel like you could’ve written them, or the heavy metal track that can drown out your screams of frustration.
Spend a day enjoying the creative projects your friends are working on, the styles you love and the ones you’re unsure of. Think about why you love some of them, and why you’re unsure of the others. Or don’t think at all – allow yourself to be immersed in the world of art without judgement and expectations. Inspiration can recharge your creative batteries, even without you realising it!
Aqilah realises that there is space for her creative work despite her busy schedule and commitments – she just has to tweak it to suit her!
It is important to keep in mind that creativity ebbs and flows. It is normal to feel burnt out, and it is all a part of the creative process. However, managing creative burnout not only allows for creative growth, but also means that it doesn’t affect your responsibilities at school. Most importantly, don’t fall for the romanticised myth of the tortured artist – there is more space for creation when you can actually access the feelings you want to express, without the physical and emotional distress that burnout brings!
Find out how Aqilah, a creative and budding entrepreneur, deals with creative burnout in The Makers Club: Starting Up! This second installment in The Makers Club series invites kids to explore entrepreneurship, design thinking, and maker culture, with a diverse cast of characters who tackle real, honest issues in their friendships and personal growth.