One of the challenges of being a freelance creative is coping with the inevitable case of burnout or lack of motivation that we’ve all faced at one time or another. Today’s technology has made working from home a reality for many of us, but the down side is a physical isolation that deprives us of office mates we can turn to for motivation, inspiration, or plain old comic relief.
When it comes to burnout, home-based creatives are at a distinct disadvantage as our companions are pets or children who have no interest in helping us. Drawing from my own experience as an at home creative, here are five ways to banish burnout and keep yourself motivated.
- Don’t turn on the TV — as this is a time suck that’s irresistible no matter how much work you have waiting. You might think you’re immune (we all do, at first), but you’re not. It will start simply enough… you flip on the tube for the weather, the traffic, and end up an hour later watching a re-run of some forgotten 80s sitcom. Television is, after all, intended for entertainment.
- Keep (or create) a “steal” file — as this will be your place to go when you’re stuck for an idea. Collect pieces that have appealing images, headlines, formats… things that worked and things that didn’t. Include alternative concepts from the past, just because they didn’t work once, doesn’t mean they never will. Use the Internet to keep a steal file from becoming mountains of paper — bookmark sites or online sources that interest or amuse you and visit them regularly.
- Music sets the mood — so listen to whatever inspires you, intrigues you, or gives you a new perspective as you work. We all have our favorite tunes or talk shows, and today we can listen in complete privacy if we choose. Don’t focus on coming up with an idea, just sit in your workspace and be ready for one as you enjoy the music. Chances are you’ll be writing something before the song ends.
- Think in the shower — or grocery line, office waiting room, in the car… in short, move away from the idea that you must work at your desk and no place else. As creatives, we have one of those professions that isn’t a 9-to-5 job, though we’re not saving lives or protecting the public, doing our best work calls for constant attention. So don’t limit yourself, use spare time to focus on your work… even if it’s just storing up observations for later.
- Exercise — as physical activity gives your body a workout and floods your brain with beneficial chemicals and oxygen. The activity can be anything that gets you up and going — a session on the treadmill, yard work or snow shoveling, housework, walking the dog… the key is to get moving. Often you’ll find that either during, or directly after, the exercise an idea or inspiration will appear.
Staying motivated is tough in any field, but for creatives it’s that much harder… we use up ideas and are always called upon for more. After a time the well runs dry. The good news is that burnout doesn’t last forever. You wouldn’t be in this line of work if you weren’t an idea person.