• Shelley Boyd

Creative Burnout

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

I had this crazy idea to write a book. Like a lot of people who write books, I started researching and writing about things I desperately wanted to know more about; creativity, the elusive and powerful nature of inspiration, and all of the obstacles (inside and out) that keep us from being our best selves.

The working title for this book is Creative Burnout, and I’m starting to suspect that I may be on to something here. So far, every time I’ve (sheepishly) admitted both that I am actively writing a book and that the book will likely be titled Creative Burnout, my friends’ eyes widen. Yes! They say. They then start pumping me for facts and secrets I may have uncovered so far.

In this blog, I’d like to play around with some ideas as I consider where they might go in the book, and how they might help people in their creative journeys. Actually, I’m hoping you’ll help me with this. If something resonates with you, let me know. If some idea I come up with to help combat burnout is absolutely junk or feels tacky or fake, definitely let me know.

Before we get into gear, let’s define a couple things; namely creativity, and burnout.


I mean, wow, let’s just start with the most impossible, indefinable thing right away; creativity. So what I’m going to do here is approach it a bit like a scientist, and here’s why: scientist don’t seek to define a thing, so much as to describe it as accurately as they can with the knowledge they have right now. Doesn’t that sound great? And like a scientist testing a theory, I have no doubt we’ll expand, change, and redefine what we think of as creativity as we go along.

Here goes:

Creativity is allowing yourself to be a conduit for the convergence of seemingly unconnected thoughts and ideas.

Pretty cool, right? I’m betting you’ve felt those magical moments of convergence when an idea for something seems to hit you out of the blue. Suddenly this new idea or new connection feels starkly obvious, like it was there all along. How could you have missed it?

These insights don’t have to be huge and dramatic. It can be the sudden inspiration to add a pinch of cinnamon to your chili recipe (try it!) or a wash of blue paint to add depth to the painting on your easel.

It may feel as though this connection came out of nowhere, but I think moments like these are a convergence of every batch of chili you’ve tasted in the past, every painting you’ve gazed at while wandering through art museums, every book you’ve read, movie you’ve watched, blog you’ve read, and all the wandering conversations you’ve had with your best friend.


Burnout, or Creative Burnout, is when your inner landscape, rather than being green and lush and full of caring and curiosity where ideas can grow… looks more like the surface of Mars. Desolate, empty. Incapable of supporting life.

In other words, burnout is the destruction of the channels of convergence. It is when your internal resources have been so throughly used up, literally and figuratively burned up, that not only do you not feel creative, but you also have a hard time caring about much of anything at all.

This will be a long and winding road, my friends. There will be forks in the path, rivers to ford, and bridges with trolls under them (not all of them bad) but here are two true things I want you to know two things before get going:

1. Burnout is not (all) your fault.

2. You’re not alone.

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