Creative Burnout in a Post-Covid World

A few weeks ago, I sat down, hoping to plan out my next few months of content. I’d taken a break from writing over the Christmas and New Year season, and I figured it was time to buckle down and get going again. I wish I could say that I was surprised when nothing much came to mind.

I’ve been a bit of a chatterbox my whole life. In school, my teachers would move me around the seating chart week-to-week in an effort to settle me, and I was sent out of the classroom for the same reason on multiple occasions. I think that most people in my personal life, my friends and family, would agree – I just have a lot to say. 90% of the reason this blog even exists is that as a 15-year old I felt I had more to say than the people in my life had the patience to listen to. I pumped out content consistently for most of last year, but at the moment, I just find that I’ve run out of things that I want to write about.

The last few years have been overwhelmingly eventful, and at the same time, drainingly boring. We’ve come into this whole new way of life, yet many of us are barely living. At the beginning of 2020, I had gone overseas for the first time and moved away from home. I was dropping money on concert tickets and parties and actual livable experiences. The pandemic came out of nowhere and ruined the path that I’d set out for myself. Shortly afterwards, George Floyd was killed, and the Black Lives Matter movement gave us all something to think about and work towards.

A lot happened all at once, and then suddenly, it’s been two years, and here I am, a journalism student who is excruciatingly bored by the news. Like most of us, I’m tired of talking about covid, and I struggle to find any path out of that conversation. It’s come to frame and decimate every single thing about our lives, and I resent how inescapable it is.

So then, it makes sense that I had this vast well of ideas to draw on at first, and now, not as much. There’s a kind of permanent discomfort we’re carrying through our day to day lives. We’ve all shouldered the exhaustion of the pandemic in some way. If not physical exhaustion as a symptom of contracting the disease, definitely mental exhaustion in the sense of simultaneous boredom and stress. As it turns out, prolonged uncertainty isn’t much of a creative greenhouse.

Hitting a wall right now makes sense, going into a third year of potential half-lived life. There are things I could write about, but it’s difficult to feel passionate or impactful in doing so. I’m just trying to find joy in day-to-day life, so I find it really easy to write about mundane details; light topics, the music I’m listening to, whatever I’m reading, hanging out with my friends -etc. I could write about my personal life with relative ease, but variation is always better. That said, I’m definately not alone in this giant mind-blank era of mine, so I’m not overly stressed about it.

Most of us have experienced some version of writer’s block or creative burnout. If you’re not particularly creative, I’m sure that you’ve experienced procrastination at some point. That’s close enough. You want to do ‘the thing’, whatever the thing is for you. But for some reason, you feel stuck. You can undoubtedly Google your way out of it – there are plenty of proposed solutions out there. Try something new, write whatever comes to mind, take a break, read other people’s work, use writing prompts. The list goes on.

But when it all boils down, energy fluctuates all the time. Sometimes you’re going to be beaming with inspiration, sweating and bleeding good ideas. Other times you’re going to have a raisin for a brain and nothing to show for it. The only reason you might be distressed by it is that the capitalist paradigm doesn’t exactly match our natural energy cycles. In many ways, the pandemic has exacerbated the failings of this system. That’s especially true for people who work in creative spaces.

Creative careers aren’t generally considered complex or challenging, and anything artistic is automatically viewed as somehow less valuable or skilful than ‘serious work’. STEM careers, for example, are seen as skills to be developed and learned and ultimately contribute to broader society in a tangible and valuable way. Work done through artistic mediums are thought of, somewhat unconsciously, as things that you are either naturally good at or not.

When you do good work in a creative field, people think you’re just born artistically gifted. As if you coast on natural talent. That’s not necessarily the case, and assuming that takes credit away from artists’ effort into their work. It also propagates the often toxic tie that creatives have between their work and their selves.

Artists often base their identity on their creative process and product. Lots of my peers have complicated relationships with success and failure because their work is integral to their lives and personalities. Especially considering creative work is often created by the self, for the self, this digital production line of content can be particularly demoralising once you find yourself creating according to someone else’s preferences and timeline. Creative burnout can feel like a broken sense of self.

However, as I said before, I’m not overly stressed about the rut I’m in. It can certainly be that damaging and distressing for some people, in some instances. But for me, at the moment, I don’t think it’ll last long. I’ve written almost 1000 words in this one post, so hopefully, this is an excellent first step toward getting my brain back on the bike.


Artwork: ‘Falling Apart’ by Fucci, 2016