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Beyond Tired: Creative Burnout

Updated: Apr 10

Made by: Kiara Chanel

Modern creatives contend with unique pressures that make thriving difficult. Creative burnout is more prevalent than ever. In 2016, creatives working in the entertainment industry were surveyed, and 15% of them said that they experienced severe depression, while 44% admitted to experiencing moderate to severe bouts of anxiety.

 

For many, creating art is a deeply personal experience. When business (something meant to be inherently impersonal) mixes with art, there is often incongruity.


The internet has made it essential for businesses to move fast. Trends move like lightning, and production has to match that pace. People are now used to things being readily available and easily accessible. Consumers demand constant production, whether visual art, music, fashion, photography, or television. This unrelenting demand is difficult for corporations to keep up with, and it's not really feasible for independent creatives.


It is also difficult to get people to pay for art. People don't know (or possibly don't care) how much effort creatives put into their work. They want the lowest price possible. That makes sense to a degree, but there has always been a difference in price between a manmade item and a mass-produced one. Those lines have started to blur and people believe they should pay Shein prices for handmade, custom clothes.


A lot of people appreciate creativity but don't appreciate those who create. Many non-creatives struggle to understand the utility of art. Most Americans don’t believe that artists contribute much to society. In a country where people are cogs in a machine, art is the oil that keeps cogs from wearing down.

 

Art is so integral to society that art therapy is used to treat burnout in several professions. Ironically, art therapy is used to heal others, but the creators themselves continue to struggle. Creatives tend to suffer in the areas of income security, career progression, and employment benefits.



Due to the precarity of working in art, most artists aren’t just artists; they have day jobs. Time is a resource; working 40 hours a week means something else must take a backseat. If someone wants to devote time to an art career, they’re stealing time from something else to do it. For many, that sacrifice is self-care.

 

Even when someone is a full-time artist, they likely still aren’t just an artist. Modern creatives don’t often have patrons who will pay for their living experiences while they create. (If you do, can you help me find one?) Most artists must be their own marketing department, talent agent, accountant, graphic designer, business manager, and anything else they need.

 

Exacerbating these issues, creatives are now competing with generative AI that can instantly regurgitate mimetic versions of their creations. In the hands of someone operating in good faith, AI could be a fantastic creative tool, but in its current iteration, AI is used to pay creatives less or simply remove them from the equation and pay them nothing.

 

While this seems grim, it’s important to understand that these are simply factors that can lead to burnout; they aren’t the whole truth. Many people appreciate and patronize the arts; there are countless creative communities worldwide and online, and the arts will always be needed. Creatives may simply need help finding their way through burnout.


What is Creative Burnout?

People tend to equate burnout with exhaustion. While exhaustion is a symptom of burnout, several other dimensions must be considered. Burnout is challenging to quantify, but Christina Maslach, Ph.D., has spent years researching it and created an inventory that helps to measure it.

 

  • Cynicism (Depersonalization)

  • Reduced sense of accomplishment (Inefficacy)

  • Emotional Exhaustion

 

Technically, true burnout occurs when someone experiences all three of these symptoms intensely. That being said, experiencing any of these symptoms is bound to hurt creativity.

 

  • Burnout (experiencing all three symptoms intensely)

  • Overextended (high in exhaustion)

  • Disengaged (high in cynicism)

  • Ineffective (high in inefficacy)

  • Engagement (low in all three symptoms)

 

Why does this matter? While it may seem pedantic to specify which aspect of burnout someone experiences, it is essential to identify what they’re going through to treat the issue effectively.


This post became a bit long, so I decided to break it up into a series. I'll discuss each dimension of burnout separately. I'm dealing with my own intrusive thoughts, the main one being, "Sis, nobody is trying to read all that." The series is a compromise between myself and the voices.




What Burnout Profile Do You Fit Into?

  • Overextended

  • Disengaged

  • Ineffective

  • Burnout


 









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