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Combatting Creative Burnout

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like you just didn’t have the creative energy to sit down and make a scrapbook page. Is your hand up? Because mine definitely is! If we were all in a room together, I’d tell you to take a look around, because you’re in good company – I’m willing to bet that almost all of us have raised hands at the moment (and you can put them down now, by the way). No scrapbooker ever feels 100% like scrapping all the time. Sometimes we get creatively frustrated, sometimes we’re tired and stressed out by other situations in our lives, and sometimes we just get a serious case of the “I don’t wannas” for no reason whatsoever. It just happens, and there’s no reason to think that you’re alone or that it’s the end of your scrapping world when it happens to you. Instead, take a deep breath and read through these five ideas for helping combat your creative burnout.

1. Take a Class

If you’re tired of constantly having to come up with your own layout and project ideas, then maybe it’s time to let someone else take the driver’s seat in that regard. Project-based classes, whether taken in person or online, usually provide a pre-planned project (often with step-by-step instructions) along with an instructor who helps and coaches you along in completing the assignment(s). They are also often accompanied by a kit or list of pre-selected supplies that take all the guesswork out of  your selections. Classes are also great way to gain exposure to new ideas, learn new techniques, interact with other scrapbookers, and, most importantly, get projects done! In a nutshell, project classes remove all the parts of scrapbooking that may be sapping your energy right now by taking care of those things for you, letting you focus on the fun part – simply enjoying making stuff!

Check out your local scrapbook store to see what classes they offer. Mine hosts a variety of project workshops each month ranging from layouts to cards to mini albums, with a few home decor projects also thrown into the mix. If you don’t have a local scrapbook store, don’t despair – there are a huge number of online classes to choose from, and if you look around a bit you’re sure to find one that’s the right fit for you. Some of my personal favorites are:

  • Big Picture Classes: They offer a wide range of both “live” workshops and self-paced instant download classes from a variety of instructors covering a huge range of projects and topics.
  • Get It Scrapped/Masterful Scrapbook Design: Debbie Hodge is the driving creative force behind these sites. Get It Scrapped offers a number of classes for both paper and digital scrappers along with some great photography courses. Masterful Scrapbook Design is Debbie’s monthly offering, and each “issue” covers a different scrapbooking topic in depth and includes video, audio, webinar, and PDF content put together by some of the industry’s top talent.
  • Got Sketch/Got Crafts: Got Crafts is the home of Valerie Salmon’s scrapbooking classes, including the popular “Got Sketch” programs. Some of her projects and older “Got Sketch” classes are available as instant downloads, and from time to time you’ll also find live Got Sketch classes in session, as well.
  • Ali Edwards: Ali Edwards began offering downloadable project classes on her web site about a year ago, and I’ve found them to be reasonably priced and stuffed full of content. Her “Scrapbook On the Road” class is one of my personal favorites.
  • Shimelle Laine: Shimelle‘s classes are one of the best values I’ve found in online scrapbooking education. Each one is filled with so much content (her writing is superb) that is emailed directly to you in PDF format and also includes access to an online forum for students to interact.

There are many, many other options available for online classes, and I encourage you to take some time to look around at all the offerings. I’ve also got a post on my own blog that shares some advice on choosing online classes and may be helpful when considering your choices.

2. Organize Something

If your brain hurts just thinking about making layouts, then stop thinking about it! Focus on an organizing project in your scrap space instead, and leave the layout planning for another day when you’re feeling more up to it. This is a great time to work on a “mindless” task such as sorting through your paper scraps, cleaning off your scrapbooking work surface, or putting stacks of previously completed layouts into albums. If you have a little more creative brainpower at your disposal, you could also use this time to sort, edit, and print photos to have on hand for the next time you do feel like making a page.

This could also be an opportunity to evaluate whether your current storage and organization methods are the culprit behind your lack of creativity. Is the mere thought of digging into your supplies to find what you need for a project what’s holding you back from scrapping? If so, take some time to consider how your organizational process could be revamped to better suit your creative needs. Wendy Smedley and Aby Garvey have authored an excellent book on this topic, The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker, and you can also find literally thousands of photos and ideas for organizing scrapbooking spaces by browsing blogs and scrapbooking forums where your fellow scrappers are more than happy to share what does (and more importantly what doesn’t) work for them.

3. Become a “Creative Consumer”

By suggesting you become a “creative consumer,” I don’t mean that you should run out and buy a new stack of scrapbooking supplies (though I do think that an infusion of new supplies or a generous dose of window shopping from time to time is a wonderful creative pick-me-up). For me, being a creative consumer means gazing upon the lovely creations of others without any guilt whatsoever associated with the fact that you have no intention of actually making anything based on what you’re seeing. So go ahead and soak it up! You have my permission to browse Pinterest, peruse scrapbooking galleries, and read magazines to your heart’s content! My only rule is that during this visual feast you are not allowed to put any pressure whatsoever on yourself to actually do anything with the items you’re browsing. Now, if you see something that jumps out and you and screams that you simply must act on it, then by all means go ahead. But if you find that you spend two hours browsing and are more than happy to look at a project, say, “oooh, pretty,” and then move on to the next one, then that’s perfectly okay, too!

I don’t know where the idea that it’s bad to collect more ideas for cards, layouts, and projects than you will use originally came from, but it and the guilt associated with it seriously need to die right here and right now. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking time to read magazines, surf scrapbooking galleries, and browse Pinterest with absolutely no scrapbooking-related agenda in mind. I firmly believe that anything creative that passes from your eyes to your brain is beneficial, whether you choose to sit down immediately and make something inspired by what you’ve seen or you simply let some or all of it sift into your creative tank to be pulled out later, possibly in some very different form than the one that it came in as.

4. Change the Canvas

If you’re feeling like you’re in a creative rut, it’s possible that all you really need is a change of scenery. Sure, 12×12 layouts may be your forte, but if you’re not feeling inspired to make them (or whatever your creative canvas of choice is) lately, why not break away from your usual crafty rhythm and try something different? If you usually make 12×12 layouts, try an 8.5×11 page or even a mini album. Or try switching from layouts entirely and make a few cards or tags – the smaller scale canvas may be just the thing to get your creativity going again. You may even discover along the way that you enjoy the new format and want to make it a permanent part of you crafty repertoire, or the opposite could happen and the difficulty of switching gears to the new size could send you straight back into the arms of your beloved standby. You’ll never know unless you try!

5. Shake Things Up With A Different Craft

I don’t know a single scrapbooker who hasn’t indulged in at least one other crafty hobby at some point in their lifetime. In fact, most scrapbookers have stashes of non-paper supplies hidden somewhere in their house: the remnants of half-finished cross-stitch samplers, partially completed quilt tops, or palettes of abandoned paints and pastels. Some of these projects and items may be years old, long forgotten and shoved into crates and bins in the deep recesses of attics or basements. If your scrapbook mojo is all locked up, then perhaps it’s time to revisit one of these lost loves. Spend some time getting reacquainted with an old crafting flame, and you might just find that your scrapbooking creativity flowing again too.

If revisiting an old craft project doesn’t appeal to you, then how about stretching your creativity by trying an entirely new one altogether? I have a long personal list of crafts I’d love to learn some day – knitting, crotchet, and beading, just to name a few – and I’m willing to bet that you do, as well. Why not shake things up creatively and try one of them out? It doesn’t have to be an expensive or all-consuming endeavor – just seek out a class or a local specialty store and buy only the supplies needed to complete one project. The simple act of making something – anything! – may be just the kick you need to get your scrapping in gear again, and you may also discover a new crafting love along the way.

If you’re feeling like you’re in a creative rut, I hope that some of these ideas will help you to either move past it or even learn to enjoy your scrappy life as it is right now, even if your creativity isn’t currently at its highest point. In the end, scrapbooking should be enjoyable and not feel like work, so focus on the fun of it and parts that you do enjoy and leave the rest for a time when you’re feeling at your crafty best.

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14 Responses to Combatting Creative Burnout

  1. Nina September 13, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    Oh yeah that’s me! That sad thing is I was so looking forward to being able to scrap when I was no longer working and now that it has come around to that I avoid my craft room! Thanks for all the ideas to get out of this funk!

  2. Delanie September 13, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    My suggestion is to make something that has no real point. Play.

    Put away the Christmas photos or birthday photos or vacation photos that you want to document and create something fun and lighthearted. Get rid of the pressure of memories that you want to record and go with a ‘silly’ topic.

    It could be a week-long journal of ‘The Worst Thing that Happened to Me Today…’ or the best thing. ‘If I Ruled the World I Would…’. ‘This is the Look I Rocked Today’ with photos of your outfits for the week. Anything lighthearted, just because you can.

    For me that was participating in Shimelle’s Learn Something New Class and the minibook that I decided to create. It isn’t deep and meaninful memories so I am just having fun and experimenting. If the page doesn’t work out, no big deal. Now when I am looking online I keep finding techniques and elements that I want to try.

    This could easily incorporate a number of Melissa’s ideas – taking a class, changing canvas, trying a new craft (or at least techniques) and being a creative consumer.

    But for me, the important part has been playing. No pressure, no expectations, experimenting and playing. :)

  3. nanette September 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Great ideas….thanks

  4. sue morris September 14, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    excellent article. Thanks for this advice I’ve really been struggling with where to start for making a dedication album to my dad. I’m going to take some of your suggestions about perusing the galleries. I never thought about that. I’ve been trying to absorb ideas out of the scrapbook magazines but, frankly, some of the projects look extremely challenging. I think getting creative in other areas of crafting is a good idea as well.

  5. Fabrizio September 14, 2011 at 6:41 am #

    Great article, thank you ! When I’m completely lacking of craft will, I use sketches/pagemaps and hope for the best ! :)

  6. Kathy H September 14, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    Great article! I’m in the throes of burnout right now…been in it for about a month and have done most of what you’ve suggested. I know my creative energy will return, in the meantime I will continue to visit galleries, sketch sites, take classes and pick up one of my past hobbies to relax and inspire my mind. Love all the hard work that Scrapbook Update puts in to keep us so well-informed!

  7. Wahkuna September 14, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    This article speaks to me! Just what I needed right now! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Marissa September 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    I almost get the opposite. I get too overwhelmed with all the projects to work on in my craft room that I have trouble deciding what to work on. Lately, I’ve started entering some of the card challenges on blogs I like. It’s been great for me. I get to make something, and at the same time, I get some focus as to what products or colors to use. I love it!

    • Nancy Nally September 14, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      Challenges are definitely a great variation on the classes method of combatting burnout! I’ve done that a few times myself!

  9. Teresa Zuehls September 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    Thanks for the great article!
    Right now I am taking my first online class called Inspiraton Showcase with Jennifer McQuire. It is great and I am having a fun time learning new techniques every day (it is a two week class including the weekends). I have been stamping and scrapbooking for years and thought I would only pick up a few new things. Boy was I wrong! It has been a blast and its only day 3!
    My point is even if you have been doing a craft forever there are always lots of new techniques and tips that you will learn and inspire you from taking a class.

  10. Candy September 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Ummmm, well, if I don’t feel like making a layout then I definitely do not want to take a class..way too much pressure. Really, extra sleep, and looking for internet inspiration, along with some breathing time, usually helps a lot. Flipping through photos and picking out something I want to scrap also helps. I simply put difficult to scrap photos aside for awhile.

  11. Gab September 14, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    These are fantastic ideas – thanks Melissa!

  12. Vicki J September 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Great Ideas Mellissa– I wanted to add that its ok to just close the door to your scrap room and walk away for a week or two. This is our hobby and we really should enjoy our memory keeping efforts. When it becomes stressful its no long fun!

    Of course sometimes all it takes to get that creative mojo back is to sort through a pile of photos or sort through a drawer of random scrap stuff! n:)

  13. Debbie Hodge September 26, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Hi, Melissa, Thanks so much for including GIS/MSD in the list. I appreciate it. And I love the idea about trying a different canvas size.

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