Game design can fill our lives with drive and creative passion, but hiding in the shadows of our homebrew worlds, a Wraith awaits to drain our life force. Whatever name you know it by, “creative burnout”, “writer’s block”, or “discouragement”, its insidious claws lurk in the shadows of late-night writing sessions. They wait for the moment to drain your creative lifeblood from your very soul…
Okay, that might be a little overdramatic. But burnout, writer’s block, and creative overwhelm drag down more than just your work. The exhaustion that sometimes overtakes your creative process tries to seep into all aspects of your life. You may lose sleep due to being overworked. You might grow grouchy towards your friends, family, and significant other. Unhealthy habits might begin worming their way into your routine.
In my case, I realized I needed to take a break when I started defending my consumption of three pots of coffee a day. Yes, pots of coffee, not cups of coffee. I’m talking about full, piping-hot, pots of black dark roast coffee. I’m pretty sure that if you pricked my finger, the room would instantly smell like a Starbucks.
I recently realized two things. First, I need to go on a caffeine diet. Second, I needed to find a way to recharge my creativity. I reached out to the TTRPG and Indie game design communities for help. It turns out a lot of people felt the same way, and they had a lot of tips for managing creative burnout.
Over the next few weeks, I intend to break down the steps and tricks in a series of short articles. The community really helped me out a lot, and I’d like to help the community spread this information.
Tip 1: Take a Hike!
The first tip I’d like to discuss is taking a walk. This suggestion came up a lot, and it’s a good one. However, I think this advice needs a little fleshing out. Going for a walk really can help a lot of people deal with writer’s block, overwhelm, mental exhaustion, anxiety, and more.
Walking at a slightly elevated pace oxygenates your blood, and, in turn, your brain. Your mind will get a little boost of energy and clarity as a result. It also separates your active conscious mind from the task and leaves it in the hands of your subconscious. If you’re unfamiliar with the neuroscience behind the creative process, your subconscious mind will often take up a task previously performed by your conscious mind, and you won’t ever realize it. Then, out of the blue, an idea pops into your head.
However, there is a caveat to this tip. Though taking a walk is a useful tool, it is still a tool that needs to be understood in order to be used effectively. If you’re working long consecutive hours on a single task, breaking up those endless stretches of creative binges with a walk is the optimal use of this technique. If you’ve worked nonstop all week, taking a walk on a Saturday will be helpful, but probably isn’t enough.
Getting away from the desk, and getting into some sunshine and fresh air is best employed through micro-doses throughout the day. Use this technique to prevent overwhelm and burnout, or to support other efforts over a long stretch of time. Don’t plan on going for a walk at the end of a hectic, jampacked week of nonstop work with the expectation that an hour or two in the park will make up for the endless hours in front of the computer screen over the last five days.
This is my first tip for all the creative conjurers out there feeling the weight of their craft weighing on their shoulders. Don’t let that wraith sneak up on you. Remember, their vulnerable in sunlight, so let’s shine a light on this insidious threat and overcome overwhelm before it burns us out.