I don’t know about you, but I’m pooped.
The year usually seems to race by, but right now, time is moving like molasses. I feel like I’ve been laying tracks (figurative business tracks, that is) as fast as I can, yet I’m always getting through my to-do list just ahead of my deadlines.
My brain feels like Gromit in the final chase scene of Wallace and Gromit.
It’s exciting. It’s invigorating. But, you can’t run an engine at full speed forever, and I keep popping my head up to see Christmas as the end of this race. I am really looking forward to putting my “out of office” on this year.
Part of the reason is that my creativity feels a little wrung out.
I think copywriters and designers suffer from creative burnout regularly as ideas are our business. But, whether you’re a creative type or not, it’s important to keep the ideas factory you call your brain working at peak efficiency.
One of my tips to avoid creative burnout is to give myself enough time to be creative. Don’t just let your brain recover in a pool of wine and roast dinners. Give yourself this time every day.
But, what does that really mean?
The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron. A lot of people know this book because the process of unleashing your creative self isn’t just for artists. Almost every successful person I know (or aspire to know) has read this book and put some of its practises into place.
Write morning pages
Start each day with unstructured writing time. Don’t write a book or a blog. Just set a timer and write whatever pops into your head—without stopping.
I find this process incredibly efficient at decluttering my brain.
I have a terrible habit of looking at my phone when I wake up, which usually means I jolt my brain awake with social media posts to read or respond to and emails I received overnight. That’s not great for meditation (my other morning ritual).
Writing my morning pages helps me to clear the slate of what is essentially brain clutter.
Now, morning pages and meditation might seem a bit too Zen for you, but if you really want to give your brain the space it needs to be creative, then find your own way to clear the slate of low-priority or non-urgent things that are screaming for your attention but don’t actually need it.
Maybe it’s a run with music. Maybe it’s an email widget that doesn’t deliver emails until you begin work. Whatever is it, stop the chatter that’s constantly invading your creative space.
Schedule creative project time
The next part of the time equation is making sure your copywriting project timeline supports creative thinking.
You need time to put yourself in your clients’ shoes, mull over their frustrations and their challenges and consider potential solutions from different angles. While you have to put a cap on your brainstorming time, your copywriting project schedule does need to factor it in if you don’t want to take disastrous shortcuts.
Or more commonly, write bland and uninteresting copy because you don’t have time to do better.
Make creative life time
An extension of giving your brain the space to actually be creative is making sure your life supports creative thinking.
Sounds important, doesn’t it? However, it’s like one of those “spend more quality time with your kids” things—important but easily squished in the priority list as you keep laying the next bit of track down.
One way I’ve made this kind of time is to prioritise creative activities.
Once a month, I set off with no specific agenda in mind. I go to the museum. I head to an art gallery. I mooch through laneways looking at people and graffiti. I don’t go out to source blog ideas, fill my Instagram thread or look creative.
After using morning pages and meditation to regularly create some quiet brain space, I want to expose my mind to other ideas.
There will always be more emails. There will always be a hot new marketing strategy you can implement. There will always be podcasts to listen to and blog posts to read (or create). These are just part of being a freelance copywriter and business owner.
But giving your brain new information and ideas also gives it more inputs to connect in quiet moments. Those unforced connections help you flex and strengthen your creative muscles.
The results are cumulative
By making regular time in your life to be creative, you’re more likely to slip into the smoking jacket of creativity more easily. It’s fun, too.
I know the results are cumulative because this process also works the other way. When you stop making time to let you brain recover from constant copywriting and run wild creatively (without structure) now and then, you begin to feel like you’re running out of track.
That’s where I am right now—almost out of track but looking forward to restocking over Christmas and rebooting my good habits.
So how much time are we talking?
Decluttering time, creative project time, life time…when you’re already busy (and aren’t we all), it can feel like there is no more time to spare.
So, let’s break it down.
A daily brain declutter: 15–30 minutes
This is the time it might take you to have a cuppa. Just one cuppa a day to leave your brain fresh and uncluttered.
Project time: 1–2 hours for creative thinking on each copywriting project
Whether you sit down and work through a creative process or you just want to leave enough time to think in the shower, scheduling this time into your plan will mark your thinking time as valuable.
Life time: Half a day, once a month
If you have no-work weekends, fantastic (I do recommend them), but make time to do something that fills your creative well with new input. Four hours in 30 days? You can do that!
When you lay it out, that’s not a lot of time. At all.
Consider this post the kick up the bum we both need to value creative time.
It’s good for your brain, and it’s good for business. Creativity isn’t just about creating art. It can involve creative problem solving, creative strategies and of course creative writing.
So, how about you? How much time do you make to feed your creativity? Do you think it’s important? Or, is it a load of nonsense that successful business people don’t have time for?
I’d love to know your thoughts.