Dealing with the Creation/Consumption Cycle

I’ve not really shared much about this in public, but the burnout monster has been nipping at my heels pretty hard. And judging by many of the posts in my social media feed, I am not alone.

Burnout is typically thought of as being overworked, having too much to do, or not having enough breaks. But I think we’re seeing a new kind of burnout, especially among those whose job it is to create. Not only are we creating our thing (art, writing, music, crafts, etc.), but we also have to create “content.”

Content

Content is the new word for everything we create to get the word out, present our brand, and draw attention to what we do. Content can be social media posts, Reels and TikToks, email marketing, podcasts, or long-form videos. Content is what we create IN ADDITION TO the real thing we are creating.

If you’re trying to sell your artwork, you need to be creating content. If you are an influencer, you have to create content. No matter who you are nowadays, if you sell something, you need to be creating content. If you don’t do it yourself, you need to be making enough money to pay for a team to create your content. And, of course, if you’re a creative, you likely don’t have the budget for that. So you’re doing it all yourself.

It Takes a Toll

Creating content uses a range of skills that you might not already have. Photography, videography, writing, editing, production, graphic design, and marketing are now skills that every creative entrepreneur is expected to learn. This can take time and energy from your artwork, making you feel exhausted and empty.

Many people start filming and photographing every phase of what they do in case it can be used as content. This breaks the flow of the creative process and draws attention to our workspace aesthetics. I’m reminded of this short reel from Marko Lovrenski, which pokes fun at how invasive this can be.

And Then We Consume

When you feel empty and exhausted, it’s clear that you need something. A whiny toddler needs a nap and a cookie. But it’s so, so easy to find ourselves grabbing a snack or spending a few minutes on social media to give our minds a break. Except that five minutes can turn into an hour.

Some of it is good. If we’re intentional about what we consume, it can be inspiring or informative. But it’s still consuming. It’s not restorative, and it doesn’t give us the open space we need for our creativity to bloom.

Overconsumption of other people’s ideas has a dampening effect on our own creativity. It’s all too easy to feel insufficient and overwhelmed by looking at an endless scroll of content. They say that “comparison is the thief of joy”, but it’s also hard to avoid.

Breaking the Cycle

So, what’s the solution? You have to create your art. You have to create content. And you end up consuming as a way of soothing the overwhelm. Consequently, too much consumption leaves you agitated and certainly not feeling your best. Here are some things that I’ve found to be helpful as I have worked to find a better balance in managing this dilemma.

Cut Consumption

Whether it’s snacks, a spending habit, a glass or two of wine, or some serious swiping, consumption is deeply embedded in our culture. Pay attention to how often you opt for consumption when you find yourself feeling tired or overwhelmed. We tend to consume because we need something. But what? Identifying what we really need in that moment is helpful.

I’ve learned that five minutes with my eyes closed or a 15-minute walk around the block is never a bad idea. In fact, I often have great ideas when I do that.

Self-Care

Yeah, you knew I was going to bring this one up. Self-care matters. But it’s not about taking a bath and lighting a candle. Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself the way that you need (whatever that may be). Self-care is setting boundaries, getting enough sleep, removing yourself from bad situations, and treating yourself the way you deserve.

Build Routines

If you need to engage in social media, build routines and checklists to help you stay on task. Set a timer for engaging with other accounts to limit how much time you take. Don’t click on extraneous content irrelevant to your brand (because you will see more of that type of content in your feed and it’s an enticing distraction).

I also find it useful to have multiple social media accounts, maintaining separate personal accounts. Not only does this keep your embarrassing aunt from commenting on your posts (ask me how I know), it allows you to keep your personal interests separate from your business. (For example, weight training and cats are just going to be distractions when I’m engaging with clay accounts.)

Creating Content without Going Insane

Okay, I want to be clear. I don’t have this figured out. I’m still dancing with burnout. But I have learned a few things that might be helpful.

Views Do Not Equal Sales

Let me be very clear here. You are not in charge of who sees your content on social media. The number of views is determined by an algorithm, NOT by how interesting it is to your potential buyers. The algorithm is optimized for the platform’s profits, not yours. Views and engagement are not the metrics you should be tracking.

Reels of making things are interesting to people who want to MAKE things, not to those who want to buy the things you make. You are getting views from people who generally aren’t interested in buying. Instead, make content your buyers want to see.

You Do You

We do not need another trend copied. Stop it with the chopping clay already. What’s unique about YOU? Talk to us. Why do you do what you do? What’s the special magic that makes you, YOU? Fitting in and doing exactly what everyone else is doing was safe when you were in middle school. But those days are over. You really don’t want to fit in now. Be the most outrageous version of yourself. That’s where the magic is.

You Need a Strategy

What do you want your followers to know? What do you want to tell them? Do you have a message? Learn about branding and identify the specific message you want to convey. This is what your marketing should focus on. Share the things your ideal customer wants to know and see and hear.

If you have a strategy, then it’s easy to make a list of post topics that you can create content around. Pulling ideas out of your backside is painful! We talk about branding and strategy quite a bit in the business section of Blue Bottle Insiders. (It’s one of my favorite topics!)

Plan Your Social Media

You know that feeling, when each day you MUST come up with something to post? Yeah, that’s pressure you don’t need. Make a posting plan or “content calendar.” Even if you scribble it on a big piece of paper, it’s better than trying to come up with ideas each and every day.

Communicating vs. Discovery

Not all content has the same purpose. Sometimes, you post things to explain your brand, inform about your products, reinforce your ethos, and entertain your people. You make this kind of content to connect with the followers you already have. It’s a bit like talking to an old friend. You are connecting with your customers. You generally do this with images and stories.

Other times, your content’s purpose is to grab new people and help them learn about your brand and products. You generally do this with short-form video like Reels and Shorts.

Just like you speak differently to a friend vs. strangers on the street, this content should also be different. By targeting your message for these different audiences, you’ll be less likely to pour energy in the wrong direction.

Stop Overthinking It

Your content doesn’t need to be perfect. It needs to be YOU. Just freaking do it. Perfect is the enemy of done. What’s killing us is the hesitation and worry about doing it, not the act of doing it, itself. I love this video (2:35) from Gary Vaynerchuk. It makes the point.

Connecting with Colleagues

Your fellow makers are not your competition. They’re your colleagues. They are also your best source of kinship, support, and assistance. Find ways to connect with other makers who will support you, have your back, and cheer you on. That kind of supportive environment is exactly what Insiders is all about, by the way. There are lots of maker communities, but I’m pretty proud of mine.

Hang in There!

Okay, this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a massive topic! But I wanted to give some comfort and understanding to those of you who are struggling with this right now. I think there is an imbalance for many of us and the pendulum will swing back. But your business will thrive if you thrive. So take a deep breath, take care of yourself, and hang in there. You got this!

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