How To Use White Space To Save Yourself From Complete Creative Burnout

Firemen at scene of burnt car
image: bc-burnslibrary

We recently talked about how to use white space – essentially making more room in your creative life, mind, schedule and surroundings – to let yourself breathe and relax and create more deeply and freely.

Rather than feeling “buried up to your neck and sinking in a junk metal compressor in a forgotten ghost of a town in a dark November rainstorm”.

I’d like to emphasise and clarify this idea of white space, and the best way to embed it in your day to day creative life to not only help your creativity naturally thrive, but to avoid the kind of complete creative burnout and exhaustion that is all too common.

Creating white space in your life does not mean having a dozen projects on the go, working every last minute of every day under huge stress as you dart frantically from project to project and task to task, neglecting family, friends, health and hygiene until finally after a few days/ weeks/ months you collapse entirely and have an enforced period of “white space” because you can barely get out of bed.

This is not the most effective way to use white space, and misses the point of how powerful it can be, and how it can save us from this destructive and unhealthy kind of cycle.

To use a simply analogy, when we eat, we thrive best and serve our body best when we have regular meals and eat maybe every three or four hours or so.

It’s the same with drinking, little and often is the key, keep ourselves feeling fresh and hydrated.

The opposite of this – and the equivalent of complete burnout – is not eating or drinking for hours on end, until we get a headache, feel light headed and nauseous and eventually fall down. Then gorging ourselves on enough food to feed a family of four (and processed junk food at that) and drinking a couple of gallons of fluid that’s more sugar than water.

Do we feel rejuvenated and refreshed, raring to go again?

Not likely. We’ll inevitably feel sick, groggy, completely over full and just want to sleep it off, vowing to not eat or drink a drop for the next 12 hours, then repeating the same chaotic and destructive cycle.

White space in your creative life is more like having a cup of water by your desk and sipping often, and eating regular meals and small (healthy) snacks in between when you’re hungry.

You embed the good stuff in your life naturally, to enhance every moment and maintain a great level of healthy, abundant creativity. It’s not a feast then famine situation.

Or to use another example, consider the regime of an Olympic athlete.

Though the goal of any Olympic athlete is to win their event at the Olympics, they don’t do nothing in the build up then expect to show up the day before, train like crazy, put in the performance of their lives and go home with the gold.

An Olympic athlete doesn’t become an Olympic athlete only when they step foot inside that stadium. It doesn’t happen instantly.

They earn the right to be there – and to be at that peak of physical and mental fitness – because they’ve trained hard for years, even decades.

And although their biggest dream might be Olympic gold, along the way they will have many wonderful achievements. They might win the local, then regional, then national championships, breaking personal bests left, right and centre along the way.

Their whole athletic life is a series of achievements – a series of steps in they grow as an athlete and as a human being.

But here’s the absolutely crucial part of this analogy.

However hard they train, they rest well in between.

They don’t run a marathon a day for two weeks then collapse and spend the next two weeks in bed, or worse, in hospital.

They build steadily, they nurture that underlying fitness and strength with a variety of workouts and different forms of training, with regular rest and escape in between, and with a healthy nutritious diet.

Their white space is the regular sleep, the days off, the consistent healthy eating, the variety of training.

It’s embedded within their lives, and it means they don’t go through the foolish cycle of getting up, skipping breakfast, running until they drop, and then crash and burn for two days before hauling themselves out of bed to do the same again, each time with diminishing returns, and an increasingly fragile state of health and risk of serious injury.

And if they did try to train like this cycle we just spoke of, they’d struggle to make the local amateur running club. Forget the Olympics.

To reiterate – White space is the space you consciously and voluntarily embed in your creative life to help you thrive and evolve. It is NOT the enforced “white space” that comes from over working yourself, completely burning out and being unable to even get out of bed.

Use white space to surround your creative life, to flow like water through it and in between it, to lift it up to new heights by having that regular chance to breathe and create at your best and most free.

To learn some of the best ways you can do this, I’d encourage you to pop back and read the Embracing The White Space article again.

How do you currently create? How healthy, effective and regular is your use of white space?

What steps can you take in the next 48 hours to introduce more white space into your life and let your creativity breathe more deeply?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


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