Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

Surviving Creative Burnout

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Back in Winter 2004/2005, I spent an entire month cleaning up an RC file that defined over 100 dialogs used in Visual Studio. I scoured our codebase to determine whether the dialog was still in use, removed it if it wasn’t, ensured that the UI met the Windows User Experience Guidelines, redesigned the dialog if it didn’t, cleaned up the tab order, and added detailed information on what the dialog did and how to find it in the product.

By the end of the project, I would’ve been perfectly happy to never touch a piece of Windows UI ever again. I could barely muster the energy to work, and my burnout even started affecting my personal life (I broke up with my girlfriend of over two years that February). It took a while, but I was finally able to get back in the groove that Spring, just in time to push Visual Studio 2005 through its Release Candidate and RTM milestones.

I just ran across an older article from Scott Berkun on surviving creative burnout, which enumerates a number of useful options for getting through this (seemingly inevitable) problem. Scott discusses common characteristics of being burned out (after all, the first step is always admitting you have a problem, right?). He follows by detailing a variety of simple, practical steps to help you get back in the groove, ranging from asking your boss for help to taking a vacation to just getting out of the office for the day.

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