Whether you are just beginning your craft or you have been working for years, creative burnout is a reality most innovative people face routinely. Sometimes burnout comes in the form of writer’s block, crippling self-doubt, elaborate procrastination techniques, or unhealthy comparisons to other’s work, which ultimately results in a lack of confidence and motivation to create.
As we transition through our twenties and thirties, we find ourselves faced with a plethora of distractions and responsibilities, that can often feel like creative deterrents (family obligations, careers, home maintenance, etc.). We focus on how to keep up with daily routines and let slide our passions.
If you feel you may be reserving your creativity for projects that don’t bring your joy or you have foregone your creative spirit entirely, I have compiled nine of my favorite movies, books, and documentaries to reinvigorate your creative mindset and inspire your side girl boss attitude.
1. Big Magic
You may know author Elizabeth Gilbert from her acclaimed novel turned movie, Eat Pray Love, and if not, then please do yourself a favor and read the book or watch the movie and spend a night feeling like an aging, divorced woman traveling the world. It’s a strange mental trip, but sort of like a rite of passage. But anyway, she doesn’t simply write Oprah Book Club worthy nonfiction stories that attract Julia Roberts, because she has also published one of my absolute favorite inspiration pieces. Although this is what she is most known for, I want to recommend one of her lesser-known texts.
Big Magic is a brilliantly written, easy to flip through book for every creative person. I wouldn’t call it a self-help book, and I don’t think she would either. This is a book of shared wisdom, as Gilbert shares her understanding of creativity and her perceptions of the creative process. Creation may seem exhausting and impossible at times, but this book showcases just how easy creativity can come to us if we are open to the challenges that block us and embrace our art as worthy.
A few of my favorite quotes:
— “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
— “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
— “It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”
— “But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
Read Big Magic: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Magic-Creative-Living-Beyond/dp/1594634726
There are some shows that I don’t mind jumping into well after they premiere, and then there are shows like Younger that I regret not finding sooner. This TVLand show is nothing but wholesome, incredibly smart perfection and I truly hope it never goes off the air.
Why I am including it in this list is for the sheer fact that it is a scripted story about female professionals absolutely killing it in a creative industry without relying on shameless drama or shocking storylines.
The show follows the women at Empirical/Millennial Publishing and (take it from someone who works in publishing) does a pretty good job at portraying what life is like for publishers and writers. The soundtrack is fun and amazing, and the storylines showcase the brilliance and humor of the women, avoiding the common trope of turning female characters against each other. The first five seasons are available on Hulu, while the sixth season is currently airing on TVLand.
Watch Younger: https://www.tvland.com/shows/younger
3. The Bold Type
Another #girlboss show to put on your must-watch list. The Bold Type, based off of Cosmopolitan magazine’s editorial staff, is one of Freeform’s semi-new shows following three women in the areas of fashion, writing, and social media management for the fictional Scarlett Magazine. This show will give you hope and a killer backdrop for your creative inspiration, because sometimes what we need is to watch people who look like us, struggle like we do, and then succeeding to feel like you can do the same. It demonstrates that if you are someone aspiring to make your art big, you’ll have to start at the bottom of the totem pole,
One of the most inclusive texts in this list, The Bold Type exposes how intersectional and demanding creative industries are becoming and begins quite a few conversations about sexuality, independence, profiling, advocacy, and bias. The show is relatable and shows failure just as much as it shows success.
As a creative writer, I respect media that can balance between good and bad experiences, acknowledging how influential both are in the creative process. I found this show when I was pulling all-nighters to finish deadlines and needed something I could feel invested in, but not emotionally drained after watching. Nearly every character represents creativity in a unique way and truly pushed me to look for new writing opportunities after binging the entire first two seasons in one week. I recommend it for anyone struggling to find that spark and are maybe doubting why they are working on their art in the first place.
Watch The Bold Type: https://freeform.go.com/shows/the-bold-type
4. Pirates, Nurses, and Other Rebel Designers
This is a TedTalk by Alice Rawsthorn, a British design critic, who bridges the gap between designers and historical figures, exploring how design and history are interconnected through a sense of rebellion. Rawsthorn highlights unlikely heroes as designers of art and life, while also detailing how sometimes the best art is inspired by the world’s biggest rebellious renegades. For those of you battling with creating because of rules you are held to or constructs you don’t perform well within, then listen to Rawsthorn as she breaks down exactly how modern visionaries are the ones who push back from the constraints that may or may not exist.
What I appreciate so much from this talk is the respect artists are given, even those who don’t consider themselves so. Every person is a storyteller and a contributor to a much larger narrative, and Rawsthorn gives examples from Blackbeard to Florence Nightingale to uncover the creative journeys of some of the greatest designers.
Watch– Pirates, Nurses, and Other Rebel Designers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC1uxXvPG0Q
5. Stuck in Love
This movie, while a little bit older, will probably always be one of my favorites. It’s underrated and if it weren’t for a deep dive into Netflix one night, I probably never would have come across it, but honestly, the movie is depressingly accurate if you are a writer.
Writing isn’t glamorous, and can sometimes be lonely, stressful, and a game of comparison. All of these struggles are exposed within the family of a middle-aged writer and his two teenage kids he pushes into writing. If you need to know the actors before you watch the movie, because, like me, you like to prejudge what you are about to watch, then I let you know Lily Collins and Greg Kinnear, and Nat Wolff star in it. Those names might not mean much to you, but I moderately like each of those actors, so I can vouch for them and the acting.
The movie is pretty much all about creative people suffering from creative burnout. It is the epitome of this list. The characters each turn to their art as a form of coping, expression, acts of love, and ultimately show off how to wiggle out of creative ruts and harness moments of pain into something brilliant.
Watch– Stuck in Love: https://www.amazon.com/Stuck-Love-Greg-Kinnear/dp/B00FPGSUI8
6. The Five-Minute Journal
One of the simplest ways to help creative burnout, the Five-Minute Journal aims to use “the science of positive psychology to improve your attention on the good in your life.” I know a lot of creative thinkers like to avoid prompts, out of free of unoriginality, but I think guided questions and exercises can uncover our most authentic selves. The structure of writing for five minutes every single day is like a personal accountability plan and forces us to practice our creative thought. The daily entries prompt writers to have gratitude for themselves and the experiences around them, resulting in a less negative outlook on creating new work.
Example of the daily routine prompted by the journal:
— Write down an inspiring quote.
— What would make today great?
— List 3 amazing things that happened today.
— Weekly challenges
— I am grateful for . . .
— How could you’ve made today better?
Buy– The Five Minute Journal: https://www.amazon.com/Five-Minute-Journal-Happier-Minutes/dp/0991846206
7. Know Yourself: A Book of Questions
So, technically you can use this book/game for anyone in your life, but I think it is important to do it yourself first to explore your identity to better understand who you are deeply and sometimes unexpectedly. If you are in a creative rut because you constantly battle with original ideas and can’t seem to find your own voice, this might be the ideal way to rediscover yourself. The questions are meant to inspire people to reflect on memories we may have suppressed and adventures we hope to fulfill.
Some questions to give you a peek inside the book:
— What role do you play in your circle of friends?
— What made you happy when you were younger?
— Would you go back to life without the internet?
Buy– Know Yourself: A Book of Questions: https://www.amazon.com/Know-Yourself-Book-Questions-Flow/dp/1523506350/
8. When’s Happy Hour?: Work Hard So You Can Hardly Work
“It’s time to channel your inner Elle Woods, Miranda Priestly, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Betches media first book is charged with advice for female creatives, young professionals, and pop culture enthusiasts alike as it details the landscape of female leadership in the modern era. Women who hope to turn their art and passion into a career have obstacles mentally, socially, politically, and in really every possible sphere we can think of. This book is energetic, quirky, and incredibly relatable as it helps women navigate dozens of scenarios, some of which might be the root of your creative burnout.
Read– When’s Happy Hour?: Work Hard So You Can Hardly Work: https://www.amazon.com/Whens-Happy-Hour-Work-Hardly/dp/150119898X
9. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé
Okay, hear me out: this documentary isn’t just a fangirl’s dream about Queen B; the Netflix original is an anthem to young black women, female artists fighting for creative reign over their art, and women told to be successful, but not intimidatingly so.
Homecoming gives us a look at Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella concerts and the work done behind the scenes to pull off the performances. At one point during a test run, Beyoncé is noticeably unhappy with how her art is turning out and stops the process to give a frustrated, yet encouraging speech to her staff and performers. This is a woman who is not afraid to voice her concerns and expect more from those who hope to capitalize on her talents. As artists, we oftentimes just feel thankful that our work is out in the world and allow people to steamroll over our voices or take advantage of our work ethic.
There are also loads of references of powerful and brilliant women, including Maya Angelou, Queen Nefertiti, Alice Walker, Nina Simone, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The documentary holds so much meaning to young women, both cross-culturally and musically. As a creator, it is also an emblem for empowered speech and an ode to creators who paved the way for our art.
Watch– Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé: https://www.netflix.com/title/81013626