My cat Mirtillo doesn’t look very burnedout…
Wikipedia defines “burnout” as: Burnout is a type of psychological stress. Occupational burnout or job burnout is characterized by exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm and motivation, feelings of ineffectiveness, and also may have the dimension of frustration or cynicism, and as a result reduced efficacy within the workplace.
Now, I absolutely love my job. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it. However, even indies can suffer from burnout problems.
When you work for yourself, without a boss, it’s easy to forget that you still need to take breaks and relax. And that not necessarily working more will bring better results.
I noticed this myself in the recent years. Personally, I think I’m very resistant to burnout, but it still happened. I think the main issue is that you are so absorbed in your work, in what you love, that you “forget” to take breaks. When you work in a office doing a job you hate, or even just don’t like it particularly, you’re eager to take breaks and holidays!
It’s not only the work itself though: also the “release stress”. Whenever you release a new game, there’s a lot of stress involved. How it will do? Is there any bug left? etc. Talking with other indies, it’s well known that the release day/week is one of the most stressing periods in the life of an indie. Then, there’s also the normal stress when things aren’t going well, sales are low, or you’re struggling with the development for whatever reason.
All this stress can lead to burnout as well.
So, now that we know even indies can suffer from burnout, what are the solutions? First of all: take things easier. Luckily for us, we’re not doing “critical mission” software. A nuclear plant won’t blow up if there’s a bug in our code! We won’t go bankrupt (hopefully) if a few people don’t like our game. As long as enough people like it, will be fine. It’s OK for some (or many!) people to say that our game is bad. It’s not OK to insult you, but they’re going to do it anyway, so why worry or get angry?
Another very important thing, not just for indies, but for any creative job, it’s to take “full breaks”. I mean, stop completely working, for a week or two (usually for me is never more than a week though).
Do other things: read, walk, bike, go out, watch movies, play other games, etc. Whatever you like to do, that is not related to your job.
It really helped me many times when I felt I had “no strength left”. It also helped me to regain “inspiration”. I suspect will be the same for artists/writers/designers/etc.
You might think that you “lose time”, when you take breaks. In some cases yes, but personally I found that in many cases it wasn’t lost time. Not at all! A lot of positive things happened: while playing other games, I got ideas on how to do some gameplay changes in my games. While watching movies/tv series, I got ideas for new games stories. And even when I didn’t get any “inspiration”, I was well rested and relaxed so when I resumed working I was going twice as fast as I would have if I didn’t take the break.
That’s why even if I’m at good point both with Heirs & Graces and PSCD DLC betas, once they’re done, I’ll take a short break before jumping back immediately to work on Queen Of Thieves RPG coding: I’m doing the new main plot scenes now, but that’s just basic scripting so really something easy compared to the RPG part.
Even if the “pressure” is high, even if a lot of people are eager to play it. I really need the break to do a better job later