<SNIPPED>We all deal with a range of items here at the guild. There are photographs, pictures, maps, maps that we try to make look like photographs, and maps that we try to make look like pictures of maps.
That's a pretty decent summary that you offered.
This is where things start to get complicated. I'm referring now to a collection of RPG forums in the Internet rather than just postings here at the Cartographers Guild. I get the very strong impression that quite a number of maps being posted in the Internet have no purpose whatsoever other than to make yet another map. They remind me of the kitschy line tone drawings of fantastic fighters, magi, etc. that many RPGers felt compelled to post back in the 1990s. The large majority of them had no value whatsoever beyond filling their creator's need to make a picture. That's not necessary illegitimate. If one wants to make a picture and he or she gets satisfaction from doing it, they should by all means carry on.A map serves a purpose.
Another forum in which I participate (I see no point in naming it) has a strong kernel of members who make mapping objects daily and turn out and post at least one new map a week. No one ever will convince me that any of these folks actually play RPGs, write adventures or do anything but make maps and mapping objects. Unfortunately, a very large share of these maps would be useless in most campaigns. They tend to create locations that are so lacking in real substance that they wouldn't survive and, in fact, never would have come into existence to begin with. Nonetheless, such maps too are legitimate as long as the cartographer gets satisfaction and fulfillment from making them. But there always is the danger that the cartographer in question realizes one day that he or she has produced nothing more than a collection of pretty but pointless pictures. At that point he or she might beginning a ride on that proverbial treadmill to oblivion, which is where a great many maps being posted online are totally at home.
Precisely. The collection of shiny bits is valuable only to the extent that it helps you better reach your goal and fulfill your purpose. On the other side of the coin, if you have no collection of shiny bits, you might find that you have a lot of techniques but too few different tools to get to where you want to go.I think that one way to avoid burnout is to try different tools and techniques, not just collect new shiny bits for your existing tools. It also helps to have projects that you're passionate about rather than just churning out lots and lots of the same sort of thing.