7 Thoughts That Block Creativity (+ How To Deal With Them)
We’ve all got our dreams.
Big or small: we’ve been forming our fantasies since we were old enough to blow out the candles on a birthday cake.
At some point on our journey, we ditch these dreams. We leave them at the roadside, for various reasons.
Some of these reasons are totally… reasonable.
For example, my own childhood dream of being a Coca Cola truck driver stopped being appealing when I realised it didn’t mean I could swig the sugary nectar all day; and even if I could, it would get old, fast.
So, we have those reasons… and then we have the thoughts.
These thoughts are NOT reasonable.
These thoughts that block creativity are insidious.
They are the dreamkillers.
They grow from fear, shame, doubt.
They result in resentment, regret and… generally feeling rubbish.
We all have them from time to time.
It’s one of the first questions I ask my coaching clients: what’s stopping you?
What story are you telling yourself that is stopping you from making your art, or stopping you from sharing it?
Time after time, I get these repeat offenders.
Fortunately, there are antidotes to these common mental ailments, which I’ll share with you now.
7 Thoughts That Block Creativity (And How To Deal With Them)
1. It’s been done before
The amount of times I’ve had a great idea; the one that will be my David; my Bohemian Rhapsody; my… Über.
Only to do some googling and discover: CRAP. lt’s been done before!
You can choose to look at this in one of two ways.
Solution 1: Awesome! Someone’s already validated the idea for me – it must be a good one! Now I just need to do it my way (aka better.)
Solution 2: Wow this person/people is/are doing something really great! I wonder if I can help them. I’ll reach out and see!
Both of these options are likely to result in some positive experience, even if it wasn’t exactly what you had in mind to begin with.
“To be original you don’t have to be first. You just have to be different and better.”
~ Adam Grant, author of Originals
There is enough of the pie to go around.
2. I’m not as good as them
If you took Solution 1 (above), you might have the thought: “I’m not as good as them.” or “I can’t compete with them!”
Whether you see yourself as competitive or not; comparing ourselves to others can be debilitating.
Confession: I actually stopped going to galleries for almost 6 months because I noticed whenever I went to a great exhibition, I would leave feeling a tightness in my chest.
A lump in my throat.
A rock in my belly (not from the gallery cafe cake either.)
It was the feeling that I could never, ever do what these artists, these geniuses, could do.
So I stopped going.
Eventually, I shook myself from this crazy spell: I loved going to exhibitions – nothing was more inspiring on a sleepy Sunday – and I wasn’t going to let my ego stop me.
So I started telling myself this: it’s true, I can’t compete with X.
But I can compete with ME.
And no one does ‘me’ better.
So when comparisonitis strikes (and it can be fatal – especially to creatives) remind yourself of this:
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
~ Dr Seuss
3. I’m not qualified/ I don’t know how to do X
Fantastic! You, my doubting friend are at a great advantage.
Really. Hopefully you won’t have stopped reading because of how patronising that sounds, so I’ll explain why:
1) The sheer fact you know what you don’t know means you’re self-aware and humble. You rock! You’re also instantly more likeable than 99% of the ‘gurus’ and ‘know-it-alls’ out there.
2) You can share your process. People (well, me anyway) love to learn from a story. Seeing someone’s struggle, their journey and ultimately their win is one of the most entertaining things on the internet. Pat Flynn is a great example of this.
3) There is always, ALWAYS, someone who is less qualified, or who knows less than you. Be an inspiration to them. If we left everything up to the ‘pros’ there’d be no Green Day.
4. I don’t want to seem pushy/salesy
Remember you’re not trying to convince everyone to love your work. You’re just trying to find the people who want your work – they just don’t know about you yet.
It takes time – you don’t go up to someone at a bar and propose straight away.
I mean, if Bradley Cooper tried this on me I’d probably agree, but most of us need to woo and be wooed.
If you don’t focus on the selling part, and instead focus on showing what you do, what you love to do, no one will think you’re being gross and pushy.
But if you’re not showing your thing?
You’re not only depriving yourself of a sale or opportunity; but all of these people who want (or will want) what you create.
“The models by which the creators get their work out… is changing”
~ Neil Gaiman
Don’t wait to be ‘discovered.’
5. I don’t have the time
Oh and about that ‘it takes time’ thing – that seems to send a lot of creatives running for the hills. It’s in our nature, often, to be impatient.
Impatience is both one of my greatest weaknesses and greatest strengths.
I use it to push forward, and GTD.
But it also has led me down paths of half-assery (eg. putting work out before I’m happy with it… which again, isn’t always a terrible thing) but worst of all: it can halt me in my tracks altogether.
If something feels like it’s taking too long, and you want to quit, just… don’t.
How can you move things forward? If that seems like a scary solution, that’s probably your next move.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by a big project or end goal: I get chunking.
I smash the big-n-scary thing into manageable chunks ie. tasks, and focus on one of these at a time.
It’s old advice, but it really works, especially if time-management isn’t your strong point.
6. I don’t have the money
Second to time in our limited resources is money.
It’s kind of a given that most creatives struggle with cashflow at some point, especially when starting out.
When I quit my job and decided to try freelancing, I had plenty of weeks (sometimes months) that went by with not even a penny thrown my way.
Over time, I began to trust the universe (warning: ‘woo-woo shit’ ahead) or whatever money gods there are, that something would show up.
Because at the last minute… it always did. As long as I kept putting myself out there, sending the odd nudge email, and playing nice, the money would come.
Ok, that’s great Cat, but I still don’t have enough cash monies to do X, Y, Z.
There are always options. None of them are perfect, but don’t complain to me if you can’t try at least one of them:
Option 1: Ask for help. I know asking is hard, but if what you want is legit enough, there will be someone to support you. (By legit I mean don’t spend friends’ money on booze and new Nikes.)
Option 2: Work more. I used to complain about not being able to get temp work, but looking back I realise how picky I was.
Right now, the amount of VA and creative outsourcing that gets done online is insane. You might need to leave your ego at the door for a while, but the work is out there.
Option 3: If options 1 and 2 don’t appeal enough, you probably don’t want the thing enough. So quit whining and move on to something you do want.
7. I’m scared!
Lack of confidence all stems from fear… Or rejection, failure, disappointing others, or ourselves. These thoughts are all basic fears (that I tackle in my Create With Confidence Challenge)
I’ll admit that this is something that never fully goes away (though, I hear lobotomies help) but you CAN train yourself into pushing through the door that fear is blocking.
A tip for facing a scary task: Use your why.
If Simon Sinek’s name rings a bell, it might be because of his work on the ‘why’: our core motivation behind what we do.
It’s incredibly powerful. I’ve discarded huge projects because my ‘why’ wasn’t there. I’ve also done incredibly scary, risky things because my why drove me forward.
If any of these thoughts had you nodding with “AGH!” / “YAS!” / “The struggle is real” etc, then I’d like to offer you a complimentary 15-minute coaching call with myself.
We’ll delve into any of these thoughts that block creativity, or any additional ones you might be having – I’m all yours!