Six Saboteurs of Creativity and How to Thwart Them

 Believe it or not, creativity is in all of us. We express creativity daily in the way we do our jobs, care for our children and our homes, and creativity finds its foothold in our dreams.

 But, now and then, we sit at our computer faced with a blank page and the words will not flow. We remove distractions, try to daydream, pace the room, pray for a spark of an idea and, still, nothing comes to mind. Our imagination, originality and inspiration must be in the clutches of evil saboteurs. What other answer could there be? We must find the secret to defeat them, but first we must know them.

 1. Fear of failure or success – Failure in the way of losing interest in or not selling your   work can bring embarrassment, self-incrimination, and regret. Success can also have its downside. Now, second time around, you must be even better or at least as good as the first time. What if you haven’t got another great work in you?

2. Criticism – It can halt your creative flow faster than a slamming door. Well-meaning friends and family, critique groups, and editors are the majority of the culprits, but your inner critic can be far more damaging.

3. Writer’s Block – The inability to compose has plagued writers since the first words were put to papyrus. 

4. Stale Ideas (or none at all) – Not one thought that comes to mind crisps with originality or with any merit at all. Are there any truly original ideas left in the world?

 5. Over-Thinking – This practice puts the logical left side of your brain into overdrive and  can result in creative paralysis. 

6. Solitude – Time alone is beneficial to the creative process. Perpetual aloneness can crimp the flow.

 You recognize these thieves of creativity, don’t you? Knowledge is the key which incites triumph.

  1. Fear of Failure or SuccessGain more knowledge. There may be more you need to learn to finish your WIP. Read Larry Brook’s Story Engineering or another instructional book to brush up on your technique. Get help. Go to a writer’s workshop, consult a trusted professional for advice, or talk with other writers for affirmation that others experience this fear as well. Your inner critic is working overtime and you may believe your inspiration is lost forever. Once you have identified the problem and worked to correct it, give yourself a break. You’ve worked hard to get this far. Take some time to reconnect with loved ones, develop a new pastime, live your life…but don’t think about your writing project. A mental break can be refreshing. Still afraid to move forward? Face the fear. Ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ You’ll be hard-pressed to create a scenario that would cause you to shrivel and never work again. Push through the fear to finish your work or begin your next project. We are far stronger and more capable than we may realize. Just ask any personal fitness trainer.
  1. Criticism – It can cause personal and professional growth, if allowed. Look beyond hurtful words and find the weaknesses you can correct in yourself and your work. Develop a tougher shell. The critique may offer new ideas from which your creativity can blossom again When challenged, you expand your thought process. Resist planning your rebuttal when you should be actively listening and considering the validity of the critique.
  1. Writer’s Block – Look for an inspiring place to sit for a bit. For ten minutes, write about what is going on around you. What do you see, hear, feel, and smell? Use descriptive prose, then read it aloud. Images will come to mind, which may inspire new ideas. Change your venue for daily writing, be it a café, a peaceful park, a room at home with your new favorite music or a comfy place to sit. Discipline yourself to write daily…a blog, a letter, an article, a paragraph…write, write, write.
  1. Stale Ideas – Take an old, well-used idea and analyze it. Use the opposite of this idea to create a new one; combine it with another old idea to create a new scene or motive; exaggerate the idea, make it bigger or more intense; or adapt the idea to a different setting. Watch movies, read books and newspapers for ways to modify the stale idea for your story.
  1. Over-Thinking – Striving for perfection is acceptable. Expecting to achieve it is flawed thinking. Over-thinking freezes up creativity. Free-writing, writing whatever comes to mind without thought of self-editing, can melt that barrier. Just begin, let the words stream onto the page. The time for revision is when you’ve finished your story.
  1. Solitude – Endless confinement in your writing space will eventually dry up your inspiration and imagination. Get out into the world, talk to people, go to a ballgame, join a writer’s circle, play with your kids. Interaction with others enriches your life and potentially creates inspiration. Exercise, sleep, and healthy eating creates the blood flow to the brain necessary to think clearly and create new ideas.

Fight off those would-be saboteurs and keep your creative juices flowing freely. The victory is sweet and the rewards are great.

How do you fight off the creativity saboteurs?

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9 thoughts on “Six Saboteurs of Creativity and How to Thwart Them

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  6. I’m victim of the “over-thinking” sabateur! I try to overcome this through routine. I schedule a certain number of pages to revise, one hour to create (either through brainstorming on a one-page plot or verbally with a buddy), two hours to write new pages. That schedule allows me to avoid most of the pitfalls, since I make myself accountable. I tend to write and create daily, but if I’m in a big funk, I’ll allow myself one or two days off (but no more than four days per month).

    Great post!

    • Thanks, Jolyse, for coming by. i think giving yourself time off is really important. I run dry after a couple of weeks of pushing the word count higher. A day or so away is just what you need to refresh.

    • Thanks for that Pam! This is one topic that many people can write with a differing perspective and still have it make sense for someone.

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