We all feel paralyzed to create sometimes.
It can attack suddenly: One day you’re zooming along the creative highway throwing out idea after idea and then, without warning, you smash straight into a brick wall.
Or it can creep up on you slowly but surely. Like there’s some sort of parasite feeding on your creativity, making it harder and harder and harder to come up with something—anything.
But not to worry, there are ways to keep that paralysis at bay. If you watch out for all the pitfalls below and follow the advice to get past them, your creativity will have a much better chance to thrive.
01. Monotony: Mix things up
Some bright spark once said that we are the sum of our experiences. The way we think and what we think about is decided by all the things we’ve done and are doing in life.
So it goes without saying that always sitting in the same place, doing the same thing over and over, only ever talking to the same people will keep our minds stuck on the same thoughts and ideas.
To fuel your creativity, go and do things you would never usually do. Even if, or perhaps especially if, they scare you a little bit.
Get out and experience new things, new events, new places, new activities, new people. When it comes to thinking of ideas, you’ll have a much larger library to draw from.
If you avoid getting too comfortable, you’ll always have strange, interesting and exciting things going on around you. Each of these things will inspire you to come up with countless creative ideas in the future.
02. Self-doubt: Believe you can
Thought of a good idea but don’t think you can pull it of? Maybe it’s a little out of your league. Maybe you let someone better try their luck at it.
Don’t be silly. Give it a go anyway. If you don’t attempt something a little out there and a little overwhelming every now and then, your thinking will end up getting stuck around what’s easy. And what’s easy will always be the same stuff.
Just go ahead and bring to life the ideas that come to you. The more challenges you face, the more you’ll have to employ creative thinking to work your way around them, and the more creative you’ll get.
As well as providing new creative avenues of thought, you may also be forced to learn new skills and techniques along the way which will help you think of and complete future creative projects.
So stop doubting yourself and try anyway. Yes, you may hit some difficulties, but overcoming challenges such as these is ultimately what makes you more creative. But if you don’t attempt it, your creativity will just wither.
03. Fear of failure: Do it anyway
What if you’re able to pull off the idea only for it to fail miserably, fall under the radar, or not make enough sales. This one is an absolute creativity-destroying monster. But relax, it can be defeated.
Choose to embrace failure and you’ll be rewarded with a fat bounty of short-term and long-term creative thinking.
It’s natural to shy away from putting yourself out there and subjecting your work to the scrutiny of people. It can be tough to fail in front of an audience but try to put those feelings aside.
The more you tell yourself you can’t do something, the more you believe it and the less you try. Never trying means never learning and never improving, and that damages your creativity considerably.
So what if you don’t think you can do something. Try anyway. What’s the worst that can happen? You can’t do it. And how is that any worse than choosing not to do it in the first place?
Even if you do fail, the journey to that failure will have taught you something that will help you in the future. You may have learned new skills and ideas or you may have met new people you can collaborate with. In other words, every failure is a success.
04. Excuses: Think of reasons you can
Does this sound familiar? You want to create something but maybe you don’t know the right technique to achieve it. Or you’re not sure you want to get into a big project right now. Or you just don’t have time?
Stop. What are you doing? Making excuses to not start something new is like actively refusing inspiration. Don’t think of reasons you can’t do something, think of reasons you can.
I can because I usually have an hour or so every Sunday morning where I don’t really do anything. I can because I can find tutorials to teach me that skill. I can because I know someone who I can work with on this.
05. Secrets: Share your ideas
Hiding all your ideas away may seem like a good way to protect your most precious thoughts, but it can really harm those ideas and harm your creativity, short-term and long-term.
Share your ideas with as many other creative people as you can. And sometimes even non-creative people too. They may be able to add something to them which you can add to which they can add to and so on. You’ll fuel each other’s creativity.
Even if they can’t help, sometimes simply having someone to bounce your ideas off provides you with new ways of thinking about them, giving you more ideas and better ideas.
And go out and collaborate on projects. Find people with different skills to work with and you’ll be able to create all sorts of new things. You’ll learn loads from them too. Their new ideas and new ways of thinking will help your creativity for years.
Keeping your ideas secret may stop them from being copied, but you’ll miss out on so many different ways to make them better and to discover new sources of interesting creativity that will help develop your creative thinking.
06. Apathy: Love what you do
If you’re not working on something you care about then you’ll find it difficult to be creative for it.
It’s like when you care about a person, it’s so much easier to think of gift ideas than doing the same for someone you just don’t give a damn about.
Care about something and you’ll put all your love and passion into it. You’ll push yourself to make it the best it can be. You’ll be happier spending more time thinking about it and looking for solutions to any challenges you’re facing.
Don’t care about something and you’ll want to get it over with fast. You’ll settle for lesser ideas because you’re not excited to think of anything better. In other words, you’ll have little to no motivation to be creative, so you just won’t be.
Always love your work. And if you don’t love it, think about what you can change so that you can love it. If you do, your creativity will come flowing.
07. Ego: Stay humble
So you’re amazing. Good for you, that’s great. In many ways, it’s important to be confident, just try not to get overconfident.
When you become overconfident, you often stop thinking about how to do things differently and better. You stop pushing yourself to go out and learn new skills and experience new ideas. This leads to your creativity becoming a little stagnant, and you might not even realise it.
Stay humble and always remember that you’re never as good as you could be. Always push yourself to be better. And find people who are better than you to give you something to work towards.
By never being 100% happy with where you’re at, you’ll never come off the path to even more creative awesomeness.
08. Lack of focus: Stay on track
Not being clear on what you want to achieve makes it difficult to be creative. No boundaries, no rules, and no goals may sound like creative freedom, but it actually gives your mind too much space to work properly.
Always set goals for individual projects. Deadlines are great for ensuring you get the work done, pressuring you into thinking creatively and not letting you give up. It particularly helps to break the project up into small chunks and set a separate deadline for each.
Also be sure to remember the original motivation for the project. If the idea was to combine traditional French and German culture with patterns and colour then thinking about that will help you move forward at every step.
And set longer-term creative goals in your life too. If you want to be more creative, goals like keeping on top of trends or learning a new design technique every week will help dramatically.
09. Lack of practice: Exercise your creative muscle
When you go too long without doing anything creative, you fall out of practise and it becomes hard to get your mind in gear again.
If you’re not getting the opportunity to be creative, in work or otherwise, then try to create those opportunities to get your creativity flowing.
Set aside a half hour every day and try to come up with new ideas. Maybe you won’t like that many of them, but you’re likely to come up with more gems than if you sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.
Look around you. Every time you come across a problem that you or someone else faces, try and solve it. You could solve them in practical ways or in weird, hilarious ways. Both are creative thinking.
Look at what other creative people are doing. How would you do it better? Or what could you learn from them to inspire a new creative project?
As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” So get out there and force yourself to be creative on a regular basis. You’ll only get better and better at it.
10. Negative people: Surround yourself with positivity
Some people just aren’t conducive to creativity. They’re not necessarily bad people, but they might not be all that creative themselves so they kill your ideas because they don’t understand them or couldn’t pull them off themselves.
If you’re sharing your ideas with someone who’s always a little—or a lot—negative about them, then stop.
Negative people can quash your ideas and make you think they aren’t good enough, or they aren’t achievable. You’ll stop believing in yourself and your creativity will die.
Instead, avoid those people and share your work with the positive ones you know who will only encourage your creativity. The ones who will “Yes, and…” you, help you to develop your ideas and and push you to achieve them.
Of course, a little constructive criticism is always a good thing, just make sure that any criticism that you’re getting is actually constructive.
Now Go, Be Creative
There are many ways to beat the paralysis and increase your creative output—like playing to your personality type. But however much creative mojo you’ve got now, it’s always a good idea to keep each of these 10 factors in mind.
Finding ways to boost that mojo never hurt anyone and you certainly want to protect it if you’ve got it.
If you have any more causes of creativity paralysis in mind and ways on how to defeat them, let’s discuss it in the comments section below.