You know the feeling. There’s a deadline looming, and your mind has gone completely blank. Nothing, nada. It’s like your brain has frozen. Luckily the latest research shows us the most common roadblocks to creativity, and how to move past them and get on with the job.
- Fear of failure
Most people are afraid of failing because they see it as a one-way street to disaster, rejection, and a stain on their reputation forever. Perversely, fear of failure is the mirror image of perfectionism. The idea that nothing you can do will be good enough, and that this failure defines your identity.
Fear of failure means you’re less likely to take risks, and you put off even starting. And those are two things that can kill creativity stone dead. Redefine creativity as a series of experiments, with failure as a kind of course-correction and an inevitable part of the process.
- There’s not enough time
The ticking clock is another creativity killer. If you’re like most people, your schedule is probably crammed, and you feel like you’ll never catch up. If your checklist just keeps growing, you won’t be able to relax in the creative process and let the ideas flow.
A surprising way to find more time is to quarantine some chillout time in your diary. Priorities some downtime to listen to music, meditate, or just sit quietly. You’ll feel much less stressed and open to the creative flow.
- You’re still staring at the screen
Sitting at your desk, staring at the computer or the blank page is not a good way to get creative. If you’ve been trying to write or problem-solve and it’s just not happening, the best thing you can do is go for a walk or make a coffee. Get out of the environment that’s keeping you stuck, get moving, and your mental gears can disengage and relax enough to be ready when inspiration strikes.
- You’re feeling negative
Negative thinking can stop creativity in its track. If you’re sitting there frowning, and thinking you can’t do it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you won’t be able to do it.
Pessimism and negative self-talk set up a vicious cycle of gloom and low energy. Reject that self-defeating attitude and give yourself a pep talk. Reframe your task and just promise yourself you’ll write down whatever comes into your head, just to get the process started. Remember, first drafts are invariably not your best product, because that’s what a first draft is for! You’ve done good work before, you’ll do it again. Tell the muse you’re ready and get writing!
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize?
Can you bribe creativity into making an appearance? The quick answer to this question is always ‘no.’
If creativity were only a matter of incentive and motivation, people would never have a problem coming up with creative ideas at all. There’d simply be one for the cost of a candy bar or a trip to the spa.
Creativity is more complicated. In fact, trying to use incentives to create creative ideas is more likely to turn off the creative juices than on.
Rather than worrying about what you’ll get out of being creative, start looking at the creative act itself as being the reward. When the solution becomes the thing to celebrate, you’ll find it easier to flex those creative muscles and get to where it is you want to go.