8 Creativity Stifling Habits and How to Overcome Them

8 Creativity Stifling Habits and How to Overcome Them

Reader Comments (210)

  1. I would add “specialization” in work. It’s good to focus, but not too narrowly, if you want to stretch yourself and feel even remotely creative as a business writer. And it’s interesting to look for ways to improve your writing across different media, disciplines, and industries. I feel like my business/technology and nonprofit writing are each improved (at least in small ways) by exposure to the other sector.

    Thanks as always for a helpful, informative post.

    • You know, I was thinking that MY problem is totally the opposite – I am overwhelmed with far TOO many ideas, and I can never seem to realize any of them to perfection – or at least to their best possible conclusion & completion! I need to learn how to focus – I have been better as I’ve gotten older, but I dilettante from idea to idea, and can’t seem to get really “serious” with any one idea long enough to get really, truly, successfully good at it. Much food for thought and thank you!

      • I’m exactly the same, Mary. But one day you will find the one idea/concept that will stick. Mine lies in humanitarian work, something I would have never even suspected a few year ago.

  2. It’s amazing how #6 really will stop you in your tracks, if you let it. Just last night, I was very happy about my latest project, and I let one negative comment about it totally blow an hour of time I had planned to work on it. The key is I let it. The best thing is to take a step back, look at the overall picture (which, in my case, I had received a lot more positive feedback that essentially proved that this one opinion was off-base), and not let critics get to you.

    • Yes Kristi – I have had the same experiences. I remember about a year ago when someone on Reddit.com said “The blog is shit.” It was simple, rude, and not even a thorough critique but I still let it hit me where it hurts.

      I think when it comes to overly critical people (and they are everywhere) we need to know how to go into our creative space where no one can touch us.

      • So true, Steven H.
        I come from a family of overly critical folks and what I have found is that those who are spending a lot of time criticizing are also spending a lot of time not doing anything.
        We have to remember how brave and beautiful it is to create something out of nothing! We are acting not reacting. We are willing to show ourselves, to be seen, and, even, to be critiqued. That certainly takes guts and authenticity.

        • And if you live in the U.S. it’s important to remember, too, that we are trained in our work lives (and in other areas, come to think of it) to always focus in on what’s wrong and what we should do to fix it. We’re constantly seeking out problems and spending our energies trying to fix them. This can train us to hear that one negative comment amidst a sea of positives and we need to work really hard to unlearn that behavior, or replace it with a new one. That’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of Appreciative Inquiry (http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/intro/whatisai.cfm), which focuses on what’s working and how we can do more of it.

      • This is a magnificent page. Thank You all Dean and others, for writing and contributing!

        I have discovered that in the end listening to the intuition is the most important thing of all. If something is poking at you, listen to it. This applies to all areas of life. I think, the more bizarre the message that is coming through to you, the more you should pay attention to it!

        Find the way to get out of the (1) Creating and Evaluating phase. I like to have a book on tape or something going that keeps me from criticizing what I am creating. Something that distracts me enough so I don’t analyze, but not too much distraction. Of course, be careful with this one and excessively distracting things. You will find the best balance for you.

        Think if times where you were in a pure-flow state of creating and try to remember what was happening around you. Sometimes I make great stuff while talking on the phone. I do not focus too much on the drawing, and am still fully present for the person I am talking to. Other times I need absolutely no noise or any distraction.

        A possible way to help ‘the naysayers’ (#6) is to tell them that “this is your path, they may not like it or agree with it, but please respect it. If you can’t say something good, please don’t discuss this with me.”I have found this type of statement to be very effective.

        Sometimes they are worried about you. You can also give them a time limit – this helps you to take action too. Let’s say (only if you feel comfortable with this) “I request that you give me five years to accomplish this dream. In that time, fully support me. If I don’t make it in the 5 years, I will look for truly new roads toward the dream or find a new dream to pursue.”

        Regarding 2, definitely, always question everything. Question yourself. Ask others. Find where you feel comfortable. For example: the typical current mainstream version of American success is not something I agree with at all, because I see it as hurtful to the earth. What really is success, and what is YOUR personal sacred special vision of success?

        Sending Whispering winds of Wonderment your way today…
        Christine Marsh

        • “Find the way to get out of the (1) Creating and Evaluating phase. I like to have a book on tape or something going that keeps me from criticizing what I am creating. Something that distracts me enough so I don’t analyze, but not too much distraction. Of course, be careful with this one and excessively distracting things. You will find the best balance for you.”

          You’re right Christine! Listening to music, usually classical or opera, helps turn my evaluating side off.

        • “Listening to intuition” is great and I agree with you totally, Christine.

          There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there about listening to and trusting your gut intuition – look up Emotional Intelligence and Multiple Intelligences. You’ll never doubt your gut again! 🙂

    • I feel for you Kristi… I like the saying success takes a lot of little no’s and one big YES! I try to look at negative comments as positives, if you have a GREAT and INNOVATIVE idea it shouldn’t appeal to everyone. Change is scary and most tend to reject it, so a negative critique could mean your on the right track. Another thing I try to keep in mind, that when we are putting all that time and emotional labor into a project in order to make it a success it’s easy to stop looking at it objectively. A negative comment could be just the thing you need to take a step back and look at it from a logical and objective view point. As always when we are talking about our passions and the things that matter most to us logic is easier said than done… BEST OF LUCK TO YOU AND KEEP THAT TOURCH BURNING!

    • Kristi, It’s completely true, we often let the negative comments (no matter how slight they may be) overshadow all of the positive feedback that we receive! Often I I find myself brooding over the one negative thing that happened in a week full of wonderful & positive feedback! Sometimes the only one holding us back is ourselves!

    • I was simply searching for tips on writing a good headline, and now I find myself stuck on this site for the past 2 hours. Great, great stuff here.

      Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Twitter, facebook… they all have millions and millions of critics. We may not appreciate all of their contributions, but I’m grateful they didn’t let the critics stop them.

      I have to admit having a tough time dislodging that monkey (critic) from my back. Maybe I need to concentrate on being the creative force and find someone to manage the feedback.

  3. Great post Dean..

    I especially agree with the point that “Every Path To Success Is Different” – In the beginning, you sort of get the feeling that you NEED to follow what the “gurus” are telling you to do, when in reality you should be MODELING what they’re doing and putting your own style and personality into it..

    It’s what I’ve been doing and it’s working really well for me..

    thanks for this great article..

  4. I would add “Starving yourself.” (Metaphorically, of course.) Making a conscious effort to feed your creative being — through creative ventures like live music, photography exhibits, museums, art shows, theatre, etc. — seems to open the floodgates of creativity. Nothing saps creative juices more than the same four walls, day after day.

    • I’ve been brought up to feel that anything that feeds creativity is at best self indulgent, and at worst a waste of time, I’m certain you’re right, but unfortunately live music events and exhibitions are rare in rural France, where I live! I feed my creativity in other ways, such as reading a wide variety of fiction, and walking my dog through the woods close to where I live, bliss!

    • yes this is very very true. creativity is EVERYWHERE especially in the entertainment world. music can take me to a special place as soon as it comes on. nothing like it.

  5. Great post Dean. I especially like number 1, I am often guilty of this. Being able to separate creation from evaluation can be tough sometimes. I do this mostly when writing, I edit and scrap so much that I shouldn’t. I have learned to start mind mapping more and just throw things up in all of the sections, then go and read and edit later.


  6. Thanks for the great article, Dean. I also think that it’s easier to be creative when you adopt a playful attitude towards what you’re doing or a little friendly competition. For example, you might come up with a conventional soliution to a problem, then invite a friend to see how many unconventional and crazy ways do the same thing, trying to outdo each other. It’s amazing what can come out of these discussions.

  7. You forgot to add falling into a routine to this list-although I guess that technically might fall under self imposed limits. Hmmm…The point is, when you get used to doing something the same way day after day, that not only trains your brain to think in those pathways but also leaves you feeling foggy when you try to break free of those pathways and think outside the box. As a matter of fact, it leaves you feeling foggy all the way around. Try not to let routine become the foundation on which your day turns.

    • Renee

      I’m very new to blogging and writing, but when I was writing articles at $2 each, I found that I was most creative early in the morning, so I started researching articles in the afternoon when I was less creative, reading the research right before I went to sleep and trying to come up with just the opening sentence before I nodded off. In this way, I could hit the ground running in the early morning and I found that I produced much better work. Without this “routine” I found it very difficult to produce anything at all! It goes to show that we’re all different!

  8. Dean:

    This is a great list of bad habits.

    I hear from many newbie bloggers that #3-Fear of failure and #7-Being overwhelmed by information and the biggest reasons that stiffle success. I am constantly hearing newbie bloggers voice their concern about information overload. So many of them never really get off the ground because they are continuely buying the “latest and greatest” products that they get so confused they lose their hope and desire of of making money online and give up.

    People need to just start and take action. We are all going to make mistakes in our efforts but that is how we can learn faster and make bigger strides to becoming successful.

    – Rick

  9. Great list Dean!

    The one that seemed to bog me down for awhile was information overload. I jumped in and tried to learn and do everything all at once, and learned the hard way that it just wasn’t smart.

    The great thing about your list is that it applies in so many areas of life. Many valuable points!


  10. Loved this article Dean. I can see myself falling down at #1 – too quick to jump from creation to evaluation. I’m ragged at the first stage, then start tweaking my way to a polished result. As my skills build, the beginning is less ragged and the tweaks are fewer.

    Joe 😀

  11. Excellent post! As a new blogger, I am constantly battling with information overload, and this is the first place I’ve seen that actually attaches a definition to it.

    Also, I like how the “don’t be afraid to make mistakes” is threaded into many of your points, instead of just one. I think this is a major point to remember, and one that I have to remind myself of daily. I like to think of mistakes as “for every mistake you make, you make one step closer to skill.”

    Thanks for the informative and beneficial post.

  12. This post is so great I’m printing it out to reread when I start feeling down on myself. I think I am susceptible to all 8 of these stumbling blocks. It’s no wonder I never get anything done and when I do that I rarely feel good about it for long. It’s comforting to know that these are common enemies.
    Thanks so much!

  13. Dean,

    This is an awesome post. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit we’ve all had one or more or these habits at some point in time. I certainly can identify with more than one. However, initially, the one that held me back the most was fear of failure. I mean, it literally had me paralyzed.

    I had to realize as you said that avoiding failure is also avoiding success and that fear is always present when you’re growing. Everything you want in life will always be just outside your comfort zone.

    Thanks for this amazing article. It’s definitely bookmarked.
    ~Fontella Williams

  14. A 120 IQ is not “slightly more than average.” (I insert here the usual disclaimers about what IQ actually means and the fact that different tests yield different numbers.) Assuming you accept the IQ construct, a person with a 120 IQ is significantly brighter than average.

    When this came out in creativity research, the importance of the finding was not that “anyone” or “average people” can be creative. It was that “creativity” as a construct did not seem to have a direct or linear relationship to “intelligence” as a construct. Contrary to what this article implies, the finding also supported the notion that there exists a floor of “intelligence” that is required before you see “creativity.”

  15. I was going to make the same point as Barbara about IQ. But she did it better than me. 🙂 Everything else on this list however is great! Really liked it. Thanks for posting.

  16. Personally I feel that my creativity is most affected by contentment, or not stepping out of the comfort zone. It is too easy to settle into a familiar framework and push your aspirations to another day. Admittedly, this probably has something to do with a fear of failure, too. It makes me think of a quote from a few years ago, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” That is inspiring to me.

  17. Fear of success is what slows down my creativity. I go through the “what if it works?” as if I’m not ready. The problem of having too many doors open at once stops me in my tracks. All this causes me to create in a narrow lane when I could have the whole highway. So, if I run you over, you’ll know I beat this one. 🙂

  18. I have to say, I agree with most of this list! When it comes to creating content, sometimes I become overwhelmed and end up over-thinking the situation. I can definitely related to the “fear of failure” point.. sometimes, I get inside my own head!

  19. Great list. My biggest issue isn’t fear, discouragement, or confidence it’s definitely “analysis paralysis.” I am an idea guy so I can often over think and over complicate things. Not to mention there is so much info available these days.

    I am working on a project now and I have to keep telling myself “keep it simple Devin” 🙂

  20. Hi Dean, you really hit the mark on all of the 8 bad habits you mentioned. I realized also that the internet offers a lot of information and one could not help but be overwhelmed. Then I realized that not all information that comes out I should give attention to but I must sift the most important and applicable to me and act on it. Procrastination is failure’s friend and indeed when one develops the habit of giving attention to what is beneficial and doing something about it would certainly lead a person to success. Thank you for sharing these post.

  21. Separating creating and evaluating is huge. I’ve learned that I even need to have things as simple as different space and times of day for each so I don’t crush the creative moment with the reality of evaluating.

    Thanks for the ideas!

  22. Great post Dean,

    “Instead of dividing the world into the possible and impossible, divide it into what you’ve tried and what you haven’t tried.” – that is a quote to put up in my office!

    I often find, in my own mind, that the people factor is often imagined – we are worried about what we think people think – often without much basis.

    I really enjoyed reading this post, there is so much there that is relevant to me. Thanks.

  23. Dean,
    Great article! I have seen myself in these traps many times…and as a web developer…over thinking is a big one. One thing I noticed… When I read T. Boone Pickens jr. Biograpy I believe his quote was… you are never really ready so it’s …AIM… Fire…Ready… and to go for it! Definitely worth retweeting. Cheers. Charles

  24. A great list that applies to more than just writing. Any skill develops as a matter of practice, reflection, experimentation and learning as that cycle continues.

    Other barriers you can add to the list —
    – All or none thinking: as if the perfect idea has to come all at once. Some of my best ideas incubate over time, and continue to evolve
    – Procrastination: waiting for the perfect time; every writer has discovered that there is a discipline to the craft; you don’t have to always like writing, but you need to keep at it while you discover your own voice, and how to best elicit your thoughts into the format you share with others
    – Taking it all too seriously: akin to being playful; nothing kills the creative spirit like losing your sense of humor.

    Thanks all for the many comments following the post as well — lots of great ideas!

  25. I really like points 3 (fear of failure) and 7 (being overwhelmed by information). There are many of times I didn’t do something because I was afraid of failing, but then by not doing anything I failed to make anything happen. It’s important to realize that mistakes are not the problem; not learning from them is. It’s more important to do something, fail, and then learn from the mistakes. Also, many times I’ve had ideas but didn’t get started because my plan wasn’t completely thought out. Instead, I’ve learned to just get started and let the information fall into place. Waiting for more and more information will delay the start and can derail a project.

    Dean, thanks for the post!


  26. Dean, this is a fabulous article.

    I used to say there’s no such thing as too much information. Now I know there is. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it can be so overwhelming because you can get trapped in the never-ending cycle of thinking you don’t know enough to start DOING.

    That’s where I am. And what I’m trying to start DOING 🙂

  27. Number 8 reminds me of something taught at a seminar I went to:
    Don’t try to think outside the box. There is no box.
    Thanks for the many reminders in this post.

  28. Great list! I have probably experienced all of these and at times all at the same time…. whew!

    The biggest solution for me has been focusing on and strengthening my own self belief.

    When you get this sorted, you don’t let doubts, the opinions of others, no focus, fears or anything else stand in the way of expressing who you are through your work.

    We are all incredibly powerful and creative beings. Once we can connect with this, one finds joy, simply in the act of creating without needing to have one’s work validated by anybody else.


  29. Great post!

    To a large degree, fear of failure and lack of confidence spin a vast waste land of non-thinkers and non-creators in our world. We were created to be risk takers and trail blazers going forth with confidence and with courage.

    Whether we have bought in to the lies of society or those we “create” in our own minds and with our own thoughts it needs to come to a halt.

    Every man and woman who lives on this earth was created by a creative CREATOR and therefore have a lot more going on upstairs in our brains than allow ourselves to believe.

    Cast out doubt and disbelief! We are all qualified to one degree or another!

    Thank you, Dean.

  30. Thank you for wise and helpful words,
    Press onward mankind and the world will open a path before you!
    Sit and wait for something to happen and you will grow old and stiff swiftly!
    Face what come when it comes – press on!

  31. It’s quite funny that I and all people I know, at one point or another, have all of these weaknesses. I think we are inclined to feel these way towards everything that we do. So we have to fight back these inferior feelings to work one step at a time toward the things that we want to achieve. It’s an everyday and every-minute battle. As I’m writing this comment, I still have to battle whether or not I should click that “post comment” or discard what I have typed. Nevertheless, I decided to click that button and that’s why you are reading what I have to say now. See, I had practice in these kinds of things and it get easier over time to not feel inadequate about one’s works and self.

  32. Very good advice all around. i think #1 hits the key though: creativity is a constant struggle between our imaginative mind and our rational one.

  33. Two things:

    Wow. Two (you would think) obvious concepts, put a different way, and suddenly clear as crystal. Thank you! I am energized, motivated, all those good buzz words. Seriously, thank you.

  34. “It has been said that to increase your success rate, you should aim to make more mistakes.”

    For some reason this statement really resonated with me. I think too often we trick ourselves into believing that confidence utilized is potential perfection everytime.

    From now on I will go back to the basics – making mistakes, getting messy and learning along the way. Thanks 😀

  35. I love the example here of Babe Ruth–He illustrates perfectly why we need to let ourselves take risks, and accept failures. On top of that, analysis paralysis is something I’m very prone to, as a compulsive perfectionist and learner. Thanks for pointing out these issues. Now that I’ve recognized them, I can combat them to be more effective.

  36. There are so many critics out there- I believe that what you guys are trying to convey is spot on. If the general public could see it from both sides of the coin we would all be better off.

  37. I would add desire to fit in and not standout to the list. Many people fear being different and would rather be comfortable then dare to do something different. This may result from some of the factors you list above such as a lack of confidence or fear of failure.

    Also always thinking but never just doing it also seems to be a big obstacle to overcome.

  38. My favorite is #7 – Being overwhelmed by information. And you’re absolutely right, we need to know when to stop analyzing and start implementing. I learned this a few months ago and noticed a HUGE change in my personal results.

    Thanks for the great tidbits Dean!

    Pablo Gonzalez

  39. Thats a great article, very amusing and yet right on the money! people are afraid to step out of their comfort zone and yet most peoples comfort zone is the most uncomfortable place to be! Fear of failure I believe is the biggest factor holding people back, the best quote I heard is “FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real”
    Most people who choose the path least traveled will fail their way to success! Step out and Learn something new everyday.

    best regards Steve

  40. My biggest mental roadblock is trying to immulate someone else. This is a combination of several of these habits. This comes from being enamored with the experts in my field, as well as a lack of confidence. When I get stuck, I review my areas of passions and intersts. While I may not be the best at a given niche. I am alwasy the best of being me.

  41. My favorite one is #1. Being creative and analytical at the same time is an easy trap to fall into. As silly as an idea may be at the time, just let it pour out onto the paper and reflect on it later. It could lead to that “ah ha!” moment.

    Great post. Really got me thinking about how I can work on my own creative process.

  42. the article was highly motivating, i got enough courage and got my lost confidence back but I’m still afflicted with self doubt…my biggest trouble is that I feel I’m not writing well and people won’t like it, and at other times I feel even a school boy writes better than me. This disappoints me though some of the things I’ve written are really good and some of them were also appreciated by my friends and others. What should I do to overcome my fear? My vocabulary is also not very good. Earlier i used to spend a lot of time on dictionaries but people say that it’ll make my writing appear frail as in the mean while I’ll lose the train of thoughts and this will make the write up only verbose . . . what should I do?

    • Hi Keya,
      If I was Yoda then I’d tell you to relax and feel the force. I’m not Yoda so instead I’ll just say calm down. Your writing isn’t on the Booker short list this year and the world isn’t watching to see you make a mistake. Try to enjoy it more and if you want to improve your vocabulary then read more from different sources and give yourself time to get comfortable with new language. Also, much of writing is rewriting, it’ll never be perfect first time but just chill out, put it to one side and then come back to it when you feel up to editing.
      Sorry Dean, I just stopped by to say ‘great post!’ and got distracted. Number six is my bugbear but now I just stick my tongue out at anyone who says I can’t. 🙂

        • Hi Keya! Jax makes a lot of good points in his post. When I am writing major pieces I write and let it rest, then edit and let it rest until I am comfortable with posting it. To get a little more confidence, you might want to comment on posts from other people. Write short commentary posts on topics of your interest. The great thing about today is that blog posts don’t have to be as long or developed as the traditional essay. Write until you are comfortable with your voice, then you will find your audience.

          • Hi Dan,
            Thanks for saying that I make a good point although I will add that I’m a girl 🙂
            Hi Keya,
            It’s way too cheeky to put this on Copyblogger but you can wander over to my new blog and mention in the comments what you feel is letting you down in your writing. I’ll do my best to put some posts together to help you. I only thought of this as I had a comment last night asking me to explain the semi-colon. I’m biting my lip right now in case Dean sends me an email to stop plugging my blog in his comments. I’m sorry!!

      • ohh so sweet of you I’ll definitely go to your blog and put on my questions…so nice of you…thank you so much…

  43. I am afflicted by several of these habits though I try some or the other remedy , one of which is reading great posts on Copyblogger now and then. That works for me most of the time.
    Thanks Dean for a thought provoking post.
    Thanks to the Copyblogger team for inspiring budding writers like me to keep on and not give up.

  44. Creating and Evaluating is an important issue, and so is Evaluating and Creating.

    When we evaluate and discover something is deficient in some way that realization stimulates creativity. Of course, we have to stand up to the problem and see it clearly, i.e. not get crushed by it, and then create a solution.

    So many of my creative projects tha work out successfully began as a problem solving challenge!

    Joanna Poppink, MFT
    Los Angeles psychotherapist
    author: Healing Your Hungry Heart

  45. I think in the beginning, bloggers are inflicted with the discouragement from others and information overload.

    Wait! I still have information overload!

    I teach journal writing, and I think sometimes trying to create on the computer can be stifling, at least if you don’t type very well, like me.

    Try Freewriting thoughts on paper first, then copying it to the computer, then expand upon the idea, edit and publish.

    Freewriting allows you to access info form your subconscious mind and outsmart writers block. The faster you write, without really thinking about it, the better.

    Oftentimes you will find ideas for several posts from one freewriting session.

  46. The sometimes stifling challenge is at the forefront of my mind constantly, is accepting the fact that I am not my customer. In fact polls say that 94 percent of individuals deciding on interior design and décor of the home are female and a further 80 percent are in the ‘baby boomer’ age group. This puts me at an immediate disadvantage, being a 29 year old male. This realization has led to an exercise in remaining open to things that I may not see the appeal in immediately but need to follow through with in the process of remaining diverse and the acceptance of all the individual tastes throughout the spectrum.

  47. And then of course there is the ever-present temptation to give in to diversion, especially when we get stuck. My solution is just to keep writing, knowing I’m going to throw it out, until potentially usable ideas start flowing again. If I’m more seriously stuck I make bread — a wonderfully centering activity.

    • Make bread – go garden – diversions are great. This is a way to distance from a problem and let the subconscious take over and show new ways to make something work.
      Great list, by the way. I’m pretty sure I’ve succumbed to all of them at one time or another, but #5 and #8 resonate the most.

  48. Great article and arriving at a very important time for me! Being unemployed since last year has crushed me partially, but the uncrushed part is growing stronger by the day! Thank you Dean!!! I’ll continue to: “Infuse Social Media with Spiritual Chocolate”. Monique

  49. Oh, I receive kudos about catching copy and creative ideas, but it is hard to find work because of the main emphasis on software programs. I can draw by hand but that’s not an art anymore, drawing on a computer is. But I like my hand-drawn graphic style, not the flatness of a computer. The brain to hand connection is more creative for me, and though I resist becoming an expert at Illustrator, why do I need to?

    Same with writing. Having freelance experience, now, it is about what programs you know. I don’t do webdesign, I am not a programmer, I am not an expert at Dreamweaver or CMS.

    Being creative is a bubble, being an idea person, the same sentinel, and yet, those who have mastered software programs seem to reign supreme.

    My resume is out there, I had one gig this year creatively, but nothing long term. One just cannot throw oneself into the sea of technically savvy people and survive as a creative or concepting entity.

    I suppose I understand employers wanting the whole package, but there was a time when someone got out the luncheon napkin and scribbled ideas for the next great commercial or ad.

  50. Great post. Just what the doctor ordered. There are a few folks on here pointing out the numbers about IQ, and it’s really pretty humorous. Did you not read the part about negativity? If you have to look for a flaw in everything, you will probably never be successful, not only in business, but with how you feel in your own skin. It’s important to notice that people are recieving good, positive feelings from this post and those “I’m smart and have to point out a mistake” comments almost stop the vibe in its tracks. Relax, take this for what it is, a very good thing.

    • It’s not negativity. It is the real world. Employers don’t want to pay for “Creativity”. They don’t want the hatched egg; they want the egg factory. It doesn’t matter how I feel about myself, what matters is if I have a marketable skill.

      I don’t think I am smarter than others, I am simply relating what I see out there. Many on here are mid-level career folk, as opposed to me, who works a day job in medicine to support myself. I feel very good about the work I do there, but I have this huge creative need to fill. I am a confident person, but confidence will buy you a cup of coffee with someone. My job is akin to something like House, very pressuring and draining, and yet, being creative energizes me.

      Being successful in business takes much more than a good attitude or confidence. It means understanding how business works and being able to generate more business.

      The comment post says “Speak Your Mind” and I am very honest about what I see. By the way, I do have a high IQ, but I think my creativity trumps that every time. Being creative is more than being smart.

      Anymore, when someone is about reality and truth, someone has to shoot them down as negative, and heck, sometimes, it is what it is.

      I would rather be around ten Van Goghs or Da Vincis than one-hundred Pollyannas. My goal isn’t to “feel good”; I want to create new things like discovering new stars. Or maybe galaxies through the looking glass.

      • Hi Debbie, I give my two thumbs up to your comment. No one, not an a word of negative comment can stop someone who is out to excel in his/her creative sense. However, I consider that a big part of creativity is seeing all sides (top, side, under, birds-eye-view, skydiver’s view, etc.) because seeing creativity on one perspective is not at all being creative. What I mean is, I see creativity even to those who do nothing and live a life as simple as a one-celled being. Of course, some people who are in the mainstream or ex-stream (extreme) life level, the achievers, would see this as slothful life, unproductive life, and many other descriptions. Have we ever realized the satisfaction that a simple life could give? The analogy is simply this, big buttons need big button holes. When life is as simple as living like a small button then all you need is a very small button hole to fit into. There are people who would scrimmage for accomplishments, harnessing all their creativity to earn big business because they are pursuing a more than simple life. That’s why I admire the artists who are there for creativity sake and not minding whether they earn big or not. They are happy and satisfied to just create and remained their simple selves. Figuratively, discovering new stars and galaxies are great ventures which anyone would enjoy but try to consider this, where does man’s good feeling rest? To the infinite galaxies or the finite earth? Cheers!

  51. Great list, I could identify with most of them, I especially love 7 and 8.

    I have several blogs and this week I have not updated them as I could not think of anything to write, now it is not that I could not think of anything to write. The problem was the ideas could not be heard above the din from all the guru advice crashing against each other in my brain.

    I normally find getting away from the pc or the office for even 5 minutes will let one idea float to the surface, not been able to do it this week though, as deadlines approaching.

    When I feel scared or uncomfortable I know I am on the right track and try to push through it and the results are worth the small period of fear.

  52. Hello Debbie,

    I feel I have fallen victim to number 2 far too often than makes me comfortable. I often feel I am tilting between being shrewd and being paranoid that everyone has an ulterior motive.

    Anyway, great article.


  53. Same for me. A lot of people think if something worked for them, it should work for you. The “one size fits all thing”.

    I guess for those of us who don’t have anything coming down the pipeline right now, it is a different story.

    I need a gig.

  54. Dean, this post really hit close to home because I’ve been (and often still am) guilty of all eight of those bad habits. And there’s yet still another bad habit I find myself falling prey to: Comparing myself to others whose success I imagine I’ll never attain (which is really an offshoot of Number 5–Lack of Confidence).

    Of course, it’s easy to forget that the successful writers whom I compare myself to very likely suffered the same frustrations and doubts that I do, but because they persevered their talent and hard work eventually took them to the top. In addition, focusing on others just keeps you from focusing on yourself and how you can improve, which is a convenient way to avoid the inevitable struggle.

    Thanks for the reminder (and subtle kick in the pants!) that I know I and I’m sure many others needed to hear.

    – Peter Scallion

  55. Great post and you have brought up some really interesting facts and tips on how to get those creative juices flowing. I agree that having confidence in your ability is a key to successful writing in any form and if you have belief in yourself and what you are marketing the likelihood is that you find yourself being more creative.

  56. Dean

    I like this a lot. Here are two other things that tend to crush creativity.

    1. Waiting for it to magically arrive – it seldom does. Sometimes slaving away when you least feel like it, suddenly produces the unexpected gem.

    2. Forcing yourself to be creative – give yourself time to explore ideas. As you say re Bad Habit 1 – Evaluate.

    Interestingly, I came across this great quote today by George Lois (who he?):

    “Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.


  57. re: Don’t be afraid of failure.

    I completely agree with this. The best copy is always a few shades away from being a complete disaster. The sweet spot for those immaculate ideas is so small that you’re bound to fail in your pursuit of them.

    As the great David St. Hubbins once said: There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.

  58. I read Sonia’s blogs like I am eating up fine chocolates.
    Oh yes, I DO think some are a different species than me, because they are successful!

    But I am my worst critic, whether with art, writing, or music. I find it hard to stand back and be objective about my creations.

    I think songwriting is the next level of writing. Just my opinion. I wondered if anyone else is into this.

  59. 8. Being trapped by false limits
    Usually we create those limits ourselves. For instance, “My computer is old and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles like others I compete with…” Well, even if you only possess one half of a dictionary – if you learn every definition in it – you will still blow most everyone else out of the water with your expertise. Many great paintings were made with five or fewer colors (straight out of the tube) – with the knowledge of blending – you can paint with even fewer colors, and most observers could never guess. It is not your tools that bind you – only the lie that your imagination is limited by them…

  60. So if one thinks they are good, but can get very little work, should one think they are not talented? Or, is this still about the connections and hiring of friends over creativity? Gee, I wrote that without getting Housey about it.

  61. Great list
    Each item by itself is enough to stifle but when it is a little of this and a little of that it is less obvious but no less potent. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is so important


  62. None of the above 🙂

    What stops me is to know that, in order to communicate with most people, I either have to tell a story, be touching feely, talk details at length or blurt out examples/testimonials over and over.

    If there were more people as intuitive and as abstract as me around I wouldn’t feel that unsure about what to do next!

  63. These were really good. Success does have its own road and many times it will not make sense. We try to force things and just need to allow them to naturally occur. One to take home though, was the one about creating ideas and evaluating them. Many times we create and automatically start determing why it would or would not work, but I never really thought about it until reading it here. These do need to be consciously performed separately to allow for the full benefit of both activities.

  64. really great post!

    just a question. under: “5. Lack of confidence

    A certain level of uncertainly accompanies every creative act. A small measure of self-doubt is healthy.”

    is that spelling error meant to be like that. kinda seems better tho…

      • glad i could contribute in some way. Not dissapointed, however, i thought is was appropriate given that had you meant to do that it would have required confidence, would have been creative, and it raised a little self-doubt 🙂

  65. Thanks for this useful post. I find that the more action you take, the more creative you get. The less you do, the less creative you get.

    Action is the key to creativity for me and also the key to success.

  66. Really motivating article.
    Especially I liked points 1 , 3 4 , 8.
    I tend to judge my ideas a lot at times, and that kills the creation part.
    Overcoming one’s fears, begin open to new ideas, thinking beyond one’s comfort zone are some of the things i strongly want to imbibe.



  67. “It’s wise to listen, but unwise to follow without question.” — I totally agree with this!

    This is a great list Dean, you really got me thinking and reflecting on my own mistakes. Good thing there’s always room to grow and learn from our mistakes!

  68. Wow, that is very informative and thought provoking.
    I have often wondered about the bad habits i have which limit me from being creative. I am rather abashed to admit that I am a victim of most of those points you mentioned, though lack of confidence is a big one. I guess that living every day in constant fear isnt helping either.

  69. Encouraging! Several good points shared, but I would be remiss if I did not express my disappointment that the article omits the supernatural. The power of God can override the greatest of our intentions and can bring about hidden potential like no other resource in the universe.

    • Free will is God’s greatest expression of creativity in man. Going through the list I noticed that the common thread among the 8 bad habits is the envelopment (or bondage) of some factors that restrict creativity and success. It’s on how we exercise that free will that we capture the beauty of God.

  70. excellent and extremely true-to-life. i think every element of what’s been causing me to sputter is covered here and it’s good to see it in print- this is a re-reader.

  71. I found the link through Facebook. I read this article from the title up to the last sentence and I really learned a lot. In fact, I shared your link via FB too and will probably link you back in my blogs. I like the sensible tips and for sure, I can apply them in my everyday life. Good job!

  72. My bad habit is more: When I start a project, at least three ideas come to my mind for three other different projects and generally not relative at all with the project I was working on. Then I forgot what I wanted to do, so I start one of these new projects, then new ideas…

    I started a lot and a lot of things but rarely finished one.

  73. Tweeted this article & posted on my facebook page. Really an inspiring article. Would like to post a link on my company’s website… do I need special permission?

  74. Wow what a great article. I think you’re basic message is that dreams are possible if you allow them to happen. Too many people create barriers that only exist in their minds. If you remove those barriers, your potential increases exponentially.

  75. I would add being overwhelmed by ideas. I have so many ideas flying around in my head, I start on one but then another starts demanding attention so I quit what I am doing and start the new one….being ADHD is hell…..


  76. The biggest barrier for my creativity is my self esteem. If I’m beating myself up about something, that’s when I’m the least creative. It’s almost like my creativity is directly tied to my confidence in trying something.

  77. As I was reading this article, I found I just kept nodding and saying “Yes! I deal with this, and this, and this!”

    For some reason, when it is stated in a formal list that encourages you to break from these habits and just enjoy being creative and making wonderful things; it seems doable.

    Thanks for putting a mirror in front of me and helping me realize these are habits, and I have the power to change them.

  78. Until the last couple of years, I never thought of myself as creative. I had to deal with the being overly critical and over thinking it. Because it was new, there was definitely a lack of confidence and fear. I think that as I create more and become more comfortable, those barriers disappear.

  79. My greatest barrier to creativity is having too many ideas in my head buzzing around all at once, often on completely unrelated subjects. I used to get really stressed about it. Now I work a lot with spidergrams so I can get down ideas as they pop into my head, rather than trying to hold onto them and this allows me to concentrate on one project at a time. However, i rotate what I’m doing every 20 minutes as I find this a good technique for staying focussed and achieving a lot of work

  80. This is such an interesting post! I am glad to find out that creativity is not related to intelligence. There is hope for me yet!! Habits can be learned and I am now on the road to learning how to be creative. Thanks!

  81. I absolutely LOVE #6. It is so very true everyone has opinions about your creativity and what will work and what will not work.

    Like so many, I’ve experienced it 1st hand. However, I just had to stay true to myself otherwise I was not paying homage to the creativity that lives inside me. …so funny, I just wrote about this very topic last night — “Metallica and MerCurios – what they have in common”.

    My feelings, as always – Stay True to YOU and the world will eventually catch up.


  82. One of the best articles that I’ve ever read in my life time. Great for thinkers. This article itself is a motivational and encouragement tool. It could easily prepare anyone to act upon their ideas and taste success. Excellent!

  83. Number 8 is very true. I never thought of it that way. Growing up I was always very creative, but as I got older and felt bound by more and more limitations, my creative has dwindled. I have to focus on stepping outside of my comfort zone. False limitations are created every day by anyone from fellow bloggers to our own beliefs.

  84. Great stuff here, and I’ve already shared with my Director (of Communications and Creative Services). Our team is always looking for ways both individually, and as a group, to keep our creative juices flowing while also remaining as productive as we need to be.

  85. I found this post to be very thoughtful. You do have to shoot for the stars and forget what any guru tells you will or won’t work. Go big or go home just like Babe Ruth. Following the same path as everyone else will just get you to a
    “standard” level of success, not the stars, moon and sky.

  86. Good ideas but I can’t quite understand what seems to be a bit of non-logic in the first few sentences.

    I can accept that once you get beyond an IQ of 120 then intelligence and creativity are not at all related. But I don’t agree that “That means that even if you’re no smarter than most people, you still have the potential to wield amazing creative powers”. Doesn’t it mean that if you are no smarter than most people i.e. have an IQ of less than 120, then we don’t know if there is a correlation between intelligence and creativity? Or at least the author hasn’t reported it. Whatever the research suggests, the second sentence about ordinary people and creativity doesn’t necessarily follow from the first sentence about IQ (which may or may not be intelligence) and creativity.

    Personally, I think everyone has the potential to be creative, but I also think that business bloggers/coaches should check the logic of their prose.

  87. Great post, I’m guilty of several of these bad habits. I would also add procrastination to the list. After years of practice, I’d say I’m an expert procrastinator. So, good, that I do it without thinking. A very bad habit in deed!

  88. This is the best post I have read of all the blogs that I read daily. I am not only guilty of many of these habits, I surround myself with others that are. I am inspired by your post and will refer back to it often.

  89. I am an idea guy, so I tend to over think and complicate everything. Trick is to start off simple. People like simple, because it’s easy. Surely listen to the pros, but try to put your own spin on things.

  90. It’s amazing how your physical environment can really effect your mental creativity. There’s really a lot to be said for typical creative artists space as opposed to a drab office full of cubicles and dim florescent light.

    I suppose I’d recommend figuring out what physical space offers you the best opportunity to come up with great ideas and spend your brainstorming time there. Maybe it’s a tranquil zen garden or perhaps for others it’s the center of a thriving metropolis where the energy is contagious.

  91. I have been in the hospital for a while and missed Copyblogger. I’m glad to be back at the keyboard.

    Dean, you make some great points. I was especially taken with the fear of ambiguity. That’s an area I need to work on. I’m sort of a perfectionist. I don’t let the dogs loose to run and play often enough, in my mind.

    Thanks for the post. I’m going to work on free association more and see if I can tie it into my quest to do everything right.

    Steve Benedict

  92. Dean Rieck,
    A wonderful, highly informative and inspirational post! While reading, I was nodding several times. I liked all the points and some powerful quotations. One of them is ”Instead of dividing the world into the possible and impossible, divide it into what you’ve tried and what you haven’t tried.” I am going to use this quote again! (will it be a subject to copyright?!) I should rethink about my plan strategy.
    Thank you very much.

  93. Really enjoyed your post Dean.

    Regarding the point that “every path to success is different” – without doubt I agree with you. At first, you feel that you must follow what the “gurus” or “experts” are telling you to do, when really what you should be doing is modelling them, but apply your own style to it.

    It’s what I do and I have to say it seems to be working ok for me – so far, at least.

  94. You often see articles that discuss the ways to “make it big” or “secrets to success” and often times they are about as helpful as you dog is when you’re moving apartments. implying dogs have don’t have thumbs and no real marketable skills. It’s refreshing to see an article taking the opposite approach and examines the follies we run into on our road to success. It’s one of those thing that I don’t really think about until i read it then I can’t help but realize that totally sound like what I do haha! Great work! I hope to read more stuff like this!

  95. One of my major roadblocks is guilt. Shouldn’t I really be spending this time with my kids? Or my wife? Or visiting my mother? Or knocking out that honey-do list? A serious writing project demans a lot of time. My wife will tell me she supports my writing if I ask … but I have to ask. I need to learn how to balance my time better.

  96. Point 7: Overwhelmed by information is one of my biggest obstacles. I have this voracious appetite to learn something new all the time yet I can only do it in bursts. For example, I struggle to read a book whereas I can consume an equivalent of a book content in different formats and short bursts like a blog post or a Youtube video or a podcast.

    There were times when I would watch a video, read a blog post and even listen to a podcast all at the same time. Crazy I know but I try to squeeze as my content as quickly as possible. I thought that was effective use of my time- by multitasking.

    Later on I learned that multitasking is ineffective and destroys your productivity and I cannot agree more. It is amazing how much work I can get done when I have just one browser open or focus on just one task.

    Here is a tip: when you use your computer- don’t use any online chat, don’t check your email every 5 minutes, don’t go to Facebook, don’t look out for the latest tweet, don’t check your stats from your affiliate accounts and don’t watch any YouTube videos.

    Work at a place where you cannot be distracted and see how much more productive you are at the end of the day.

    Sitting all day in front of the computer does not mean productive work, it only means time spent in front of your computer and nothing else.

  97. Great Post Dean. I especially resonated with #8. We all get so comfortable in our knowledge niches. We forget (or dont care) about the unconscious limitations they impose. As a surgeon to fix something, she’ll grab a knife. Ask a naturopath, she’ll grab a supplement. As a writer, I can get real insulated. I have to consciously push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ll check tweets I wouldn’t ordinarily read. I’ll go places I’d ordinarily avoid (like Wal-Mart). It’s good to stay open at the top.
    Best Wishes,

  98. For me, the number one creativity killer is perfectionism. Sometimes I’ll abandon a project because I’ve made a mistake that seems huge, but which is probably fixable. Sometimes I’ll worry so much about making mistakes, or not getting the result I want, that I do nothing at all, happy to let my idea stay in my head, where it can always be “perfect” — and imaginary. Or I’ll make an endless string of “prototype” projects that I never sell or show to anyone, all of which take up space and collect dust.

    Lately I’ve realized just how poisonous perfectionism is to creativity, so I pretend that perfectionism is a horrible, obnoxious man I’m dating. I tell it, I’m busy right now. I’ll call you later. Or I’ll tell it we need to take a break (which works for awhile, until it calls me again, sobbing about how perfect we are together and how nobody will ever care for me as much as it does, and I take it back again). I’ll start a project where I even encourage myself to be messy, or if it’s something I intend to sell, I’ll have a set of standards I have to meet, but I don’t allow myself to worry past that point. So far, standards work the best.

  99. So I think everything depends on the just do it.

    The first step is always the hardest. Your mind will come up with all sorts of scenarios to prevent you from taking that scary first step toward your goal. That does not mean you are a coward, though. It is just your brain’s way of defending yourself.

    Sometimes, though, you have to listen to what your heart has to say and just do it. Everything else will be a lot easier once you get past the first hurdle – and that is to ignore your brain’s dire warnings and go with your gut instinct.

    Congratulations on your excellent post


  100. For this blog, I’d first of all like to say that all of these points are strong. All of them and I greatly appreciate how much dept was put into each one. My points that I feel I need to work on the most would be Fear of Failure and Discouragement from Others. Those points hit the hardest for me because failing is not something you ever prepare yourself for, even if you’re starting something new that you feel strong about. I am still very deep into my college years but I have been thinking about life after undergrad and I think the fear of failure has held me back from experiencing things in life that probably would have changed everything.

    The other point, Discouragement from Others, is probably one of the most common points made because support from others often is the light at the end of the tunnel, without it you’ll stick with an average routine, even if its the least creative thing possible; if it gains acceptance from others, most will accept it for themselves. I definitely see some of both of these points in myself and I am POSITIVE that after this course and many more blogs like this, that will be long out the window!

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