Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?

Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?

Reader Comments (340)

    • Hi Brian, Copyblogger has many quality article that I’ve learn from.
      This is an excellent post covering every aspect blogger should consider.

      For a start, i tried using 10 mental block as check sheet to gauge my current status against the nest practice.
      Thanks for this amazing post, i’ve draft a 30/60/90 days plan to improve my creativity.


    • Really great post describing various barriers. Some of them are know to us while some become so common that we fail to recognise them as barriers. We need to throw them away and move forward. thanks for publication.

    • “Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.”

      When I read the above statement I realized that, over the past several years while I’ve been distracted with personal business, the wily editor has sent the artist out to play, locked the door, and taken over the study. I see now that in order to get the artist back to playing on the page, the valued but much-too-full-of-herself editor must be sent, temporarily, out of the room.
      Thanks, Mr. Clark! The pointers in this article are deceptively simple. A great reference, bookmarked for at least one more read.

  1. Very smart list, Brian. I particularly agree with “I’m not creative.” It drives me crazy that people say that, because I’ve seen so many “uncreative” people become really good with practice.

    Creativity takes the willingness to try and fail–a lot–before becoming good. Even the best creatives strike out more than they hit a home run. The key is that they don’t let it stop them.

    The books you picked are all really good, even though I’d recommend de Bono’s Serious Creativity over Lateral Thinking. Serious Creativity is basically the updated version, and it’s a lot easier to find.

    I also recommend Ideas are Free and Blue Ocean Strategy. Hope this helps!

  2. Hi Brian

    I really enjoyed this post. I don’t know – it felt more like you than some of the other things you turn out to get people going…

    For me ~10 is key to it all. About a year ago I shifted my belief from “I’m not a creative person” to “I am a creative person”. It was the best personal development work I have ever done.

    Everything else falls away when you blast away that old belief, and start to believe in your own creativity, to start to feel that power, that source flowing through you…


  3. Every person has a secret creative genius inside. Being creative is all about shedding inhibitions and seeking the lovely inner-voice which is ubiquitous to all human beings (whether they can sing or not 🙂 )

    The analogy holds true whether writing copy, painting pictures, sculpting marble, programming C#, crafting Cabernet, or making love. Sing at the top of your lungs! Be wrong! Make you point, be linear and non-linear at the same time, free yourself from the shackles of the self-imposed lead box.

    Celebrating our indigenous creativity is the ultimate act of getting over ourselves and offers the best chance to leave something behind that survives; an idea, a thought, a poem, a child, a song…

    A very famous musician pal once told me that his critical and creative successes came when he finally stopped trying to create music “like everyone else.” The secret, he whispered, is in creating art that can ONLY come from you. Then, right or wrong, you have found your voice.

    Great post Brian…thanks.

  4. This post is over-the-top good, and it addresses some serious problems I’ve been having. If you don’t mind, I’ll hang onto it. 😉

  5. I’ve just printed out your article after highlighting “there is no box” and now have the list hanging beside my monitor.
    Fantastic stuff! Thanks for your great insight!

  6. Brian, any post with The Matrix in it gets my approval.

    Li, if your list is hanging from a hanger you made out of twisted spoons, you’ve taken it to the next level and are on your way to becoming one of Brian’s star pupils.

    Rock on

  7. Great post!

    I think the biggest “creative block” for most people is themselves! It’s a self-fullfilling prophecy. Usually, people are their own worst critics.

    However, I also believe that mainstream “corporate culture” is also a huge creative block. Many companies believe there is only one way to do things, and anything else is not acceptable. I’ve seen this myself and the destructive power it has on individuals.

    I think humans are inherently creative, it’s a matter of learning to not only unlock that creativity, but also the ability to apply it to every day situations is crucial.

  8. WOW! Exquisite. Brilliant. You are a genius.
    That’s right – there’s no spoon, there’s no box.

    We saw the Matrix many times and still we keep on forgetting. What a shame.
    We need to keep on reminding ourselves, we got to keep on applying this perception, lest we forget. We should sit down and contemplate it until we really really get it and it sticks and permeates our minds, our beings, and the way we live our lives.

  9. My wife and I say “there is no spoon” to each other all the time. It’s become a shorthand code for what you’re describing.

    I think this is all about patterns. Humans are pattern creators and pattern followers. Following a pattern repeatedly creates something else: ruts! Ruts are hard to get out of. And I think that’s why it seems so hard, sometimes, to remember that there is no spoon.

  10. Nice post, point 7 was very true, thats a problem to many people, acting serious, serious people are not only uncreative, but they also undermine the creativity of not so serious people, they are total oposites of personality

    Although we cant forget that being serious may mean that you are lonely, and lonelyness is an impossible state of mind to be creative.

    Jmus ( )

  11. Point 5 is great. You’ve got to have fun @ work, by really enjoying the work. Beyond being creative, enjoying your work is one of the best ways to be happy.

  12. Great ideas! I especially like the part about “being wrong”. People who are honest in their work and take responsibility for mistakes are always more successful long-term. Great insights!

  13. Hi! I’m the author of “A Whack on the Side of the Head.” I appreciate your highlighting some of its ideas. Thanks. By the way, there will be a 25th anniversary edition of “Whack” next spring.

    Your readers may also enjoy stopping by my Creative Think blog which can be found at:

    Best wishes!

  14. Hey Roger, thanks for stopping by… I’m an obvious fan!

    I think everyone should buy Roger’s book… it goes into a lot of detail about working past these mental blocks, and has tons of examples and illustrations.

    He also has some creativity “flash cards” that I haven’t tried yet, but they look stimulating.

  15. This is a fantastic entry Brian. Your ten mental blocks are wonderful points to remember.

    I regularly struggle with number 1 and 9 combined. The curse of perfectionism. I’ve found it doesn’t hurt my creativity, it just creates an avid shyness that prevents me showing my tragic ‘failures’ to others. On bad days ‘everything’ is a tragic failure. *chuckles*

    Anyway, definitely food for thought and a great jumping off point for other articles. I’ll be linking up to this very soon I expect, as soon as I’ve broken out of the box enough to spin off on this concept with my own voice. 🙂

    Off to check out each of those other resources. One advantage of having infinite ‘right’ answers is they are endless things to learn.

  16. Great post, Brian.

    I love the way that some of these are so closely tied to together. For instance the notion of black and white or right an wrong. Creativity is all about navigating the grays. When we see things in black or white, we limit our options and bring on the fear of failure if our final product isn’t black or white.

    Realizing that there is not right or wrong, and that it is okay to make mistakes, is HUGE for promoting creativity.

    And since my blog is directly related to the topic of creativity, I’ll share it here at the risk of shameless self promotion: Tapping Creativity.

    This was a great look at creativity from outside the box that…um…doesn’t exist. Way to go, Brian.


  17. Once again you are able to take the basic principles of how I try to lead my life and arrange them in an elegant, eloquent, perfectly worded post. Cheers to you and thank you! Again!

  18. It’s funny, I’ve driven many people nuts telling them “there is no box”. People seem to want a box, where everything can be neatly compartmentalized away.

    Great post.

  19. yes, the whole box metaphor is so overdone and useless.

    Look at the guys from Buzzmarketing where they re-named that town and got all that free national press attention?

    They threw the rulebook out the windows as far as trad marketing goes, and created a whole new window of options.


  20. Brian,

    That post is probably worth 5000 times the cost of any success course, period.

    “There is no box” classic. And, the reference to the spoon in “The Matrix”… good choice.

    The only borders that exist are those that we create, period.

    Joseph Ratliff
    Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

  21. Creative thinking it’s like an obstacle race. After 10, you have to keep running, running and running…

  22. Great list. Right on mark.

    When I was at school studying music composition a prof gave me a great trick for getting outside of a problem. He told me to imagine the most ridiculous, impractical, unreasonable solution I could and then fix it. By bringing the solution back to the problem you end up in a spot that linear thinking would never allow.

  23. Well, judging by the fact that there is not a single negative comment posted here, I am doubtful that anyone will ever see this, but I have to bring you folks down a bit.

    This article is mostly bunk and buzz-words and essentially misses most of the point of creativity. Speaking as a practicing Artist/Designer/Writer and someone who has over fourty years of success at being very creative indeed, I can say with assurance that these points are mostly garbage.

    At the very least one should steer entirely clear of anyone who maintains that “everyone is creative” (by virtue of being human). While that is trivially accurate, not everyone is as creative as the next person and some are hardly creative at all.

    In some areas, you confabulate entirely different things together under overly simplistic labels like “play” and “work” and then contrast and compare these essentially incomparable things. In others, you are just completely wrong. Logic and creativity are at odds? Sounds to me like you have no idea of any of the concepts you are papier-mache’ing together here.

    This is more of a back-slapping, ego-boosting exercise than anything realistic to base your life on. Real creative people don’t need it, and nothing in it could possibly turn a dullard into anything like a real creative person IMO.

  24. Jeremy, you’re terribly unenlightened, but don’t take it too hard… most people are.

    You’re an egoist. You love to identify yourself as a creative, and exclude others as “uncreative”. It makes you feel good, because you’re your own favorite person.

    Feel free to continue your line of thinking on your own site, if you have one. So creative, and nothing to show us?

  25. Nice point, Jeremy. Nothing like, say, oh, I dunno… hard work and concerted effort could ever possibly change people. People just never self-actualize, do they? Born a dullard, and dullard you are till the day you die. Same thing goes for asshats.

  26. I love your site! I’ve been looking for methods to increase my creativity and identifying blocks is a help. One thing that works for me is the Random Word Technique where you force yourself to solve a problem using a random input such as a random word from the dictionary. I do have one criticism, however. I find it odd that you feel compelled to identify the blocks to creativity through a cliché top 10 list. See the irony?

  27. No irony at all Richard. As a copywriter, I use what I know will work best for a particular bit of content, and leave the fretting over clichés to others. 🙂

    Oh, plus there are 10 blocks mentioned in Roger von Oech’s book. Should I have left some of them out to satisfy those who worry about hipster appearances?

    Creativity in business does not involve knowingly choosing something that doesn’t work as well.

  28. Ahhh, I love it when bitter people stop in to spice up a comment thread. 🙂

    Seriously though, I love the Matrix analogy and will have to check out those recommended books.

  29. Hi Brian, I had to jump in again because Jeremy’s comment made me really mad. How arrogant to say that people either are or aren’t creative! (And then to call yourself one of the elite few.)

    I wrote a response to his comment on my creativity blog and I’m taking his comment as a challenge to prove that people can learn creativity.

    I’m a Lateral Thinking instructor who is just completing a Masters degree in Creativity, and I told my readers that I’d offer an hour of free creativity training to one of the commentators on my post.

    If anyone is interested from your blog, they should come over and help me prove that Jeremy’s blanket statement is completely wrong.

  30. I like the ideas presented here, I just have never really met that may people who claim to have a problem with creativity. They may have a short term mental block, or go through a period in their life where they are preoccupied/anxious/depresseed/etc. but I can’t say I’ve met anyone who didn’t have plenty of good ideas. What I have met are a TON of people who can’t turn a good idea into a finished product. Getting a finished product takes creativity too, but it also takes: 1. Hard Work 2. Seriousness 3. Being Practical 4. Following the Rules….You get the idea. Thomas Edison and Richard Branson were/are more creative than the average person, but hey can also do the things in my list above better than the average person too. It takes both.

  31. Brian, that is a great post. I always hate the phrase “out of the box”. A great one I used to hear (in a former work life) when a department would be way behind schedule in starting a project or when Upper management tried to emphasize to their worker bees the importance of taking on more work “for free” or continuing insance processes for lack of better strategy was this, “We just don’t have the bandwith”. This meant, We don’t have time, We don’t care, Just shut up and continue on.

    Anyway, your post is great….so many times the key to creativity is unlocked by one of my three children….they haven’t unlearned the talent or had it compromised yet.

    Rebecca D. Levinson- Connect2Agent

  32. Erik, I agree with you.

    Someday, I’ll do a post on taking action. Personally, it was the biggest barrier I had to get over before I started doing the things I really wanted to.

    And also, I did mention a few times in this article that critical evaluation and execution are important. You just can’t let them get in the way at the beginning of the creative process. “Creative thinking” is the beginning of creativity, not the totality.

  33. I think my time as a coporate employee eliminated my creativity, but its coming back slowly. I believe everyone has a creative side. Its not an excuse to say I am not creative.

    • Replying to ScribbleSheet, who wrote, “I think my time as a coporate employee eliminated my creativity, but its coming back slowly. I believe everyone has a creative side. Its not an excuse to say I am not creative.”

      I hear ya! It’s terrible to have put in nearly 20 years as a corporate communicator and realize it only diminished, never nurtured, my creative side. I lost my job in November 2009 and in the months since have finally started a blog, created a photostream on flickr, choreographed a waltz and handsewn a ballgown for a regional showcase, and will soon launch a handmade clothing boutique on Meanwhile, my former co-workers lament, “I wish I were as creative as you.”

      If necessity is the mother of invention, complacency is the nanny of mediocrity.

      Good luck, ScribbleSheet, and countless others out there who are clinging fast to their creative selves. If you need a little inspiration (or just a kick in the pants), stop by and say hiya:

  34. I’d like to throw in lack of practice. Creativity is an exercise – it’s not a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing.

    You have to be willing to work the creative juices a bit…

  35. Great principles, however if you start talking about the non-existence of reality it will inevitably take its toll on your mental health because you will soon find you are in a minority of one, which I can tell you is an uncomfortable experience, especially if you have a moment of insight when you see exactly what others think of you, and find it is not a pretty sight …

  36. Bryan, I really Dugg this post, it’s very Thanks for writing it; I will refer to it often. It is a great model for finding satisfaction from life as well because it is our mental limitations that create strife and monotony and leave us wanting more from life. Stepping outside of those for at least a little while is a great reminder that we are creating every moment of our lives whether we are aware if it or not.

  37. I had never heard the cliche “think outside of the box” — until a CEO used it to describe my thinking style right before I spoke to his board.

    When I got up to speak, I turned to him and asked, “I’m supposed to think outside of some box? What box? I didn’t know there was a box.”

    And everyone laughed and applauded.

    But I was serious. Had no idea what they were laughing at. Found out later.

    Felt both dumb and smart at the same time.

    Decided to market 10 foot poles not to touch things with.

  38. I really like the “there is no box” theme of this post. I may actually write that on a notepad near my computer.

    I can relate to most of what you wrote. I enjoyed seeing it laid out this way. Very good things to keep in mind. My best days on the computer, whether with my podcast, writing my scripts, or blogging happen when I am relaxed and not trying too hard.

    I guess on those days, there really is no box, eh?

  39. ok, i have to work on myself…
    i still see the box and i still try to get out of it…
    thanks for a great article
    to quote another little text from the matrix:
    “This is really gonna bake my noodle…”

  40. For me, one of the greatest barriers to creative thinking is constantly trying to apply previous solutions. This is in the belief (often mistaken) that because something worked before it will do again.

  41. lovely…
    and i should thank Jurgen wolff of ‘time to write’…. for directing me here.
    you ‘created’ this article… he created a path for/in me.
    what i mean is, more than changing our belief ‘i am not creative’… what is needed is to re-define creativity.
    that itself has the power to bust the mythical belief. no need to fight with myself.
    (if i believe i am not creative, and you ask me to change that belief, it tells me i am wrong. if i am wrong, where do i get the power to change myself?)
    so… what IS creativity, and what is it NOT (restricted to)?

  42. Hi Brian,

    I work for a communications consultancy and we have created an international campaign targeted at Ad. executives. As part of this, we are producing a ‘mock newspaper’ to distribute to them. I found many of the ideas expressed in your article inspiring and was wondering if you would be happy for the piece to be included in the aforementioned newspaper.

    Please let me know asap.

    Many thanks

    Joshua Ross

  43. 11. Fear of being right / Fear of Success

    What if you are right, you have a good idea. Then what? In some places it is dangerous to outshine the boss.

    Or being wrong is familiar. If you are right, then what?

  44. Nice list. I liked the idea of not being serious and accept the fact that we all make mistakes and it is not wrong to make mistakes. The point of being absolutely fool so far as the norms and values of present society are concerned is also really appreciable. After all, we all are free spirit and who is to judge what we do is an act of foolishness or real creativity. If Einstein thought Newtonian Physics was ultimate, we would still be in an underdeveloped situation.

  45. I must point out that what you intend in writing “logical mind” is, in fact, much more appropriately expressed as “empirical mind” or “infinitely rational mind.” Logic and Metaphor are often synonymous because we frequently posit a certain subset of restrictions i.e. “the box” (derived via metaphor, “hypothetical situations”, etc.) from which we originate our thought processes (logic) artificially. Thus you are apparently suggesting that in order to escape the perception of “the box”, we have to express the box “metaphorically.” That is unless you are speaking in this section of a ‘greater truth’ as being expressed only symbolically/metaphorically, in which case I must question the “there is no box” statement you made in the first place since truth as metaphor necessarily implies a “box.”

    What I think you mean is something more akin to the following:
    Infinite rationalization is “often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts.” Instead, intuition often provides a route to creative ideas where over-thinking hinders.

  46. Can someone please explain to me what on earth Max is trying to say in his comment #99?? However correct he may be in his assertions… I think he is missing the whole point in this post*. Please see #1, 7, 8, and 9.

    *By my posting my comment, I admit I am somewhat guilty of the same… or not? I am merely posting a comment because I found Max’s comment very fitting and ironic to this discussion =) Comments anyone?

  47. Sir,Your writeup explicitly instructs every aspiring scribe/word player to do the “not done” and how!within a one to ten.Yes i can actually realise and sense that it takes a shameless,convinced and a bold(Pablo Picasso); to draw attention and get a “thats great one”.You have cleared all my blocks and gates of thought and imagination.many thanks

  48. Very inspiring and well written summary of what it takes to strip away your delusions to your own personal path to enlightment. To strengthen the impact of the article, you might have given more personal examples of how these principals have inspired you.

  49. Jeremy’s “negative” comment re “creativity” as a self-help concept is “thinking outside the box” — the “box” being your approach, Brian. Artists (like Jeremy) follow their own threads & dare to look sideways at popular trends. It’s disappointing that your responses got bitter & attacking, as if you can’t allow others to question your thinking. Your take on creativity is helpful to business people & copywriters. Consider that it falls short for makers of written or visual or musical art.
    PS I’ve read a Whack inthe Side of the Head & had to sieve out bits & pieces that apply to art-making — being creative as a corporate employee was different from being creative as a mom or as a visual artist or as a writer of fiction or non-fiction. Jeremy is “also right.”

  50. I didn’t respond to Jeremy the way I did because he has a different opinion, I responded that way because he’s a condescending ass.

    Why do so-called “artists” think they have a right to be snide? Jeremy can say whatever he wants, as long as he wears big boy pants and can handle someone telling him what they think of him in turn.

  51. Part 1.

    This is an excellent article.

    I work as an advertising account planner (the person in the advertising agency responsible for coming up with the ‘big idea’ for a campaign). Account planning is all about creative thinking.

    Anyway, the points you make are exactly the sort of things we follow on a daily basis in order to come up with that ‘big idea’.

  52. 2. Part

    I think all the points you make sum up accurately the shortfall in creative thinking.

    One of my favourite techniques for creative thinking is disruptive thinking (disruptive thinking is just a kind of creative thinking flavour, or to put it another way, a kind of creative thinking attitude). Disruptive thinking is about questioning ‘good’ ideas to see if they really are good. And to explore ‘bad’ ideas to see if they contain the potential for sparking off great ideas. Disruptive thinking is about turning things on their head, shuffling them about, and seeing what comes out.


  53. WOW! This was really great! Stuff like this doesnt normally interest me. O.o Or what if it does?

  54. Hi,
    I think that you are absolutelly right about the “there is no box” but no matter what people are thinking they are acting like they are in The Box. It is always easy to be there, as you feel more confortable and safe.
    It is the same with the expression – you prefer to do only thinks you are sure of 🙂 . Even writing anonymously is not giving confidence. But still most of the people need inspiration to start breaking their boundaries and then comes the creativity :).

    Good Luck!

  55. Well i say being practical is the one which is more helpful.Otherwise theoretically much can be said without its practical implementation.

  56. Well, you have certainly given me a lot to think about. I think I have spent so much time and effort getting outside of the box, that I have ignored why it is I wanted to be there! Pretty amazing concept…thanks for challenging some of my most basic understandings! Truly valuable!

  57. This is a great post. It makes me see a lot of mistakes I’ve been making. Sometimes when trying to write creatively, I will be stuck on starting it a certain way and I have a hard time stepping back and shelving my original idea and starting from scratch.

  58. Sometimes the blocks stem from subconscious beliefs that get in our way … the website I listed above is not mine, but is an awesome way to find and begin removing those blocks.

  59. Some excellent information indeed. Thank you! If I do this right, I’ll be linking to this post at my site. Thank you for the background. 🙂

  60. I’ve been accused of #7 too many times in my life….one of my cousin used to tell me all the time that I need to just “act a fool every once in a while”.

    At the time this sounded like the dumbest advice ever given,but I understand how things like conformity and failing to unwind from time to time can be harmful to your personal evolutionary development.

  61. Point 9 is great. Most of us are afraid to commit mistakes and to be labeled WRONG. Now I realize that its ok to commit mistakes. Sometimes I get frustrated doing things repeatedly and finding out that something is wrong.

    Can I use your article in my blogspot? I like to share this to other people. Thanks a lot.

  62. All these points show and prove something I’ve been saying for a long time: As A Man Thinketh So Is He

    If we take the opposite mindstate of these mental blocks then we will become it…just as taking on the blocked mindset made us “blocked” in the beginning. All mindstates were learned at some point in time…even the negative ones.

  63. These rules go beyond writing and can be applied to career goals, relationships, and how you perceive the world.

    Of course if everyone opened their eyes to this, then creative jobs would be even more competitive than they already are.

    It’s a shame that even most of the people who read this will never be brave enough to follow through with these ideas without the right motivation.

    Great advice. I’m bookmarking this page.


  64. Hi everyone !
    Hi Brian! Your cool writing style and creative choice of ideas, are really inspiring me, and enticing me to comment ^^”
    Yes, you are right, in “Matrix,” there is no spoon, and by the way, there is no Keanu Reeves neither 🙂 Simply some images of a spoon, and a lot of images of Keanu running at a pace of about 29 images per second. Plus, I didn’t listen to the recording of his true voice, I watched the dubbed version, in French.
    “There is no box.” Alright, but what if we questioned what the “box” referred to in the conversation? To illustrate my “angle” of view, let’s look at this “fool” alternative title:
    “Do You Let This Decahedral Box Confine Your Creative Potential?” (in geometry, decahedral = polyhedral with 10 faces )
    Not as charismatic as the original title, I know 🙂
    But, in my opinion, in the widely used phrase “think outside of the box,” the “box” symbolizes simply obstacles that are blocking us towards attaining something that is located outside of a restricted parameter of possibilities, and in general, we are looking for solutions to problems.
    I think that the image of a box is used to help us consider all the possibilities (outside) VS limited current situations (inside.)
    For instance, how happy is a bird sealed in a cage? Can you consider the big number of kilometers that it wants to fly, compared to the extremely restricted space of the cage ? I really don’t know but, I wouldn’t want to be in its slippers : ) However, I’m sure of one thing; it was not the bird who created the cage, and it certainly didn’t want to find itself in that particular situation…
    The “box” can have several meanings, according to specific contexts, and that’s why it is convenient to consider an important factor: relativity.
    If we talk about “thinking,” then these obstacles (faces of a box) represent its limits; thus “think outside of the box” in this context, is equal to “think outside of your thinking limits,” and we could say also: “break out of your limited thinking.”
    If we succeed in bringing our thinking beyond it’s former limits, (using some creativity stimuli borrowed from other people –like Brian and Roger-, inner or environmental elements or entities,) then we may be able to start enjoying higher level creative thinking.
    Does one create the “box” himself or herself? Do we create our own obstacles and limits ourselves?
    We may be the cause of some (ex. Wrong beliefs: I can’t do that, I am not…, I will never…,) but there are external blocking factors also (Environmental: nature? Cloudy and rainy days? Society? Bad people? Information ? Politics? Handicap?) it all depends on the context.
    And even if I don’t think that we create mentally all the types of limiting factors ourselves, It can be true when we are able to recognize conceptual or physical blocks, then instead of walking around them, we end up using them as an excuse. Another “strange” cause maybe what is called the “law of attraction”: you keep thinking about problems that don’t exist in your reality, and you end up attracting them to you… but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to analyze your current position, approach, mindset, ideas, techniques, contacts, environment, influences, your personal methods, etc.
    A second example is when someone struggles to step out of the “comfort zone” when he or she sets the goal of attaining financial freedom. Could we say “there is no comfort zone”? I think we could say that, but we need to address, we need to “articulate” this problem anyway, in order to process it and overcome its relatively limiting and prohibiting effects. Whether we call it “comfort zone,” “burying one’s head in the sand” (like an ostrich) or, I don’t know, maybe “current lifestyle survival instinct” it is only a tool, a mere social representation concept. The most important thing is to detect and capture all the detractors, in order to change them or eliminate them from your way towards your goal.
    Thanks Brian for sharing your list, I’m sure I’ll get back to it, just to make sure I’ll not be forgetting some crucial elements while .

  65. “Thanks Brian for sharing your list, I’m sure I’ll get back to it, just to make sure I’ll not be forgetting some crucial elements while .”

    Umps! I didn’t notice the end of the sentence… the last changes in the original “text editing soft” I used were not saved.

    What I wanted to say is: I’ll be sure to get back to this list of 10 elements while working creatively on one of my mini projects : )

    Thanks again Brian, have a cool day everyone!


  66. […]It’s a shame that even most of the people who read this will never be brave enough to follow through with these ideas without the right motivation[…]

  67. I’m doing a study on how this article has affect your life pesonally and professionally. Anyone can share with me about ur view on this wonderful piece of writing..??

  68. Great info. Keep up the encouragement. Reading about a different side of the coin is sometimes all one needs to be able to think again. Thanks.

  69. Outstanding article, the idea of understanding that there “is no box” is the center of all of other ideas, it redirect us to different world with no rules and no limitations.

  70. Love the blog…putting your work on my feeds so I can keep up! Timely and well said synopsis, especially for the ever expanding and unconventional world around the web, social media and business attitutes in general. Thank you.

  71. I’ve learned that if you have writer’s block, the best thing to do is brainstorm with other writers. They can offer you suggestions that will help get you past your block and moving forward with your writing. is a great website where you can write something and post it on the web, then invite specific people to add comments or ideas to your writing. Working together, will prove to be a fun and helpful tool as you press forward with your writing!

  72. For the writer’s block, it seems that all you have to do is to do something entertaining for a certain period of time (preferably something you do very rarely), untill you “de-block” your writing’s interruption.
    It may take some minutes, or some hours to deblock. It depends.
    So whenever you “think” you get this writer’s block, then do something complitely different from your habits, or from your hobbies. If, for example, you never paint, then paint (or draw, etc…) I hope this helps.

  73. I really liked this article that really, it highlights the value of creativity and the fact that the creative process can be non linear.

  74. The facts are that your are your own worse enemey when it comes to doing anything. This is a great list of mental blocks to study and use. When you see this happeining to you, fight the blocks and act!!!

    Moe Bedard

  75. “We create our own limits” I had a cuz that can barely speak english, he just know some basics but was far from having a good hearing. We were spending 4th of July at a barbeque pool party, some good looking girls were nearby and he was the person that approach them and start having a cool conversation.

    I guess everybody will think that not speaking the same language will be a huge limitation in order to have a social relationship well this limitation is not on my cuz mind, it just doesnt exist.

    Yes, we definitely often create our own limits or think more on our limitations.

  76. I have started blogs and haven’t been able to keep up with them, but you have given me an idea for a blog that I know I’ll be able to keep current. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

  77. Great info. Keep up the encouragement. Reading about a different side of the coin is sometimes all one needs to be able to think again. Thanks.

  78. Thinking logical, and being practical, my top two tips from this post, both can get you along way. The other “common ways” also have good points, and this was a very good post in all. Cheers – Dennis@ 4 marketing p’s blog

  79. Good post. I agree with a comment above that the business world does lean towards stifling creativity. Writers are expected to be creative within boundaries set by business owners; fly free, but do it our way. Umm… yeah, that makes sense.

  80. Brian,
    it does not look that you ever have a writing block or a problem with being creative. It is a known that with our western world education by parents and school, we unlearn our natural creativity. A few children are lucky, when their parents let them their God given creativity by not constantly telling them how they have to see things, when they see sth. in a different way or draw sth. differently from how adults perceive it.

    I am trying to awaken lost abilities, which is said to be possible.

  81. Hey Brian,


    Play another game, solve a completely different problem, consume a new style of something.

    By doing one thing for too long, we become absorbed in the rules, conscious or not. Our mental and physical muscles get used to performing a certain type of action.

    But when we dive into something new, we start exercising a new type of muscle. We grow. We become more aware and conscious, because the activity is new. With a fresh perspective, looking back at the current problem lets us see it from an outside perspective. We see not only the rules but around them, letting us sidestep and think creatively.

    It’s no wonder the greatest creative works are unique, with lesser stuff being derivative of it but not the other way around.

    Awesome reminder to stay fresh and have our creative juices constantly surprised and flowing,

  82. i think this article is great ! it throws light to some aspect that we often forget to even think about leave alone working on them . I agree with you that evey individual have a creative side but it totaly depends on the individual as to how far they are willing to make a fool of themselves to explore and bring out their creative side.
    I have been encouraged!

  83. Thanks for compiling this list. Fortunately for me, when it comes to vocationally-related matters, I can allow myself to think very creatively. Where these issues catch me (and yeah, I suffer from all 10 of the above considerations) is when I’m trying to write fiction. I wish I could somehow transplant the Captain Kirk-esque chutzpah I bring to blogging and proposal writing to my more personal creative endeavours, but so far, despite being actively self-examining and self-improving, I have failed.

  84. I have first time accessed thi blog.. but really impressive post…
    Creative thinking is the result of right-brain activity – intuition, insight, inspiration. Creative thinking skills are not taught. They do not require intelligence or even experience, although these qualities are needed to put creative ideas into practice.

  85. Oh wow, thanks for this!

    Back at work from a long vacation and been having terrible mental block. This article is just what I need to shake me out of it!

  86. These are true points. As a writer, we all need tips on how to write better or even be writers.
    There are so many sites on here to learn from.

  87. thanks for helping me get my course back in life. i was almost losing it until i read through your piece. God bless you

  88. You’ve listed these thoughts keeping us away from exploring creativity in such simple language. Thanks for sharing.

  89. Applause to you. What a wonderful entry.

    You know all these 10 point are so true. And i really once myself know they were true. But seems like people opinion put me in a box somehow as time goes by. But come to the think of it, there really is no box, how curious

    Like for example, afraid to be wrong, seriously i was quite fearless, and then some jerks come in and say how wrong i am in experimenting with things. And this is wrong that is wrong. And then i shift to become very afraid of being wrong.

    I feel weird now after seeing this post, almost as if the box have vanish. haha

    Ahh..i really feel enlighten.

  90. Points #2 and #10 resonated with me — thinking metaphorically and acknowledging creativity as inherent. Serendipitously, a recent post to my blog used the metaphor of a morning glory vine in bloom in my back yard.

    “Morning glories turn their trumpets to the sky, and nothing in nature mocks them for it. They do not aspire to be blue, they embody blue.”
    I invite you to

  91. I think point number 10 is the most important. You have to believe you are creative and that no matter how creative thinking you are you can improve. Check out some of the games and challenges on my website ( You will see that it is a lot easier than you think.

    Opportunities are everywhere.

  92. I agree with the fact that we ALL are creative, every one is. I believe, creativity is in our nature, but some people who don’t think they are, beause they don’t know themselves that well or are passive due to social, family or financial issues and obstacles. I believe depression is mostly effective in the way we think to become creative or active, and getting out of our boxes (illusive boxes).

    However, “thinking outside of the box,” in my opinion is NOT a wrong way to look at. I think simply it’s more helpful to think that there is a box in order to get out of our comfort zones to shake off our dust, it works as a trigger, imaginary speaking.

    I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for posting, very informative.

  93. I completely agree about ‘box thinking’.
    But, I do not completely dismiss the outside of the box. I think it is unhealthy thinking of it as a box.

    You can’t escape what you’re in, without understanding it.

    When people ask ‘what is the universe expanding into?’ they are asking the basic question. But you never see someone asking you if the universe expands into itself. Simply because we can’t understand anything, that doesn’t have an outside.

    Why a box? Why not a circle? Or a line.
    Or nothing.

    We think too big, so in turn we are thinking too small.

    I don’t think you can think ‘outside’ until you think ‘inside’.

    For example; when someone judges another by what they see, they are thinking outside of what they should understand.
    But by seeing inside, they see a bigger picture. And begin seeing the inside, before the outside.

    Thus expanding their box. Instead of creating another one outside of it. Which can only result in more and more boxes.

    Idk if anyone understands what I am talking about, or if this makes any sense at all.

    But basically, we can’t see the outside, if we don’t see the inside.
    Which may eliminate the outside.

    i have no idea what i’m talking about, but it makes sense in my little head.

  94. To revisit Point 7:
    “Most of what keeps us civilized boils down to conformity, consistency, shared values, and yes, thinking about things the same way everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but if you can mentally accept that it’s actually nothing more than groupthink that helps a society function, you can then give yourself permission to turn everything that’s accepted upside down and shake out the illusions.”

    You do, however, have to be prepared to be seen as interfering with the function of society. That can be a very dangerous place to be – thus all the groupthink.

    Creativity is best achieved by people who know that it is not always a perfect good. It has its price, and the price is sometimes very high. You threaten people – sometimes very ambitious and intelligent people, who can retaliate.

    • I’ve learned to be skeptical of opportunities that purport to seek my creativity. I made the mistake of accepting such an opportunity, offered by ambitious, intelligent, uber-accomplished but rigid thinkers. I tried but failed to please them. It’s true what Seth Godin says, that you won’t succeed by giving people what you think they need — you must give them what they demand. They demanded obeisance. Before I realized it, I had been pounded into a dried out bouillon cube version of my formerly inspired self. A very high price, indeed, Frank.

      Many creatives must not only live among pragmatists but make a living with skill sets that don’t involve creativity. It’s still a pragmatist’s world down here among the rank and file. We die a little every day, not from failing, but from gradually losing the will to try something innovative.

      I gave myself permission to try chucking the cubicle that had shaped me in its likeness. From refusing to be square, my bank statements dwindled to a series of round zeroes. Failure of this kind does not equate with defeat!

  95. Lately, I have been playing some 2D fighting video game with my little brother, who is really strong (he learns fast, plus he was more trained.)

    He was going to win another fight when something strange happened, I was thinking about some serious subjects completely unrelated to the game and I went far deep in my thinking, and then I started to play very strangely with completely unexpected moves… result? I won.

    I noticed that I took too many risks at some strange situations, but since they were non-logical and diffrent everytime, it disturbed my opponent who lost control over his well established strategies.

    As soon as I got out of my deep thinking mood, well, he started to win once again… lol

    The funny thing is, it happens many times, in videogames or in real life, I am sure tou noticed these “strange and unexpected” actions by other peaople at work or at home : )

  96. Great commentary on how people manage to limit themselves without even knowing that they are doing it. The bits on Logical Thinking and Being Wrong is Bad I like the most although I found all extremely relevant. I enjoyed this post immensely.

  97. Number 10! That’s me. I’m not creative, I’ve just learned to keep going until what I want to say is said. Then I do about 10 rewrites. Thank goodness for spellchecker! Thanks for the post…

  98. You know I really have to agree with you on the “play is not work” point. It seems that for me the biggest hindrance is the fact that I set it in my mind that I have to finish writing x article/post/whatever by x date/hour. That puts a lot of pressure on me making what I normally think of as fun and creatively engaging into a “job”. And you’re absolutely right that’s NOT conducive to creative writing. In fact it’s just when I feel that I “have” to post that I tend to have the worst writers block.

  99. Hi Sammy, you just said what’s on my mind.

    I am very passionate about writing, but when I began writing to make a living, the joy I derive from the former seemed to have evaporated in order to comply with the latter. I reduced my writing as a commodity, not as a creative outlet for me, which defeated all purpose of why I decided to write in the first place.

    As to the article, Leo Buscaglia would have shed tears of joy if he were alive today. He thought modern schools destroyed creative thinking, and spent his life encouraging people to be free to make mistakes, to experiment with their lives, and to be loving human beings in the process. He would have given Brian a very warm hug.

  100. Great photo for this article! It’s extremely relevant to the piece.

    I also have to agree with what Sammy and Bickie posted before me. It’s truly a challenge to turn what you love into a profession and still remain passionate about it. It’s a real test.

  101. Brian! love this! Unfortunately, I think many people think that creativity and thinking (as in being cerebral…) are mutually exclusive of one another. May go back to the traditional education thing…. Just the opposite is really true – the brightest are also most likely the most creative. Which is exactly the point the ParmFarm tries to drive home…

    Great post.

    Amy Parmenter

  102. Great article! I m not sure that it is possible to overstate the wisdom of talking to certified fool when seeking perspectives on complex and/or difficult issues.

  103. Useful one.
    Creative thinking is really seeing things or situation with many a different perspective and then evaluating and reaching to a solution.

  104. Out of all the tips contained in this article I think I agree most with this: “Not only is real life ambiguous, it’s often illogical to the point of madness” Oftentimes in social media especially we want to be sure we are doing things the “right” way and we over analyze them to the point of doing them ALL WRONG. Another thing you said that really stands out to me is “There is no box” That is an excellent way of looking at things. Creativity once stifled is hard to get back. We must use caution to not stifle our creative side or that of our employees.
    John Souza

  105. Brian, your post is an inspiration to my creatively challenged mind. Over the past year and a half I have been going through some though times in relation to creativity. I wont you to know that you have just made a significant change in my life. First think I take from you is to STOP telling myself I am not a creative thinker.
    Thank you

  106. Great points Brian. I would like to add one more factor that creates a mental block- “conflicting advice”. There is just so much information available online that it is easy to be confused and overwhelmed.

    Here is a simple example: Should I start a business that I am passionate about?

    There are so many strong opinions about this topic either way that it can be extremely confusing for someone looking for guidance or advise. This results in paralysis by analysis where nothing gets done and more time is spent on researching more on the topic to find out what to do instead of actually doing it.

    I have personally struggled with this dilemma myself and at the end of the day I realized, there is no right or wrong answer because people have been extremely successful in businesses that they are passionate about and businesses they have no interest in.

    I understood that it is important for ME to honestly assess what works for ME because what works for others need not necessarily work for ME.

    This helped me clear off a major mental block because now I look inwards for guidance than blindly following someone even he/she happens to be a successful person.

  107. I seriously think I should read this post every single day! I have a sort of pledge to blog every single day. I check your blog and countless others for content ideas. This post has helped me a lot, appreciate the tips/advice.

    • I strongly agree with you. When i finished reading, i had to sit down shocked and thinking. I had to form a way to remember the ten points. Thanks alot

  108. This is really an excellent post. Think out of the box and you will get the right answers. Of course, I should say right answers. There is always more than one answer and the only obstacle is your mind. Really, the very first obstacle is your mind. Free your mind. I almost never get writer’s block. I just start writing without worring about the content and lo and behold it gets finished.

  109. I am not a blogger (yet) but I am a writer–fiction, fantasy/paranormal fiction and poetry–and have learned through many years of trying to write “the right way” to stop worrying about style/consistent style. The story is an entity unto itself and knows how it wants/needs to be told–just start writing and it will tell itself.

  110. Well written ! You offer words of inspiration to start my creative mind flowing, thank you! I enjoyed your quote, “You’re already capable of creative thinking at all times, but you have to strip away the imaginary mental blocks (or boxes) that you’ve picked up along the way to wherever you are today.” This comment is so true that we are all born creative individuals but unfortunately our creatvity may become stifled along the way. My husband Bernard Katz wrote about his own views on this particular subject. “Can’t Draw a Straight Line.”

  111. Just had to say that it’s a Misconception that Thomas Edison invented the Lightbulb.. In reality it was invented much earlier in 1802 by Joseph Swan, and Also Edison wasn’t the “great” inventor that history has made him out to be.. his company he made gained fame by taking other peoples inventions paying them small amounts and creating patents on them.. and usually in an underhanded way at that.. most of the things Edison tried to invent didn’t even work.. but he was probably the first Corporate shark..

  112. At first i thought i would start a lawsuit against whoever wrote this piece for violation of intimacy, transcendental stalking and throwing out 9/10th of my soul out there for everyone to read, but then i realized this was actually a good thing. I mean, if other people do fit all these points, then it means there are more sick individual around than what i thought. So thank you internet, thank you Brian Clark, thank you random virtual roaming for taking me here. I have to say i feel the closest to point 2, which i apply on a daily basis, and for those of you who would doubt my words (which you should by the way) then i can only encourage to check this link and hear many stories, told by different people united under one same flag of identity, but each one somehow telling tales about the lack of signification, the abuse of metaphorical nonsense and the symptoms of this lethal sickness called ‘humanitis’…

    Thanks again for this beautiful but intrusive work of words,

    Bless !

    Another sick individual,


  113. I was searching for a way to think creatively because every time I have thought through a problem creatively, the solution was way worth the effort, whereas normal thought processes brought a solution that was just “good enough”. I agreed with all the points in this post. However, are there simply only 10 mental blocks to creative thinking or has the author already boxed himself into a top 10 list. Could there been a number 11? Creativity is a skill that we must all learn in a world where conformity, logic, normality, and practicality rule. It is not natural to think creatively so we must always remind ourselves to think creatively.

  114. Isn’t it funny how when we talk about creativity, some people will automatically think of an artist (painter, writer). I worked with so many different group of individuals, I can’t tell you how many times when presented to work on several projects, some of them would immediately point out all the reasons why it would be impossible to resolve. Others, would come in just shooting out any possible solutions…

    The biggest block in some of these individuals was the fact that when presented with a problem, they thought about all the limitations the had, therefore, found themsleves in a situation where they did not believe there was a solution.

    I found that this same thing happened when faced with life challenges…they stick to what they know, feel they can not get past a certain situation because of their limitations…But, WOW, the ones that believed there was a solution to every problem, did they ever get creative, this also in their life challenges….you know what, all other difficulties seemed easier….they had trained their mind to come up with creative solutions…

  115. Hmm Well I was just searching on yahoo and just came across your blog, in general I just only visit blogs and retrieve my needed info but this time the useful info that you posted in this post urged me to post here and appreciate your diligent work. I just bookmarked your site. Thank you again.

  116. Thank you for posting this Brian! I have been searching the internet, magazines, books etc…., trying to find out why I am stuck in this rut. I am a self taught pianist/composer working on my third album. The reason no one hears my music is because I have these reservations about whether anyone will actually like my music so I record the music and pretty much do nothing with it. Your post has really given me a lot of insight as far as being my own critic. As a matter of fact it has given me a lot of insight about other areas of my life that are not the way I want them and I now realize that I am the reason they are that way. I am smiling right now because I now know that I can stop worrying about thinking outside the box because “There is no box” 🙂 Thanks again

  117. Excellent list! Particularly like the “there is no box to think outside of” line as I hate the term “thinking outside the box” and believe this can be an extremely dangerous thing to do! Especially in business.

  118. Why are the copyblogger posts always so dang great. Thanks again for a fun and inspiring reminder of how to enhance our creative practice. Nice!

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