6 Thoughts That Harm Creativity

Artists have a lot on their plate. Not only are we frequently on the hunt for ways to bring something new and special to our work, we are constantly seeking out happiness, optimism, and motivation in our struggles for recognition. On our mission to stay positive we often neglect to acknowledge the things that keep us from feeling the way we want to about our outlooks for the future.

It’s likely that a handful of the deadly sins of creative thinking have entered your mental workspace at some point or another. By becoming aware of what freezes your creative process, you’ll be better equipped to banish negative thoughts next time they come around.

1. Believing you are not a creative person

Buying into the common idea that creativity only belongs to certain people will keep you far away from it. Everyone has some level of creativity, albeit some more than others. If you find yourself drawn to creative activities, there is no reason why you can’t be as good as a professional if you work hard enough at it.

2. Fear of failure

Many people prefer achieving nothing over trying and failing because they equate failure with being worthless. A bad piece of art will not define your career if you go on to produce better art. Failure is an ingredient in success.

3. Failure to act

James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic said:

[cquote]”There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.” [/cquote]

Thoughts do not translate into action. You are solely responsible for producing a tangible artistic product. Your first foray into a craft doesn’t have to be an instant hit. Understand that learning from your mistakes applies to creative work just as much as the rest of your life.

4. Failing to produce ideas

The fastest way to stop tearing apart the creative works of others is to try it yourself. Sitting down to write a song is a fast wake-up call to how complex it can be – Leonard Cohen said it took him two years to write his signature song “Hallelujah.” J.K. Rowling outlined the plot for five years before she drafted the first Harry Potter book. Producing good work is hard.

It will also open your eyes to how much time you waste in being a critic. Being a critic is an entire career path in itself. Unless you plan on becoming a critic, channel your energy into your own work and use your time to come up with fresh ideas. The media may try to convince you that overnight success is a commonality, but most artists will tell you this is not true. Everyone needs to elect a starting point for themselves.

Once you’ve brainstormed and come up with your own ideas, don’t give your inner critic the free rein to come up with reasons why your ideas can’t be executed. Just proceed with them and let the artistic journey unfold on its own.

5. Not looking at things in different ways

Not every problem you face will have mutually exclusive answers. Seeking out answers that may not follow your usual line of logic can lead you to conclusions you did not think possible at first. Do not close off alternative lines of thought when immediately presented with a problem. Instead, consider a new or unfamiliar approach.

6. Failure to accept personal responsibility

Most people seek to blame unwanted circumstances on their current situations rather than consider how their actions have affected an outcome. If you work at it, you can change your attitude and approach to important creative tasks. Every vice has its remedy, be it procrastination, negativity, or a lack of discipline. Life does allow U-turns; and the old adage that it’s never too late exists for a reason.

Below is some priceless and honest advice from radio personality and producer Ira Glass of This American Life. Graphic courtesy of My Modern Met.


How do you combat negative thoughts and stay focused? We want to hear you sound off!

Photograph by Steve Mueller.