The creative process is very vulnerable to a variety of kinks. Below, four women who live and breathe creativity every day share the obstacles that can impede imagination and how to overcome them.
1. Creativity Crusher: Isolation
Isolation can stunt creativity, according to Erin Loechner, writer, stylist and author of the art and design blog Design for Mankind. “As a blogger, I have a fairly lonely workday and often write from my home office.”
To prevent isolation from becoming an issue, Loechner makes sure to get out of the house often to “spark conversations with strangers and see a fresh perspective daily.”
And there’s another bonus of connecting with others. “Creativity begets creativity.” Surrounding yourself with people who are also making and creating helps you make and create, too, she said.
2. Creativity Crusher: Time & Tasks
“At this point in my life, my real obstacles are time and responsibilities,” said Nellie Jacobs, a bestselling author, award-winning artist and creativity consultant. “I am a wife, mother of four adult children—all of whom have mates—and grandmother to five.” She also tends to two homes, one each in the city and country.
Make writing time a priority, and plan for it. “If I have to, I work on my creative projects very early in the morning and late at night, and fit food shopping and cooking as well as family and friends in between,” Jacobs said.
Think about the empty slots in your schedule throughout the day, and sneak in some journaling, brainstorming, drawing or other activities that spark your creativity. And, again, if you don’t have any time, move around other tasks and create it.
3. Creativity Crusher: General Distractions
Creativity typically requires our undivided attention, which is hard to get when everything from the Internet to laundry to co-workers may pull your focus away.
Brittni Melhoff can relate to struggling with general distractions, especially when working from home. Melhoff is the founder of papernstitch, a curated exhibition site for artists and makers to showcase their work, and editor of the papernstitch blog. Fortunately, she’s learned to use distractions to her advantage.
“Allowing your mind to wander can actually help bring you back to focus,” she said. “If I am feeling bogged down or uninspired, I get out of the house: Take a long walk, think about other things, grab a coffee, and come back when my mind is in a more focused place.”
4. Creativity Crusher: Self-Doubt
Self-doubt is probably the king of creativity crushers. It’s that inner voice that worries whether the projects you’re putting out into the world are worthy. It worries what others will think. It worries if your ideas are stupid. It worries if your project is a failure. If you’re a failure. You might worry so much that you stop before you ever even start.
“It is in our human nature to be creative beings,” said life coach and artist Tiffany Moore, who believes that surrendering to this idea is important in coping with our insecure egos.
The other key is to ease into our creativity. To get to know it, practice it and embrace it. Here are her tips to do just that:
- Practice what comes naturally to you. “We hardly ever put any value into the things that we know to be obvious, because they come so easily to us,” Moore said. This can be anything from cooking a delicious feast to writing a blog post to solving a difficult puzzle to gardening to woodworking. We assume that if something is easy for us, then it must be easy for everyone else. So we take our special skills and talents for granted. Accept that you are unique and special, she said. Take the amazing Coco Chanel. “For Coco Chanel, it was obvious to mix pink and black in various fabrics, but to those around her, it was revolutionary,” Moore said. “The obvious kind of thinking is the kind we tend to overlook completely and most often, that’s where our real magic lies!”
- Start small. Rather than embarking on a big project, which may bring overwhelm and self-doubt to the surface, get your feet wet. “Get yourself a small journal and get your hands dirty and just try,” Moore said. “Make it as easy on yourself as possible.”
- Don’t ask for feedback—just yet. “Trying something new can be really vulnerable and scary, so don’t invite critique if you’re just starting out,” Moore said. “Get comfortable with yourself and your craft before you start opening yourself up to feedback from others.”
- “Fall in love with yourself as a creative creature.” This helps to shrink your ego’s nervous and negative voice. There are practical ways you can start embracing yourself and your creativity. Start a gratitude journal to connect to the good in your life, Moore said. Be creative for creativity’s sake, without needing to reach a destination or complete a project. Read inspiring books like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which can help you discover your authentic voice in a safe space, she said. Seek out creative communities. “Take a class or a workshop, see an author, spend the day at a museum.”
- Get out of your head. This might seem counterintuitive since our brains are the machines behind creativity. But this is merely a perspective-shifter. “Creativity comes from the heart, not the head,” Moore said. “Letting go of ‘rational thought’ and getting more into your organic self can make great creative leaps possible.” Taking a walk, practicing yoga and stretching are several practical ways to get out of your head, she said.