As writers, we know our creativity is frail. It needs nurturing, encouragement, and lots of practice. Did you know it also needs protection? Some things have the power to stifle a writer’s creativity. Here’s a list of what you should avoid like the plague.
10 Things That Stifle A Writer’s Creativity
This number one killer of creativity comes in many shapes and sizes:
- Existential fears. These are the hardest to tackle. People who are afraid of getting hurt, starving, or even of getting killed are so preoccupied with staying alive that they can’t create art. Who can blame them? They need to worry about more important things.
- Social fears. Writers must have a certain amount of courage to go out there and present their art. If you’re afraid of meeting people, of what others might say or think, then this can inhibit you from writing. Do you simply support? Did someone criticize you unfairly (see below, ‘Experts without a clear set of categories’)? Find out what causes your anxiety and address this.
- Writer’s Fears. These are special to writers: the fear of the blank page, the fear that inspiration might not come, the fear of missing a deadline, the fear of writing untalented ‘rubbish’ – do they sound familiar? They all go back to the fear of failure. It’s powerful, so make sure you have something special in your toolbox to battle this (incidentally, we have just the article for you).
What all these fears all have in common is their effect on our bodies. Fear connects instantly to our instinct for survival. Our fight-or-flight-reaction patterns take over. Unfortunately, this stifles creativity.
When this happens, stop creating and address the nature of your fear first. Meeting basic human needs is a prerequisite for creativity. You are not a failure as a writer if you attend to those things first!
2. Reminders Of Past Failures
These poke at the old wounds of our souls. Did you know that what we consider a failure of the past largely depends on our own assessment? This is a matter of perspective, and this means that we can change it!
So, please look back at those so-called past failures. Remember that writing is a journey. Nobody writes badly 365 days a year. We all learn. We all get better. You can see your creative past as a failure – or as a learning experience. The choice is yours!
3. Constant Buzz
Are you hooked on the news? Do you hurry from one task to the other, never wasting time? Creativity is not possible in this constant buzz. It doesn’t leave any room for self-indulgent and reflective activities.
Educational psychologists recommend that children get bored from time to time to encourage creative play. Adults are no different. If we constantly absorb information, we never have breaks to digest what we’ve taken in. Yet creativity is a product of that digestion. Too much information causes ‘analysis paralysis’; we simply have no time (and no energy!) to create. Please go take that break.
4. Not Enough Buzz
When writers sit in ivory towers, isolated from the outside world, they will soon run out of raw material. They need fresh input or ‘their wells run dry.’ It’s quite literally an intellectual drought.
So, please feed that creative brain of yours with a great variety of intellectual and sensory input, even if it’s not directly related to what you’re working on. Just remember, the dose makes the poison.
5. Stuck In A Rut
Routines are great, but if you’re stuck in a rut, then you’ll experience another form of intellectual drought.
Let’s look at an example. Every morning at 10 o’clock, a writer sits down with a cup of tea and writes a sonnet. A good routine would get him to sit down and write. It becomes a bad routine if he can write nothing but sonnets.
Spot the difference? Good routines are healthy habits that enrich your life. Ruts make your life boring, repetitive. Please rethink what your routines do for you.
6. Running Commentary Of Your Inner Critic
What if every time writers come up with a story, their inner critics tell them why it just can’t work? When writing and editing happen at the same time, it stifles any creative spark.
When writing, you need to be deeply involved in your topic. The exact opposite, a certain distance, is what critics or editors need to make valuable suggestions. Both jobs are adverse in their function.
So go tell your inner critics to wait their turn. Create first, edit later.
7. Too Many No-Gos, Not Enough Questions
This is something we know from totalitarian regimes. They try to exercise thought control (remember George Orwell’s 1984?). At the same time, they forbid challenging questions.
But creativity needs challenges and questions. What would happen if writers weren’t allowed to ask the big ‘WHAT IF?’ Not one book would ever have been written.
8. Functional Fixedness
Functional Fixedness is an example of self-imposed thought control. Let me explain. Imagine a toolbox where each tool has a function. If you experience functional fixedness, then you will only see one function for each tool. What if you simply decide that each tool could be used for a multitude of functions waiting for you to discover? That’s when creativity begins. You think outside your (tool-)box.
9. Experts Without A Clear Set Of Categories
A yardstick measures length, scales measure weight. Literary categories should measure your merits as a writer. Beware of editors who don’t have these categories! Choose your first critics wisely.
Unqualified people judge in abstracts and absolutes, like ‘this bad’ or ‘this is great.’ They won’t be able to explain what exactly is bad or good. They can’t tell you why because they don’t have the tools. Their criticism is ultimately personal and insulting. It doesn’t get you anywhere.
Whenever someone gives you feedback, make sure you know their yardstick first. Steer clear of so-called experts. They have the potential to kill your creativity!
10. Unsupportive People
They’re the ones that don’t take your writing seriously or even deny that you’re a writer. You might run into them at family gatherings, with friends, even at your workplace.
The best way out is to join a group of like-minded people. Book a writing class. Read supportive websites like Writers Write – we are here to help!
The Last Word:
Find your tribe! Find an environment that wants to see you grow and succeed as a writer. At Writers Write, we want to provide you with all the tools you need on your journey. Please leave a comment if there’s a tool we haven’t written about.
By Susanne Bennett. Susanne is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.
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