“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” ~Unknown
I have always considered myself a creative person, and formerly, I didn’t put much attention or energy into where inspiration came from.
There was a time when I had just started writing copy, designing, printing, and hand-painting T-shirts. Having worked on a few creative ventures before then, I felt that this time things were different.
I urgently and passionately worked into the early mornings, designing and putting ideas and concepts on paper, afraid that I would lose the inspiration. Dramatic as it may sound, this was my first brush with raw creative inspiration and the waves of delight and despair it makes you ride.
Fast-forward many years later, I had gotten myself gradually into a non-creative nine-to-five job. I began wondering why I didn’t feel as inspired to create.
These last few years have been an attempt to reconnect with creative inspiration. I have always been interested in writing and the power and magic of words. I strongly feel like there is a writer within me who is waiting to unleash his creativity.
As I turn the clock back, I reflect over how I blocked my own creativity—what thoughts, beliefs, and excuses got in the way. If you’re also feeling stuck, some of these may be holding you back:
1. I am not an expert and I don’t feel ready.
This is the most fundamental level at which we block ourselves from using our creative powers. We tell ourselves that we’re not ready, and we believe we need to learn more before we can begin.
We may never feel completely ready, but we’ll feel a lot better and a lot more confident after we allow ourselves to take action.
2. I don’t believe in myself.
Have you ever met someone who was talented but chose to remain a wallflower in their own life because they didn’t believe they were?
I remember the time I stood in front of fifty students to teach biology. Before the class, I’d looked at myself in the mirror, nervous and unsure if I would be received well. I looked squarely into my eyes and reconnected with a sense of deep belief that I was good enough for the task.
As a result, I felt authentic and allowed myself to be a vehicle of expression to others.
Since that day, I’ve incorporated many creative techniques in my teaching methods. Instead of just lecturing, I tell stories, use models, and engage my students in hands-on activities.
3. It’s not the right time.
Time is a wonderful excuse to put off that dream project because we always think we’ll be better prepared or have more time later. But every time I’ve asked myself if I could carve out some time for my creative dreams, the answer has been a resounding “yes,” because I know it’s a worthy, fulfilling, and rewarding experience, and that I need to make time.
4. It’s not perfect: analysis paralysis.
Perfectionism can kill creativity. You wear yourself thin by assuming something isn’t good enough, and you get stuck in analysis.
I have endlessly analyzed the merits and demerits of a creative venture, never quite going past that stage—never taking any real action to make it happen.
We create standards for perfectionism based on our beliefs, and think that we don’t measure up. This becomes a self-limiting experience. When we realize we’re the ones setting the high standards, we have the choice to accept imperfection and become free to express our creativity.
5. I feel overwhelmed.
Having too much on your plate can push you into overwhelm mode, and everything feels like a crisis. How can you create if you don’t know where to begin?
Whenever I feel like this, I take the time to unwind, breathe, and slow down. I clean my space, de-clutter my surroundings, and put things back to where they belong. I allow myself to take a break, relax, and do what I enjoy.
I’ve realized that we were not designed to be on “go” mode all the time; doing too much makes us feel like hamsters spinning on a wheel. I’ve made the choice to step off. The solution is to take small steps!
6. I’m afraid of failure.
As a society, we are mortally afraid of failing and looking bad. Success and the quest for the better life are deeply programmed in us. We don’t always learn to fail, brush off, and move on, and we don’t accept that failure is not only probable, but also inevitable.
I learned the lesson of failure when I began working in a laboratory setting. In science research, much of what you do on a daily basis fails. These failures become stepping stones for what finally works.
7. I feel uncertain and don’t know what to do next.
How many times have you felt uncertain and unwilling to do something new, and therefore became stuck?
When we realize that uncertainty is just a step in the creative process, we can begin to feel at ease with it and focus on moving forward.
8. I’m dwelling on the past and blocking my creative energy in the present.
When I was angry, I told myself stories about how everyone else was to blame for my problems—how I had it difficult and why no one understood or cared.
Now I realize that by being caught up in my stories, I stunted my creative growth. Instead of using the energy of anger and my stories as an impetus to create more, I just let it waste away.
When ancient stories and programs bubble up, I do some acceptance and forgiveness work. I allow the emotions to come up and then I thank them and ask what can I learn from them. I then choose to forgive and let go. This frees up my energy to create more in my present.
What blocks your creativity, and are you ready to get unblocked?