8 Ways We Block Our Creativity and Keep Ourselves Stuck

Feeling Free

“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?

Photo by mitwa17

About Harish Kumar

Harish Kumar (@launchURgenius) is a blogger, writer, teacher, and scientist. You can connect with him over at his blog: Launchyourgenius and sign up for free inspiring updates about launching your creativity and genius.

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  • JP

    This article came at a perfect time for me. This list felt custom made…so much truth and power in what you wrote. Taking action and just starting is so necessary. Thank you!!

  • Debbie

    What an incouragement to people that are stuck. it is just a matter of doing. Taking those small steps daily if needed. Not doing anything when it comes to our dreams is like standing in a lake that is running out of water. Sooner or later you are standing there in mud and can’t get out. ACTION is the key.
    Very good tips Harish for getting started on our dreams and making things happen.

  • Joan Harrison

    Procrastination is just fear in disguise! Thanks for reminder.

  • Great tips. We can all use this.

  • Kristen

    Thank You for sharing, this came at the perfect time as I have been feeling stuck myself and wondering why….this shed light on everything I am doing, this so resonated with me today. Thanks again!

  • Harish Kumar

    Hi JP,
    Thank you for your comment! I am very glad that you enjoyed the post. I cannot agree with you more. When we decide resolutely on something and take the first step, it opens up the field of possibilities. In the past, I was happy just thinking and cataloging my ideas and not taking any real action. Now I realize that making a choice and taking small action steps is the best way for me to proceed.

  • M.J.

    Thank you!! This describes where I am in my life right now.

  • Thanks a lot for your comment, Debbie!
    I enjoyed reading your lake analogy and I think that is so very true. It reminds me of the classic quote from Will Rogers: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

    🙂 Harish

  • Thanks for these reminders. Yesterday I had a bit of a slump and so these are perfect.

  • Hi Tracey,
    Thank you for your comment!

  • Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Joan!

    I agree completely! Procrastination is indeed the fear of the unknown. Interestingly, what I realized was that the sense of relief that I got from taking action surely beats staying stuck in procrastination. Whenever I feel resistance, I attempt to peel the layers off to become aware of the real reasons. I reconnect with the feeling of relief that action brings me and it inspires me to take more action!

  • You are most welcome!
    Thanks for your comment, MJ!

  • Hi Kristen,
    You are most welcome!
    Thank you very much for your comment. I am very glad that the post resonated with you!

    Best wishes,

  • You are welcome!
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • Kat

    Wow. This REALLY hit home. I trained as a therapist, I do it naturally with friends, but #1 is my big one. ‘Class was too easy; I’m not a real therapist, I don’t know enough, I’m not an expert…’ despite the fact that I have logged a tonne of volunteer hours! So I never put myself out there to actually do it as a job and am doing an admin job that is comfortable because I don’t even need 1/10th of my potential to do it.

  • Renata Lima

    I agree with what you said in this article about actions and believes. I have recently started taking actions towards a career change and also being more active networking, which is bringing a great feeling and a sense that I am moving forward. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Hi Renata,
    Thanks for your comment! I am really glad that you feel great while taking action. This is such an important point that it is worth repeating. We feel much better when we take action and feel like we are moving forward instead of feeling like we are stuck in a rut. There is science research indicating that the most effective method of habit change is to change the environment or context and to take small steps. I constantly remind myself that even very small steps forward really do matter!
    All the best with your career change!

  • Thanks a lot for your comment, Kat!
    Your comment reminds me of the struggle that I have experienced in the past and still do experience in the present. The only difference is that I do not believe the little voice in my head that says that I cannot do or be something. I realized that most rationalizations that I made were untested assumptions. I am choosing now to test everything for myself and not listen to my past or others who are afraid. In some ways, I guess I have made my peace with failure and it does not bother me as much anymore. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  • Shannon Pearce

    Thanks for the great article! It is exactly on time for me, too. I began painting again after not making any art for 20 years. I’m so grateful that I’m able to reconnect with that part of m. You’re list is right on target of the things that blocked my creativity!

  • Fel

    Love when you talk about the stories we tell ourselves + just accepting emotions as they are. Osho- spiritual man + teacher, talks a lot about this. Accepting instead of denying, repressing, etc–it always takes us higher.

    xx Fel

  • I really enjoyed the article, thank you for writing it. I think creativity and positive attitude is more needed than ever in the world today. One thing I would say about the quote you put up at the top of the article is that rather than looking at the future without fear, we could look at the future with courage. As Nelson Madela put it, “Courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

  • Hi Shannon,
    Thanks for your comment! Kudos to you for having the courage to begin art again! I cannot tell you how much it gladdens and inspires me to hear stories like yours…a reconnection with the heart and soul of creativity! 🙂


  • Hey Fel!
    Thanks a lot for your comment! I am very glad that you decided to stop by!
    I enjoyed reading your insight from Osho about the choice that we have when we are confronted with our stories. This is so true about life and creativity…can we for a few moments cast aside the judging, labeling mind and allow inspiration to flow through us. Or do we resist inspiration and repel creativity? 🙂

  • Hi Hansook,
    Thank you very much for your comment! I am glad that you enjoyed reading the article.
    I really like what you said about looking at the future with courage! And Nelson Mandela’s very wise quote is a great reminder that action needs to be taken regardless of fear. Great Creativity+ Great Courage+Great Action (even in the face of doubt, fear, anger…etc)= An INSPIRED life! Love it! 🙂

  • Helen

    The fear of leaving my comfort zone and treading into the “unknown ” hinders me in doing the acting part. You were right Harish – there is no better time or space in “creativity” . . . we just have to have it and do something with it- now!

  • Hi Helen,
    Thank you for your comment!
    I think you have touched on a very important point. The comfort zone is always pulling us back when we are attempting to stretch and fly. What really helps me is to do a very small action that puts me a bit out of the comfort zone but not enough to make me too uncomfortable. I think this is beautifully demonstrated with the formation of new resolutions and habits. When people take on too much change at once, they are far more likely to become overwhelmed and come right back into their comfort zone. Small changes are more sustainable. Also, rewarding and encouraging ourselves for small victories really helps.

  • Talk about great timing! I was just thinking (earlier this morning) that I had to finally get back into an old manuscript I had been working on – but the thought of jumping back in felt as endearing as going through a jog during a blizzard! Your article hit on many of the key things that made me reluctant and you made some great points. I plan to reread it later before I jump into the task. Great article!

  • RylieB

    Amazing post! It is like you were in my mind when you wrote it! My favourite part is “perfectionism (based on our beliefs) becomes a self-limiting experience”… Thank you for writing this!

  • Stephanie

    This is a great, great article Harish! Thank you so much for sharing. I really needed this! 🙂

  • Alexa

    Love this article. It totally spoke to me. It reminded me of Ken Robindon’s talks, which I cherish.

  • I think procrastination is also the negative side of habits. We are used to what we are used to, and something that deviates from that or challenges our normal trigger/action/reward cycle creates anxiety (and… fear!). Taking care of business often requires interrupting habits or changing habits, and it’s in our nature to resist that.

  • yakubu

    Thanks i didn‘t know the store of knowledge hidden away from me.

  • Hi Cecilia,
    Thanks for your comment!
    You bring up a really important point. The habit cycle is neurologically hardwired in us to the point that research has determined that habits cannot be completely forgotten neurally. Instead of fighting the habit, research also tells us that it is best to replace the habit with something more beneficial or with new networks. In other words, as you point out, recognizing the trigger, altering the action and establishing alternate reward mechanisms. Habit research also points to two more interesting facts. Small steps in changing habits are the most effective and altering the context or environment which sustains the habit is also vital for the change. So if we take very small steps and change the environment while setting up rewards that are enjoyable, procrastination may be overcome…hopefully. 🙂

  • You are welcome!
    Thanks for your comment, Yakubu!

  • Hi Alexa,
    Thanks for your comment!
    You made my day by comparing my post with Sir Ken Robinson’s talks! He is truly awesome!!
    I am very happy to know that the post resonated with you.

  • Hello Stephanie,
    Thanks a lot for your comment!
    And you are most welcome! I am really glad to know that you liked the post!

  • Hi Rylie,
    Thanks a lot for your comment!
    I am glad that you enjoyed the post.
    best wishes,

  • Hi Mima,

    Thanks a lot for your comment!
    I cannot tell you how happy I feel that you will be rereading this post before jumping back into your manuscript! It was my intention to bring forth to light and awareness all the stuff that keeps us from launching our creative brilliance.
    Go for that manuscript…the world needs to hear that story! 🙂
    Peace and light!

  • Thank you so much! I bookmarked it:-)

  • Zeff

    Thanks for this article! “You are what You Believe; You control Your Mind, You control Your Life”… Actually, there is No Limits, but we are the ones who create them.

  • Hi Zeff,
    Thank you for your comment! I agree with you. We do create our own limits by our thinking and by our beliefs.

  • bekki

    That’s very true, It helped alot, Thanks for the essay 😀

  • I had experienced the fear of failure many times, and cannot say that I am completely over it. What is more overwhelming is that I have realized that sometimes the fear of failure is actually the fear of success in disguise!

    Thanx for reminding us all these obstacles we put into our creativity procedure!