21 Ways You’re Killing Your Creativity Without Even Realising

Usually if we want to be more creative, we look at the new things we can do to help us. But what is equally, if not MORE important, is to be aware of your current ways of thinking and acting that actually sabotage your creativity.

Here are 21 of the most common ways you may be slowly killing your creativity.

image: Michael Pickard

Which ones do you recognise most?

1. You don’t actually believe you’re very creative. Answer this honestly: How creative do you REALLY think you are? If your answer is less than an emphatic declaration of your endless ability to be creative, then these beliefs aren’t going to support your creativity as well as they could. The first step is to notice these kind of thoughts. Then turn each of them around to their positive opposite. Retrain yourself to believe only the thoughts that will serve your creativity best.

2. You don’t think being a creative artist is worthwhile. What do think about other people who are creative artists? Do you admire them, respect them, hold them in high esteem? Or think of them as temperamental or anti-social or society dropouts? How you feel about artists in general has a big influence over how easily you let yourself freely be a creative artist. Examine your beliefs, and adjust them if you need to, so you’re proud to be an artist yourself.

3. You never capture your ideas. Many of us don’t think we have enough creative ideas. The reality is we all have all the ideas we’ll ever need, we just let them slip through our fingers, forgetting we even had them, let alone what they actually were. Every time you have an idea, capture it in some way, in a notebook, camera or voice recorder. Then it’s ready for you to develop at any time, instead of being lost forever. Develop the habit, and you’ll have an abundance of brilliant ideas.

4. You don’t believe you deserve to be successful. If you find that whatever you try to help you be more creative ends up not working, there may well be a deeper belief that keeps you grounded and held back. Do you actually feel you deserve to have creative success, to create art that’s rewarding and fulfilling, and gains the praise and respect of others? If not, then this will always cap the amount of “success” you allow yourself. Get to the truth, the root of those beliefs.

5. You prejudge, belittle and dismiss your creative ideas before they’ve had a chance to flourish. Maybe you have plenty of ideas come to you, but most of them you think of as too silly, or unrealistic, or incomplete to bother capturing and developing. Ideas never arrive fully formed and perfect, they all need different degrees of incubation and nurturing. Write down EVERY idea you have. You never know which ideas will evolve into the most incredible projects and artworks.

image: naraekim0801

6. You try to go it alone without any support. Our best creative work is always done in isolation, when we can get most in touch with our deepest creativity. But if we spend our whole time disconnected from the world, we deprive ourselves of all the wonderful support that’s out there, support from other creative people who want us to be happy and creative, and willingly give their encouragement. Look up a few creative groups, either locally or online, and get yourself some support.

7. You don’t prioritise creative time. I don’t have time to create” actually means “I’m choosing not to give creativity priority in my life”. You have a choice in how you spend your time, and all of us have little pockets of time where we’re doing something fairly meaningless, or simply waiting around. Identify this “dead time” and find ways to be creative instead. A great way to encourage this is to always have a notebook handy, so even if you have a few minutes here and there, you can jot down or sketch some new ideas.

8. You’re not fully experiencing life through your senses. To be creative, you need stimulation and inspiration. This comes via your five senses, so it follows that if you don’t make full use of them, you won’t be at your most creative. A simply activity you can do is to go to a park or woodland, or even somewhere in the middle of a city, and just sit and listen. Forget about all your other senses, and hear every last detail of the sounds around you for five minutes. Then try the same for your other senses.

9. You don’t ever celebrate your achievements. “I’ve hardly created anything this year” is a common cry amongst creative people, whether it’s New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. When you stop to actually catalogue all you’ve created, you’ll always remember more than you thought you would. We create in so many different ways each hour of each day, and the more you notice all these ways, and the projects you’ve been working on, the more creative you’ll realise you’ve been. Which will inspire you further.

10. You don’t create regularly. Creativity needs constant exercise and nurturing, like a muscle, or any other part of our minds. You can’t expect to create nothing for weeks then instantly produce some masterpiece. By creating regularly, ideally every day, or a few times a day, you build up this underlying creative strength and agility. This will make it so much easier to be at your most creative when you have those longer undisturbed sessions, rather than starting from completely cold.

11. You try to work on seventeen projects at once. We simply cannot focus on more than one thing at a time, with any degree of success. Just try painting and dancing and writing all at once! It’s ok to have a number of projects at different stages, but keep it to a few, not dozens. And whichever project you’re working on, give it a fair chance, devote your full, undivided attention to it, and you’ll make so much greater progress than dipping in and out of numerous projects and not really get anywhere with any of them.

image: Tim_Norris

12. You believe that if you don’t finish every creative project you’re a failure. Not all creative projects will be finished. This is all part of creating, it’s ok! Sometimes the ones you start with most enthusiasm and hope are the ones that don’t turn out like you wanted. Conversely, some that start with little promise turn into your best work. The secret is to trust the work, let it evolve as it needs to. And don’t be afraid of putting a project to one side if you’re stuck, and focusing your creativity elsewhere.

13. You believe spending time creating is selfish. When you create, it gives you something that nothing else can. We need to create, it’s not an option. The great thing is when we do, we feel better about ourselves, more energised, more positive and a host of other good feelings. This can’t help but rub off on others around us. The opposite is going around being frustrated, cranky and bad tempered because you’re not creating. And that WOULD be selfish. Create more, see the selfless side!

14. You’ve forgotten how important creativity is in your life. When we lose touch of how vital it is for us to create, we forget to give it priority. Think about what your life would be like without any creativity. What a dull, soulless, barren existence it would be. Think of all the things you feel when you’re lost in the flow of creating, and how proud you feel afterwards. The kind of feelings that you simply can’t get in any other way. Remember this and give your creativity the time and space it deserves.

15. You overlook what an inspiration you are to others. If you’re not creating, you’re not inspiring anyone else. And that’s just selfish. It’s not only the art itself that inspires other people, but the way you create, and the fact that you show up and create at all. Just by creating publicly and visibly, you have no idea how many people you give encouragement, and how much this sends out a message to others that it’s ok to create. Don’t deny others that chance to be motivated to greater creativity in their own lives.

image: jjjohn

16. You try to make everything perfect. I know this sounds an obvious one, but it’s amazing how often we’re crippled by perfectionism and don’t even realise. It’s not just about trying to make our art perfect in every way, it can begin way before that, as we wait for the perfect time, the perfect mood, the perfect weather conditions, to begin creating. These are all excuses and “if onlys”, there will never be a perfect time. Actually, that’s a lie. The perfect time for you to create is now. It’s always now. Go!

17. You never seek new inspiration, yet expect to be constantly inspired. We all need new stimulation to stay creative, so if you never go anywhere new, or try anything different, you’re not going to give yourself a chance to be at your most creative. Just visiting new places and observing a different pace of life and different surroundings can give your creativity a major boost of energy. You can do this without leaving home, just by reading books and articles and browsing artwork new to you. Feed your creativity!

18. You’re a slave to procrastination and you don’t even know it. This, like perfectionism, is one of the biggest creativity killers there is. And it works because it’s so devious. Be honest with yourself about the times you’re avoiding creating, and procrastinating. Everyone does it to some extent, however creative they are, so give yourself a break. Identify the three biggest procrastination habits you have, and this step alone will help you start to beat procrastination.

19. You tell yourself your best creative days are behind you. We’ve all had creativity highlights in the past that we’re proud of and would love to repeat. The danger is though to always look back at those “glory days” with a nostalgic focus, and conclude that we’ll never be that creative again. You have the same capacity to be creative today as you did then. In fact now you’re even more experienced. The other point is we continually evolve as artists, and people. Create from the you of today, not the you of yesteryear.

20. You let your inner critic dictate how much you create. If you listen to all the negative, defeatist voices within, you’ll never even get out bed in the morning. The key to overcoming your inner critic is to actually embrace it, to understand that it’s not the evil, terrifying ogre you think it is, and in fact everything it does and says to hold you back comes from a positive intention. So rather than trying to kill your inner critic and be locked in a bloody battle, learn to love it as part of you instead.

21. You’re afraid of unleashing your full creative powers. Sometimes it’s not failure we’re afraid of, but success. What would happen if you actually were as creative as you could be? It’s likely you’d be really happy and fulfilled and want to preserve it as long as possible. And because you’d be happier, it’d mean people around you would benefit from that too. Really, is that so much to be afraid of?

Which of these sound most familiar to you? What other ways do you sabotage your creativity?

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21 thoughts on “21 Ways You’re Killing Your Creativity Without Even Realising”

  1. This is one of the best things I’ve read online in a while. Really well thought out and you covered so many important points. Really love it. There are so many little juicy tidbits in there that are going to help me deepen my relationship with my creativity. I’m really happy I came across the link to this on Twitter.

    (I’ll be reading your post again – but this time with my creative notebook by me so I can jot down ideas that stand out to me.)

    Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!


    1. Thank you Mona for the encouraging comments, I really appreciate it. I think it’s useful to write (and read) these longer tips posts from time to time to remind ourselves how much we can do to be more creative, and not feel so helpless. Most of my posts are written partly to/for myself as much as to everyone else reading, these are all areas I have struggled with too!

      Thanks again,



  2. Excellent article, I recognised quite a few points that relate to me. I recently got myself swamped in paper work and kept moaning that I didn’t have time to be creative, what really worked for me was writing out my ideas and spending small snatches of time rather than hoping that I would some how have a 3 hour slot, because they rarely (if ever) came.

    I like the reminder of the benefit that others get from us being true to our creativity.



    1. Thanks Amanda.

      It’s true there are always little pockets of time we can find to be creative. Once we get into the habit of looking for them and using them, it has a cumulative effect and our creativity overall increases.

      Feeling that when you’re spending time creating it’s completely selfish is such a common issue, but yes we do tend to completely overlook the positive impact it has on others. My world view is that if everyone was true to their creativity, and used their talents, no-one would want for anything, we’d have a so much more incredible international community and planet. Just think about times when you’ve been in full flow, what energy and focus you felt. Then multiply that buy a few billion. What a force!


  3. Reason number 6 for me – going it alone without support. I think part of the reason maybe as a child – ‘hiding’ in my bedroom and being creative and not having the support, encouragement or understanding especially those moments where it may look as though I was doing nothing special or just ‘playing around’ has now made me very protective over my creative work and shy/fear about sharing.
    Point 16 and 10 about regular/daily creativity and perfectionism come hand in hand for me – this is also a value issue for me – did i create something of value and I guess its my definition of the word value – which hah! lol takes me back to sharing work – show others – inspire and be inspired. interesting article,Dan – thank you.


    1. Thanks for your personal insights Nita.

      With support, there are two levels I think. You don’t need for someone to “get” everything you create, and to understand exactly what you were trying to express. It’s great if they do, but that’s not necessarily the greatest form of support. But having people that simply encourage you to be creative, to allow yourself that freedom and give yourself permission is incredibly valuable.

      Sometimes you don’t even have to meet the person. You might like to check out a series of three articles on creative inspiration on here that talks about just that.

      The first is:
      The Unstoppable Power Of Creative Inspiration – Story One – David and Elisabeth


  4. […] Yet many folk will agree that giving that creativity an outlet can be truly difficult. If you are ready to be more openly creative, but you are not quite sure how to proceed, be sure to read this article by Dan Goodwin: 21 Ways You’re Killing Your Creativity Without Even Realizing. […]


  5. I have lived such a rigid, noncreative life, I don’t know how to begin to find the dreams within me anymore. I am 46, and I am searching for the passion I once had as a teen. I allowed the world to stifle me.
    I would appreciate any advice on how to get started in being creative again. I know that sounds so crazy, but I’ve hit a wall. I don’t even dream at night. i believe once I can release my creativity, I can find my love for life again.
    Thanks to everyone.


    1. Hi Susan,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I think I’d suggest having a look through the archives here on the blog for other articles that catch your interest.

      A few articles in particular that might be helpful:

      How To Wake Up From A Deep Creative Hibernation

      5 Ways To Be Creative When You Think You Can’t Be Creative

      23 Wonderful Ways To Kick Start Your Creativity Today

      They are all under the category of “getting unstuck”.

      Also come and browse around our creative community CoachCreativeSpace (CCS) and you’ll find you’re far from alone in your situation.

      This recent discussion might be useful, about all the ways we’re creative even when we think we’re not being creative:

      The CCS Ultimate Creativity List…

      Tiny steps is the way forward, be kind to yourself, look for stuff you enjoy creating rather than feel you “should” be creating. And start capturing your ideas and seeing what comes.

      Please stay in touch and let me know of anything I can do.



  6. Oh, I winced more than once at this list.

    I think my worse crime against creativity is procrastination. The time I should spend writing is often taken up with flicking from one website to another.

    Yes, forums are primarily the way I socialise (there are no writing groups in my area) and yes, I need to keep in touch. But I need to segment my time and develop a workable routine.


  7. this is such an insightful post. i find myself in many of these points, actually. add to that having a bad conscience because i could be doing “more useful” things, which goes together with thinking that creating is a “selfish” thing to do. thanks for the reminder. i always find it helpful in times like these to stick to very small creative projects that are quick, finished after one session, but still give me a feeling of accomplishment and the conviction of having nurtured myself for at least 15 minutes…


  8. I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another. Right now it has to be #9, “You don’t ever celebrate your achievements.” I’ve been on a roll the last month, things really breaking my way, yet yesterday I caught myself creating a list of things I haven’t done. Ugh!


    1. I think just accepting that we will always have dozens, hundreds, thousands more ideas than we will ever have time to complete is a great relief. Then instead of trying to work on all of them, and beating ourselves up for not being productive enough, we can focus on the REALLY important ones and give them our best. Not forgetting to celebrate afterwards of course. 😉


  9. Dan,

    What a thought provoking list. Isn’t funny how no matter what we say, what we believe breaks through clearly in our behavior? As usual, your insight into the creative process is causing STRETCH & TRUTH in my life. Thanks for the post. I’ll be sharing with my wild thyme friends on fb too!


    1. Thank Betsy, yes we can tell ourselves one thing but our actions sometimes tell a different story.

      Appreciate your comments and for sharing with your fellow Wilds. 🙂


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