The Four Obstacles to Creativity

February 18, 2021

Humans have always been creative. We’ve had to be - our worlds shift and change constantly, and one of our greatest skills is the ability to think of new solutions, try new things and bond together over shared stories.

We also just love making things. And it’s no surprise that we are wired that way, since it’s good for us.

In our eight years facilitating community workshops and creative classes we’ve lost count of how many times we’ve heard the phrase “Oh I’m just not a creative person.” Our inner child yelps a little each time we hear it.

The thing is though, we get it: there are some big barriers to being creative. Luckily, most of them live in our head. 

So let’s name the monsters one by one - they’re not so scary in the daylight, and hey, they may even teach us a thing or two about how to acknowledge their existence, then waltz right by them the next time we get the urge to create something.

The Inner Critic

Ahh, this beastly voice. You know it all too well, right? 

It’s that needling whisper that starts up when you have an idea that lights up your curiosity and makes you a bit excited to get out the paints, or the sewing machine, or the garden tools. It’s usually at its loudest and most convincing when you’re about to try something totally new. 

It’s scary and persuasive. You wonder if it may be right in saying you will only mess it up, who are you to contribute something new to the world - particularly when there are so many others out there who are much better at it?

It’s a tough one to tame. Beneath its spiky exterior however, it’s actually quite small. Think: a tiny ball of fear dressed up in a sharp critic’s clothing. And if you listened to it all the time, you would miss out on so many fun things. Thank it for looking out for you, then ask it to step aside as you go ahead and make something.

The Perfectionist

This one is sneaky. You get started on a project, and just as you begin to enjoy yourself the Perfectionist shows up - the ultimate killjoy. It’s the voice that says you should only do something if you’re good at it. But hey, Perfectionist, your argument is VERY flawed. 

Imagine if we only swam in the ocean, danced in our lounge rooms or cooked meals if we were Olympic athletes, Ballet dancers and hatted Chefs? No. We move our bodies, we cook food, we jump in the ocean because it feels good. AND (bonus) it is also good for us. 

You don’t need to be seen as 'talented' at something to enjoy it and reap the benefits of doing it. While the Perfectionist sits perfectly still in the corner, afraid to make a fool of themselves, get out there and get your hands dirty. Your body and mind will thank you.

The Profiteer

We have a suspicion this one is kind of new to the party (it probably popped up around the time of the Industrial Revolution). It’s that voice that tells you the only things worth doing are the things that make you money. It’s cousin is the Taskmaster, who thinks any time spent just enjoying yourself is capital L ‘Lazy’. Together, they make a formidable pair. 

The fact is, we live in a culture that is geared towards constant upward economic growth. It’s given (the privileged few) more comfortable, convenient lives. It’s also given us the insidious message that Time = Money and anything outside of that equation is not of value. 

When this voice comes up for you, kindly remind the Profiteer that there are things of such great value that they can’t be quantified in numbers. This includes connection with others, being in nature, playfulness, community, and yep, creativity!

Ironically, we need these beautiful things more than ever when our lives are dominated by work. Push against this strong voice and make time for your creativity - it’s a radical act.

The Excuse-maker

It’s true, you do need materials and resources to make things. 

But, the Excuse-maker wants to tell you that you never have enough, or you never have the right stuff. 

To this we say, being creative doesn’t have to start only once you have all the gear - the first act of creativity is looking at what you already have and seeing what you can come up with. Sometimes limitations give birth to the best creative expressions. We love this quote by Arthur Ashe - “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” 

Shushing this Gang of nay-sayers

Now that you’ve met this stifling gang, you’ll be better equipped to recognise them when they inevitably pop up to ruin the party. Don’t run or try to squash them down, see them, acknowledge them and then do the opposite of what they tell you.

A useful place to start, is to turn up the voice of Curiosity.

Think of what curiosity is - inquisitive exploration, searching to see what happens, being a detective of your own process.

If we turn this voice up, it can help shush those negative nancies

What would happen if I….?
Let’s see how I feel if I…..?

Ask questions, be curious and focus on the process rather than the end result.

Life’s too short to give the naysayers the front seat - let’s go make stuff!

{ Words & Illustration by Kiara Mucci }

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Our Press Play Online courses are designed to support you in crafting a creative practice of play and creativity, for fun, and for your wellbeing.

Head to makeshift.org.au to learn more and see what’s coming up!

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We acknowledge the Traditional Owners, Custodians and Elders past and present of the Indigenous Nations of New South Wales on whose lands we work. We pay respects to the Wodi Wodi people of the Dharawal Nation.

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