post written by: Marc Chernoff

7 Deadly Sins of Creativity


The 7 Deadly Sins of Creativity

Creativity is not just for artists and poets.  Everybody has the potential to exercise their creative mind – to innovate new ways of accomplishing things that will ultimately make life easier and more gratifying.  Creativity magnifies the effectiveness of our natural talents, generating elevated levels of success and happiness by helping us discover more efficient ways to do what we love to do.

Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Acts of creativity can be found in every facet of life.  We are surrounded by the byproducts of creative ideas both big and small.  And the small acts of creativity are no less important than the big ones.  In fact, the more creative you are with the small things in your life, the more creative you will likely be with the big things.

Now, it’s to be expected that there will be ups and downs in our levels of creativity.  Some days we’ll be full of new ideas, and other days our brains will feel a bit dull.  Although this phenomenon is natural, oftentimes our poor personal choices perpetuate our inability to think creatively, and we end up having more dull days than creative ones.  The vast majority of these poor choices fall into one of seven categories.  I call them the seven deadly sins of creativity.

1.  Lack of knowledge and attention.

Knowledge and attention are absolute necessities.  Creative thinking cannot be productively applied until a certain level of knowledge is gathered about the current situation or problem at hand.  Thus, creativity actually relies on both sides of the brain, the creative right side and the logical left side.

The first steps the brain takes when tackling a creative venture are actually governed by logic, not creativity.  This is because most creative breakthroughs rest on the shoulders of everything that came before it.  The logical left side of your brain analyzes the situation and all the known facts, defines the problem that must be solved and then hands the data over to the creative right side of your brain.  In other words, once a creative challenge has been realized, you must first rely on your logic and absorb yourself in what is already known.  Without this logical review process, creativity will drown in misdirection.

2.  Lack of passion and enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is the lifeblood of creativity.  Creativity blossoms when you are passionate and enthusiastic about what you are doing.  It’s extremely difficult to pioneer creative solutions for things you have absolutely no interest in.  When your mind is stimulated by curiosity and a fundamental interest in the subject matter, your creativity and motivation will automatically accelerate.  (Read The War of Art.)

3.  Doing exactly what you’ve always done.

There’s a saying that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.  Sure, this will minimize surprises and mistakes, but it will also crush your creative edge.

We are all a product of our past experience, but we must step outside of our comfort zone and attempt unfamiliar activities if we hope to achieve breakthroughs in our future.  The foundation of practical creativity is simply trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t.

4.  Fear of failure.

Most creative ventures step into the unknown, slowly taking you in a direction you haven’t gone before.  Any journey into uncharted territory holds a certain level of inherent risk.  Many people are scared to accept this risk, which in effect squashes all their creative ideas before they have a chance to develop them.

If you hope to exercise your creativity, you must get over your fear of failure.  Confidence and passion together provide the solution.  If you have confidence in yourself and passion for your ideas, you will be far more willing to accept calculated risks, take creative chances and thwart off the other stress factors attempting to restrain your creative edge.  Because at the end of the day, you know that every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.

5.  Never pausing for a break.

Where are you when your most creative ideas come to you?  I’m guessing it’s not when you’re sitting at your desk working, or consciously trying to think creatively.  Rather, it’s when you’ve given the logical side of your brain a rest and you’re doing something else, like taking a stroll outside.

The biggest bursts of creativity often come when you walk away from the problem for awhile.  This gives your mind a chance to mull over the information, often subconsciously, and look at things from a renewed perspective.  Exercise can be a great way to shift away from your logical thought process and into the creative depths of your mind in order to access new ideas and solutions.  After working for a couple hours straight, usually the best way to jog your creativity is to literally take a jog.  (Read The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.)

6.  Never testing the impact of your creative output.

As silly as it sounds, some of the most creative ideas and inventions never make it into the public eye simply because their creator doesn’t realize the significance and impact of what he or she has produced.  This is another perfect example of how creativity actually relies on both sides of the brain, the creative right and the logical left.  Once your creative mind drives you to create something, your logical mind must test, verify and validate it.

In other words, there’s more to the creative process than simply having an idea and executing it once behind closed doors.  Most creative ideas that leave an impact on the world are relentlessly tested, reviewed by third parties, and sometimes modified and tested again.  Scientists do this in a laboratory with other scientists.  Painters do it by painting and then displaying their art in a gallery.  Bloggers do it by translating their thoughts into stories and articles, and publishing them online.

7.  Confining yourself to boundaries others set up.

No matter how creative you are or much progress you make with your ideas, there will always be negative people who insist that whatever you’re trying to do is impossible.  Or they may suggest that your creative ideas are impractical and ridiculous because nobody really cares, even though they have no basis for these claims.  When you come across these people, don’t try to reason with them.  Instead, forget that they exist.  They will only drain you of your creativity and waste your time.

And unfortunately, sometimes the people who care for you most might also interfere with your creativity.  They’ll see you venturing into uncharted territory and they’ll try to quickly steer you back to familiar ground.  They’re doing this to protect you – to shield you from the possibility of failure.  But in effect what they’re also doing is shielding you from the possibility of bringing your big ideas to life.

When it comes to exercising your creativity, you must try what you want to try, go where you want to go, and follow your own intuition.  Don’t accept false choices.  Don’t let others put a cage around your ideas.  (Read The Artist’s Way.)

Photo by: Tim Hamilton

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25 Comments

  • When I lack enthusiasm, it is impossible for me to do creative blog writing. When I let the fair of failure overwhelm me, it is also impossible.

    These two points, for me, are the greatest sins which are deadly to creativity.

    Thanks for the reminders. Well stated.

  • Great advice! Personally I feel that creativity is more an accident than a desired process. But you can adopt few behaviors that were mentioned above to keep you in the flow. Creativity becomes a part of you when you have sharp and focused mind. So i recommend you to practice meditation too.

  • Great advice on the intersection of creativity and productivity.

  • There are some very interesting and insightful points here, but I feel one is missing: do not give up! Being creative in itself may not always lead to worldwide success, but if it is an important part of you, you will feel stifled in life if you do not express your creativity regularly. Don’t give up on yourself.

  • The easiest one of these to change is #3, and it impacts all the others.

    Really, when you start trying new things on a regular basis - even something as simple as trying a new ethnic restaurant instead of your normal Friday night pizza - you will reap bigger rewards than you ever imagined.

    Take a different route home from work. Read a book about something new. Learn more about a subject you think you disagree with.

    It’s all part and parcel for creating a more interesting life, testing your boundaries, and helping you see the world in a whole new way.

    Nice post.

  • If you want to fuel your creativity, don’t let others control you, don’t over-think, and don’t drink too much tequila. ;-)

  • This is such a deep analysis of using creativity in a practical way. You brought a few new points to my mind that I need to work on.

    Thank you, as always, Marc.

  • Thank you for the reinforcement; wonderful fuel for the creative soul.

  • I know my creativity is the best after failure. I like to reinvent my approach the next time I am presented with this exact situation. To become a person of failure used to be an insult, but now I take it as a personal vendetta! Because now I know how not to do it, and somewhere deep inside me I know that anything is possible if I keep trying.

  • This is a very good list, but sometimes I can still cannot manage all the factors that kill my creativity. I think fear of failure and lack of self confidence is my issue, but I don’t know how to avoid these traps.

  • Each time that I read one of your blogs, I feel inspired. As you mentioned, it is so important to know our passion to be creative. Thank you for sharing all your valuable thoughts and knowledge.

  • Wonderful, wonderful piece Marc! Thank you, and have a splendidly creative day.

  • @All: Thanks for the continued support and positive reinforcement.

    @Lenia: One of the keys to improving your self-esteem and managing your fear of failure is to simply try new things more often - learn more, understand more, until you eventually realize that ‘not knowing’ and not getting it right all the time is okay, and in fact helps you out in the long run. This is a trick that has worked for me over the years.

  • Bravo on a life-changing article! I’ve followed you for awhile and love your work here. The creativity piece really got my attention, as I focus on this topic on my blog and in my coaching. I will post a link to this one!

    Cheers!

  • That last one is something I think holds back a lot of people. They get told by someone that they’re not good enough. But I just saw a post at Goal Setting College that shows many famous people who took that criticism and used it as fuel to reach their success.

    Great post!

  • Awesome post! I’ve slowly begun to realize the issues that have been holding me back creatively, but you’ve hit the nail on the head. Thank you for sharing a well-written piece, it’s definitely inspired me to continue down my creative path.

    facebook.com/SanaSarina

  • When my creativity wanes, my wife shows me the bills. Funny how that motivates me to come up with ideas to keep the dream alive.

  • Great tips. Here’s a JFK quote I’ve been using for years, FYI:

    “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”
    ~ John F. Kennedy

  • Another great post. My problem is being too creative - ideas coming all the time. I call it the curse of creativity. I’m writing, so I have an outlet for it, but if I didn’t know how to meditate, I might go crazy.

  • Shirley Buchanan-Skeen
    December 17th, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Feel the fear and do it anyway. We get so comfortable in our little bubbles we fear to venture out.

  • Seems often my most creative ideas come to me when life is out of the ordinary, like when I’m traveling or on vacation. If only we’d permit ourselves to take short little creativity vacations every day.

  • Ah there’s no greater achievement than the feeling of satisfaction when you’ve done something all by yourself.
    Awesome post!!

  • So true! Finally started my own business after so many years of doubts and decided to just JUMP!

  • I love this list. It took me a long time to realize that I need to take a break to recharge my creative batteries. I would keep trying to push through when I was really burnt out. Now when I get really burnt out I take a substantial break and when I come back my creative block is usually gone completely.

  • It’s hard to get over fear of failure and testing your art to see how good or bad it does. In point 7, you have to be a bit of a rebel to not listen and be confident of yourself. Great post, and cheers.

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