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  • 8 Blocks to Creative thinking

8 Blocks to Creative Thinking

The 8 things that can stop your innate creativity

Beware of the following 8 blocks , these are the main stumbling blocks that hold us back from getting in touch with our innate creativity. Remember! we are all creative. but in addition to the below common 8 blocks sometimes the pace and complexity of modern life becomes a serious inhibiter to creative thinking since it so often destroys the climate we need to be able to solve problems or visualise an alternative future. We know that something is fundamentally wrong, we feel strongly that things could be so much better, but all too often we simply lack the time and space to even contemplate change, let alone evaluate, identify and implement it. The pace of change is running ahead of our ability to adapt to it and the gaps between those chasing it are getting wider.

1. Believing you aren’t creative Let's face it, if you keep telling yourself and others around you that you are not creative by time you and everyone around you will believe it and you will never be creative because you have that automatic block in your mind that you are not a creative person and stop yourself from even trying to think creatively. This is one of the very common blocks to creativity beware of that one cause it's a big one and always remember we are all creative somehow, the only challenge is to find what releases our innate creativity. Some people are very creative in arranging flowers for example, others can be creative in drawing ,cooking,...etc. whatever it is try to find what you are creative in instead of closing the door of creativity in your mind.

2. Making assumptions Making too many assumptions is restricting in discovering new innovative options or approaches to a problem or a specific situation. Be quick to discard any assumptions that are not based on solid facts or there isn't sufficient proof to back these assumptions up.

3. Following the rules too strictly Even if you make too many ground rules to a brainstorming session that's sole purpose is to come up with new creative ideas may end up limiting the quantity and quality of ideas generated. Take a look at our brainstorming ground rules article. Creativity is linked to openness, freedom of thought and going beyond boundaries of what is considered normal or appropriate or expected so naturally if a person sticks too much to the rules and makes sure everything is done by the book is less likely to generate unconventional out of the box creative ideas.

4. Being too serious With creativity always comes fun, laughter and spontaneity. Some people come up with the wildest ideas that makes you wonder where the devil did they come up with that one and it's not uncommon for these ideas to spark laughter or even comments suggesting more unconventional ideas creating an atmosphere of fun. Taking matters too seriously usually doesn't mix well with being creative. there needs to be some fun in there to lubricate that creative right side of your brain.

5. Avoiding risks or being wrong is bad Of course nobody likes to make mistakes or be wrong or look bad, coming up with something new creative and unique puts us on the line. where our ideas are examined and evaluated by others which can be a deterrent for some cause they do not want to look bad if it didn't work out. We need to remind ourselves that being wrong is not bad, we are all humans and it's normal for humans to make mistakes and this is how we actually learn by making mistakes and learning not to repeat them again.

6. Always staying with your routines/habits Staying safe in your normal routine, fear of change and staying in your comfort zone is a big enemy of creativity. For us in our daily lives we easily fall into the trap of being comfortable with doing the same routine over and over again like the same road we take to work everyday cause we're used to it. Change your routine, follow a  new route to work and you never know what you will see, meet or hear that can spark up your brain and get your creative juices running.

7. Thinking there is only one solution Sometimes when faced with a problem we tend to think there is only one way out and we fail to see any other option and resist even considering other options without properly evaluating those alternatives. Flexibility comes hand in hand with creativity, do not fall in love with one idea and fail to see anything else, spend enough time to fairly judge all other available options.

8. Making judgments too quickly As stated above if we judge ideas either our own or others ideas too quickly and rule them as inappropriate cause we didn't spend enough time evaluating and weighing each new idea we can miss out on a lot of potential creative solutions to problems and creative ideas coming either from us or from others around us.

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Frustrating mental blocks often happen when you’re trying to solve a tough problem, start a business, get attention for that business, come up with killer content ideas , or write an interesting article. But in those situations, creative thinking is crucial.

The process for achieving content success boils down to changing your perspective and seeing things differently than you currently do.

People like to call this “thinking outside of the box,” but that’s the wrong way to look at it.

Just like Neo needed to understand that “there is no spoon” in the film The Matrix, you need to realize “there is no box” to step outside of.

You create your own imaginary boxes simply by living life and accepting certain things as “real” when they are just as illusory as the beliefs of a paranoid delusional.

The difference is, enough people agree that certain man-made concepts are “real,” so you’re viewed as “normal.”

This is good for society overall, but it’s that sort of unquestioning consensus that inhibits your natural creative abilities — no matter how you define creativity .

So, rather than looking for ways to inspire creativity and write better headlines , you should just realize the truth.

You’re already capable of creative thinking at all times, but you have to strip away the imaginary mental blocks (or boxes) you’ve picked up along the way to wherever you are today.

What is a mental block?

The question “What is a mental block?” is similar to the question “ What is writer’s block? “

A mental block prevents you from accessing your natural creative abilities. You’ll feel like you’ll never accomplish the task at hand. Instead of feeling inspired and energized about your article ideas , you feel drained.

Catching yourself second-guessing your decisions is one quick way to realize that you’re having a mental block. If you weren’t blocked creatively, you’d feel confident about your choices and writing abilities. You’d write articles fast .

Mental blocks can stop you from relationship building or prevent you from finishing a project — or even prevent you from starting in the first place.

What causes mental blocks?

A variety of circumstances can cause mental blocks, but a mental block typically occurs when you care a lot about the outcome of a situation.

Think of it this way: When you don’t care about something, there’s no reason for concern, right? If you don’t have a preference about how a finished project will look, it’s a lot easier to flow from task to task and smoothly complete each step.

However, when you do care a lot about something, such as the quality of your writing, it’s a lot easier to freeze up. When the stakes are high, you’re more likely to get blocked (no matter how many inspirational quotes for writers you’ve read).

How to get over a mental block

I like to keep this list of 10 common ways we suppress our natural creative abilities nearby when I get stuck. It helps me realize that the barriers to a good idea are truly all in my head.

1. Trying to find the “right” answer

One of the worst aspects of formal education is the focus on the correct answer to a particular question or problem.

While this approach helps us function in society, it hurts creative thinking and professional writers   because real-life issues are ambiguous. There’s often more than one “correct” answer, and the second one you come up with might be better than the first.

Many of the following mental blocks can be turned around to reveal ways to find more than one answer to any given problem. For example, the process of publishing a book has evolved over the years. There’s no one “right” way to do that anymore.

Try reframing the issue in several different ways in order to prompt different answers and embrace answering inherently ambiguous questions in several different ways.

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2. Logical thinking

Not only is real life ambiguous, it’s often illogical to the point of madness.

While critical thinking skills based on logic are one of our main strengths in evaluating the feasibility of a creative idea, it’s often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts in the first place.

One of the best ways to escape the constraints of your own logical mind is to think metaphorically .

One of the reasons why metaphors work so well is that we accept them as true without thinking about it. When you realize that “truth” is often symbolic, you’ll often find that you are actually free to come up with alternatives.

3. Following rules

One way to view creative thinking is to look at it as a destructive force.

You’re tearing away the often arbitrary rules that others have set for you, and asking either “why” or “why not” whenever confronted with the way “everyone” does things.

This is easier said than done, since people will often defend the rules they follow even in the face of evidence that the rule doesn’t work.

People love to celebrate rebels like Richard Branson, but few seem brave enough to emulate him. Quit worshipping rule breakers and start breaking some rules.

4. Being practical

Like logic, practicality is hugely important when it comes working as a professional writer , but it often stifles innovative ideas before they can properly blossom.

Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.

Try not to evaluate the actual feasibility of an approach until you’ve allowed it to exist on its own for a bit. It’s also a helpful trick when you’re learning how to overcome writer’s block .

Spend time asking “what if” as often as possible, and simply allow your imagination to go where it wants. You might just find yourself discovering a crazy idea that’s so insanely practical that no one’s thought of it before.

5. Play is not work

Allowing your mind to be at play is perhaps the most effective way to stimulate creative thinking, and yet many people disassociate play from work.

These days, the people who can come up with great ideas and solutions are the most economically rewarded, while worker bees are often employed for the benefit of the creative thinkers.

You’ve heard the expression “work hard and play hard.” All you have to realize is that they’re the same thing as a  creative thinker .

6. That’s not my job

In an era of hyper-specialization, it’s those who happily explore completely unrelated areas of life and knowledge who best see that everything is related.

This goes back to what ad man Carl Ally said about creative persons — they want to be know-it-alls.

(You can read more about that in the article How to Write Remarkably Creative Content .)

Sure, you’ve got to know the specialized stuff in your field, but if you view yourself as an explorer rather than a highly specialized cog in the machine, you’ll run circles around the technical master in the success department.

7. Being a “serious” person

Most of what keeps us civilized boils down to conformity, consistency, shared values, and yes, thinking about things the same way everyone else does.

There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily. But if you can mentally accept that it’s actually nothing more than groupthink that helps a society function, you can then give yourself permission to turn everything that’s accepted upside down and shake out the illusions.

Leaders from Egyptian pharaohs to Chinese emperors and European royalty have consulted with fools, or court jesters, when faced with tough problems.

The persona of the fool allowed the truth to be told, without the usual ramifications that might come with speaking blasphemy, being naive , or challenging ingrained social conventions.

Give yourself permission to remove this mental block, be a fool, and see things for what they really are.

8. Avoiding ambiguity

We rationally realize that most every situation is ambiguous to some degree.

And although dividing complex situations into black and white boxes can lead to disaster, we still do it.

It’s an innate characteristic of human psychology to desire certainty, but it’s the creative thinker who rejects the false comfort of clarity when it’s not really appropriate.

Ambiguity is your friend if you’re looking to innovate.

The fact that most people are uncomfortable exploring uncertainty gives you an advantage, as long as you can embrace ambiguity rather than run from it.

9. Being wrong is bad

We hate being wrong, and yet mistakes often teach us the most.

Thomas Edison was wrong over 1,000 times before getting the light bulb right. Edison’s greatest strength was that he was not afraid to be wrong.

The best thing we do is learn from our mistakes, but we have to free ourselves to make mistakes in the first place.

Just try out your ideas for content or creator coins and see what happens, take what you learn, and try something else.

Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen if I’m wrong?

You’ll often find the benefits of being wrong greatly outweigh the ramifications.

10. I’m not creative

Denying your own creativity is like denying you’re a human being .

We’re all limitlessly creative, but only to the extent that we realize that we create our own limits with the way we think. If you tell yourself you’re not creative, it becomes true. Stop that mental block.

In that sense, awakening your own creativity is similar to the path reported by those who seek spiritual enlightenment.

You’re already enlightened, just like you’re already creative, but you have to strip away all of your delusions before you can see it.

Acknowledge that you’re inherently creative, and then start tearing down the other barriers you’ve allowed to be created in your mind.

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Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the founder of Copyblogger, the midlife personal growth newsletter Further, Unemployable, an educational community that provides smart strategies for freelancers and solopreneurs , and Creative Affiliate, affiliate marketing advice for creators .

Reader Interactions

Reader comments (341).

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September 18, 2007 at 3:33 pm

This is really great stuff! Especially–> “there is no box” to step outside of. Great use of a Matrix movie reference…

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December 21, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Hi Brian, Copyblogger has many quality article that I’ve learn from. This is an excellent post covering every aspect blogger should consider.

For a start, i tried using 10 mental block as check sheet to gauge my current status against the nest practice. Thanks for this amazing post, i’ve draft a 30/60/90 days plan to improve my creativity.

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March 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Really great post describing various barriers. Some of them are know to us while some become so common that we fail to recognise them as barriers. We need to throw them away and move forward. thanks for publication.

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October 25, 2011 at 3:58 pm

“Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.”

When I read the above statement I realized that, over the past several years while I’ve been distracted with personal business, the wily editor has sent the artist out to play, locked the door, and taken over the study. I see now that in order to get the artist back to playing on the page, the valued but much-too-full-of-herself editor must be sent, temporarily, out of the room. Thanks, Mr. Clark! The pointers in this article are deceptively simple. A great reference, bookmarked for at least one more read.

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September 18, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Very smart list, Brian. I particularly agree with “I’m not creative.” It drives me crazy that people say that, because I’ve seen so many “uncreative” people become really good with practice.

Creativity takes the willingness to try and fail–a lot–before becoming good. Even the best creatives strike out more than they hit a home run. The key is that they don’t let it stop them.

The books you picked are all really good, even though I’d recommend de Bono’s Serious Creativity over Lateral Thinking. Serious Creativity is basically the updated version, and it’s a lot easier to find.

I also recommend Ideas are Free and Blue Ocean Strategy. Hope this helps!

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September 18, 2007 at 3:54 pm

I really enjoyed this post. I don’t know – it felt more like you than some of the other things you turn out to get people going…

For me ~10 is key to it all. About a year ago I shifted my belief from “I’m not a creative person” to “I am a creative person”. It was the best personal development work I have ever done.

Everything else falls away when you blast away that old belief, and start to believe in your own creativity, to start to feel that power, that source flowing through you…

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September 18, 2007 at 3:56 pm

it felt more like you…

It is. Thanks for noticing. 🙂

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Every person has a secret creative genius inside. Being creative is all about shedding inhibitions and seeking the lovely inner-voice which is ubiquitous to all human beings (whether they can sing or not 🙂 )

The analogy holds true whether writing copy, painting pictures, sculpting marble, programming C#, crafting Cabernet, or making love. Sing at the top of your lungs! Be wrong! Make you point, be linear and non-linear at the same time, free yourself from the shackles of the self-imposed lead box.

Celebrating our indigenous creativity is the ultimate act of getting over ourselves and offers the best chance to leave something behind that survives; an idea, a thought, a poem, a child, a song…

A very famous musician pal once told me that his critical and creative successes came when he finally stopped trying to create music “like everyone else.” The secret, he whispered, is in creating art that can ONLY come from you. Then, right or wrong, you have found your voice.

Great post Brian…thanks.

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September 18, 2007 at 4:29 pm

This post is over-the-top good, and it addresses some serious problems I’ve been having. If you don’t mind, I’ll hang onto it. 😉

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September 18, 2007 at 4:49 pm

I’ve just printed out your article after highlighting “there is no box” and now have the list hanging beside my monitor. Fantastic stuff! Thanks for your great insight!

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September 18, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Tears in my eyes as I’m reading this. It’s something I really needed to hear right now, thank you so much.

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September 18, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Brian, any post with The Matrix in it gets my approval.

Li, if your list is hanging from a hanger you made out of twisted spoons, you’ve taken it to the next level and are on your way to becoming one of Brian’s star pupils.

Rock on Shane

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September 18, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Great post!

I think the biggest “creative block” for most people is themselves! It’s a self-fullfilling prophecy. Usually, people are their own worst critics.

However, I also believe that mainstream “corporate culture” is also a huge creative block. Many companies believe there is only one way to do things, and anything else is not acceptable. I’ve seen this myself and the destructive power it has on individuals.

I think humans are inherently creative, it’s a matter of learning to not only unlock that creativity, but also the ability to apply it to every day situations is crucial.

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September 18, 2007 at 6:00 pm

WOW! Exquisite. Brilliant. You are a genius. That’s right – there’s no spoon, there’s no box.

We saw the Matrix many times and still we keep on forgetting. What a shame. We need to keep on reminding ourselves, we got to keep on applying this perception, lest we forget. We should sit down and contemplate it until we really really get it and it sticks and permeates our minds, our beings, and the way we live our lives.

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September 18, 2007 at 7:13 pm

My wife and I say “there is no spoon” to each other all the time. It’s become a shorthand code for what you’re describing.

I think this is all about patterns. Humans are pattern creators and pattern followers. Following a pattern repeatedly creates something else: ruts! Ruts are hard to get out of. And I think that’s why it seems so hard, sometimes, to remember that there is no spoon.

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September 18, 2007 at 7:30 pm

Nice post, point 7 was very true, thats a problem to many people, acting serious, serious people are not only uncreative, but they also undermine the creativity of not so serious people, they are total oposites of personality

Although we cant forget that being serious may mean that you are lonely, and lonelyness is an impossible state of mind to be creative.

Jmus ( http://ultraside.blogspot.com )

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September 18, 2007 at 8:35 pm

Point 5 is great. You’ve got to have fun @ work, by really enjoying the work. Beyond being creative, enjoying your work is one of the best ways to be happy.

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September 18, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Great ideas! I especially like the part about “being wrong”. People who are honest in their work and take responsibility for mistakes are always more successful long-term. Great insights!

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September 18, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Hi! I’m the author of “A Whack on the Side of the Head.” I appreciate your highlighting some of its ideas. Thanks. By the way, there will be a 25th anniversary edition of “Whack” next spring.

Your readers may also enjoy stopping by my Creative Think blog which can be found at:


Best wishes!

September 18, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Hey Roger, thanks for stopping by… I’m an obvious fan!

I think everyone should buy Roger’s book… it goes into a lot of detail about working past these mental blocks, and has tons of examples and illustrations.

He also has some creativity “flash cards” that I haven’t tried yet, but they look stimulating.

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September 19, 2007 at 6:00 am

This is a fantastic entry Brian. Your ten mental blocks are wonderful points to remember.

I regularly struggle with number 1 and 9 combined. The curse of perfectionism. I’ve found it doesn’t hurt my creativity, it just creates an avid shyness that prevents me showing my tragic ‘failures’ to others. On bad days ‘everything’ is a tragic failure. *chuckles*

Anyway, definitely food for thought and a great jumping off point for other articles. I’ll be linking up to this very soon I expect, as soon as I’ve broken out of the box enough to spin off on this concept with my own voice. 🙂

Off to check out each of those other resources. One advantage of having infinite ‘right’ answers is they are endless things to learn.

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September 19, 2007 at 7:07 am

Great post, Brian.

I love the way that some of these are so closely tied to together. For instance the notion of black and white or right an wrong. Creativity is all about navigating the grays. When we see things in black or white, we limit our options and bring on the fear of failure if our final product isn’t black or white.

Realizing that there is not right or wrong, and that it is okay to make mistakes, is HUGE for promoting creativity.

And since my blog is directly related to the topic of creativity, I’ll share it here at the risk of shameless self promotion: Tapping Creativity .

This was a great look at creativity from outside the box that…um…doesn’t exist. Way to go, Brian.

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September 19, 2007 at 7:55 am

Inspiring post. 🙂

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September 19, 2007 at 8:28 am

Once again you are able to take the basic principles of how I try to lead my life and arrange them in an elegant, eloquent, perfectly worded post. Cheers to you and thank you! Again!

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September 19, 2007 at 8:38 am

It’s funny, I’ve driven many people nuts telling them “there is no box”. People seem to want a box, where everything can be neatly compartmentalized away.

Great post.

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September 19, 2007 at 9:27 am

Great post. For so many years I was afraid of making mistakes. Now I am free!

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September 19, 2007 at 10:02 am

this is good tips.. Being a serious . Being smart .. I think this will keep my motivation high to produce good writing… Thanks for the tips..

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September 19, 2007 at 10:15 am

yes, the whole box metaphor is so overdone and useless.

Look at the guys from Buzzmarketing where they re-named that town Half.com and got all that free national press attention?

They threw the rulebook out the windows as far as trad marketing goes, and created a whole new window of options.

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September 19, 2007 at 11:01 am

Good post. I agree with a comment above that the business world does lean towards stifling creativity. Writers are expected to be creative within boundaries set by business owners; fly free, but do it our way. Umm… yeah, that makes sense.

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September 19, 2007 at 11:02 am

That post is probably worth 5000 times the cost of any success course, period.

“There is no box” classic. And, the reference to the spoon in “The Matrix”… good choice.

The only borders that exist are those that we create, period.

Joseph Ratliff Author of The Profitable Business Edge 2

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September 19, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Great article! To avoid the mental block you actually need to do something else, like in these videos: http://adsoftheworld.com/media/tv/marketing_awards_shower http://adsoftheworld.com/media/tv/marketing_awards_jogger

I wrote a list of 77 things you can do when you have a project at hand that can help you break the block: http://creativebits.org/toolbox/77_ways_to_come_up_with_an_idea

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September 19, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Creative thinking it’s like an obstacle race. After 10, you have to keep running, running and running…

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September 19, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Great list. Right on mark.

When I was at school studying music composition a prof gave me a great trick for getting outside of a problem. He told me to imagine the most ridiculous, impractical, unreasonable solution I could and then fix it. By bringing the solution back to the problem you end up in a spot that linear thinking would never allow.

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September 19, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Well, judging by the fact that there is not a single negative comment posted here, I am doubtful that anyone will ever see this, but I have to bring you folks down a bit.

This article is mostly bunk and buzz-words and essentially misses most of the point of creativity. Speaking as a practicing Artist/Designer/Writer and someone who has over fourty years of success at being very creative indeed, I can say with assurance that these points are mostly garbage.

At the very least one should steer entirely clear of anyone who maintains that “everyone is creative” (by virtue of being human). While that is trivially accurate, not everyone is as creative as the next person and some are hardly creative at all.

In some areas, you confabulate entirely different things together under overly simplistic labels like “play” and “work” and then contrast and compare these essentially incomparable things. In others, you are just completely wrong. Logic and creativity are at odds? Sounds to me like you have no idea of any of the concepts you are papier-mache’ing together here.

This is more of a back-slapping, ego-boosting exercise than anything realistic to base your life on. Real creative people don’t need it, and nothing in it could possibly turn a dullard into anything like a real creative person IMO.

September 19, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Jeremy, you’re terribly unenlightened, but don’t take it too hard… most people are.

You’re an egoist. You love to identify yourself as a creative, and exclude others as “uncreative”. It makes you feel good, because you’re your own favorite person.

Feel free to continue your line of thinking on your own site, if you have one. So creative, and nothing to show us?

September 19, 2007 at 1:57 pm

Nice point, Jeremy. Nothing like, say, oh, I dunno… hard work and concerted effort could ever possibly change people. People just never self-actualize, do they? Born a dullard, and dullard you are till the day you die. Same thing goes for asshats.

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September 19, 2007 at 2:03 pm

John Gardner said he never gets writer’s block… that would be like a kid on the beach getting sandcastle block.

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September 19, 2007 at 2:06 pm

I love your site! I’ve been looking for methods to increase my creativity and identifying blocks is a help. One thing that works for me is the Random Word Technique where you force yourself to solve a problem using a random input such as a random word from the dictionary. I do have one criticism, however. I find it odd that you feel compelled to identify the blocks to creativity through a cliché top 10 list. See the irony?

September 19, 2007 at 2:11 pm

No irony at all Richard. As a copywriter, I use what I know will work best for a particular bit of content, and leave the fretting over clichés to others. 🙂

Oh, plus there are 10 blocks mentioned in Roger von Oech’s book. Should I have left some of them out to satisfy those who worry about hipster appearances?

Creativity in business does not involve knowingly choosing something that doesn’t work as well.

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September 19, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Ahhh, I love it when bitter people stop in to spice up a comment thread. 🙂

Seriously though, I love the Matrix analogy and will have to check out those recommended books.

September 19, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Hi Brian, I had to jump in again because Jeremy’s comment made me really mad. How arrogant to say that people either are or aren’t creative! (And then to call yourself one of the elite few.)

I wrote a response to his comment on my creativity blog and I’m taking his comment as a challenge to prove that people can learn creativity.

I’m a Lateral Thinking instructor who is just completing a Masters degree in Creativity, and I told my readers that I’d offer an hour of free creativity training to one of the commentators on my post.

If anyone is interested from your blog, they should come over and help me prove that Jeremy’s blanket statement is completely wrong.

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September 19, 2007 at 4:53 pm

I like the ideas presented here, I just have never really met that may people who claim to have a problem with creativity. They may have a short term mental block, or go through a period in their life where they are preoccupied/anxious/depresseed/etc. but I can’t say I’ve met anyone who didn’t have plenty of good ideas. What I have met are a TON of people who can’t turn a good idea into a finished product. Getting a finished product takes creativity too, but it also takes: 1. Hard Work 2. Seriousness 3. Being Practical 4. Following the Rules….You get the idea. Thomas Edison and Richard Branson were/are more creative than the average person, but hey can also do the things in my list above better than the average person too. It takes both.

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September 19, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Brian, that is a great post. I always hate the phrase “out of the box”. A great one I used to hear (in a former work life) when a department would be way behind schedule in starting a project or when Upper management tried to emphasize to their worker bees the importance of taking on more work “for free” or continuing insance processes for lack of better strategy was this, “We just don’t have the bandwith”. This meant, We don’t have time, We don’t care, Just shut up and continue on.

Anyway, your post is great….so many times the key to creativity is unlocked by one of my three children….they haven’t unlearned the talent or had it compromised yet.

Rebecca D. Levinson- Connect2Agent

September 19, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Erik, I agree with you.

Someday, I’ll do a post on taking action. Personally, it was the biggest barrier I had to get over before I started doing the things I really wanted to.

And also, I did mention a few times in this article that critical evaluation and execution are important. You just can’t let them get in the way at the beginning of the creative process. “Creative thinking” is the beginning of creativity, not the totality.

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September 19, 2007 at 5:11 pm

I think my time as a coporate employee eliminated my creativity, but its coming back slowly. I believe everyone has a creative side. Its not an excuse to say I am not creative.

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September 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Replying to ScribbleSheet, who wrote, “I think my time as a coporate employee eliminated my creativity, but its coming back slowly. I believe everyone has a creative side. Its not an excuse to say I am not creative.”

I hear ya! It’s terrible to have put in nearly 20 years as a corporate communicator and realize it only diminished, never nurtured, my creative side. I lost my job in November 2009 and in the months since have finally started a blog, created a photostream on flickr, choreographed a waltz and handsewn a ballgown for a regional showcase, and will soon launch a handmade clothing boutique on etsy.com. Meanwhile, my former co-workers lament, “I wish I were as creative as you.”

If necessity is the mother of invention, complacency is the nanny of mediocrity.

Good luck, ScribbleSheet, and countless others out there who are clinging fast to their creative selves. If you need a little inspiration (or just a kick in the pants), stop by and say hiya:

http://www.scrollwork.blogspot.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

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September 19, 2007 at 5:51 pm

I’d like to throw in lack of practice. Creativity is an exercise – it’s not a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing.

You have to be willing to work the creative juices a bit…

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September 19, 2007 at 7:10 pm

This echos a book I read called Like a Worm on a String. It’s all about regaining your creativity. Really good book!


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September 20, 2007 at 12:53 am

Great principles, however if you start talking about the non-existence of reality it will inevitably take its toll on your mental health because you will soon find you are in a minority of one, which I can tell you is an uncomfortable experience, especially if you have a moment of insight when you see exactly what others think of you, and find it is not a pretty sight …

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September 20, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Sshhh, I’m thinking.

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September 21, 2007 at 5:29 am

First time here at copyblogger and I am already addicted to your content. Great writing skills!

Congrats, Francesco

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September 21, 2007 at 11:09 am

Bryan, I really Dugg this post, it’s very del.icio.us:) Thanks for writing it; I will refer to it often. It is a great model for finding satisfaction from life as well because it is our mental limitations that create strife and monotony and leave us wanting more from life. Stepping outside of those for at least a little while is a great reminder that we are creating every moment of our lives whether we are aware if it or not.

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September 21, 2007 at 1:20 pm

I had never heard the cliche “think outside of the box” — until a CEO used it to describe my thinking style right before I spoke to his board.

When I got up to speak, I turned to him and asked, “I’m supposed to think outside of some box? What box? I didn’t know there was a box.”

And everyone laughed and applauded.

But I was serious. Had no idea what they were laughing at. Found out later.

Felt both dumb and smart at the same time.

Decided to market 10 foot poles not to touch things with.

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September 22, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Thank you for this post!

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September 24, 2007 at 11:34 am

I really like the “there is no box” theme of this post. I may actually write that on a notepad near my computer.

I can relate to most of what you wrote. I enjoyed seeing it laid out this way. Very good things to keep in mind. My best days on the computer, whether with my podcast, writing my scripts, or blogging happen when I am relaxed and not trying too hard.

I guess on those days, there really is no box, eh?

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September 25, 2007 at 4:12 am

ok, i have to work on myself… i still see the box and i still try to get out of it… thanks for a great article to quote another little text from the matrix: “This is really gonna bake my noodle…”

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September 25, 2007 at 4:39 am

For me, one of the greatest barriers to creative thinking is constantly trying to apply previous solutions. This is in the belief (often mistaken) that because something worked before it will do again.

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October 2, 2007 at 1:16 am

lovely… and i should thank Jurgen wolff of ‘time to write’…. for directing me here. you ‘created’ this article… he created a path for/in me. 🙂 what i mean is, more than changing our belief ‘i am not creative’… what is needed is to re-define creativity. that itself has the power to bust the mythical belief. no need to fight with myself. (if i believe i am not creative, and you ask me to change that belief, it tells me i am wrong. if i am wrong, where do i get the power to change myself?) so… what IS creativity, and what is it NOT (restricted to)?

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October 4, 2007 at 10:28 am

I work for a communications consultancy and we have created an international campaign targeted at Ad. executives. As part of this, we are producing a ‘mock newspaper’ to distribute to them. I found many of the ideas expressed in your article inspiring and was wondering if you would be happy for the piece to be included in the aforementioned newspaper.

Please let me know asap.

Many thanks

Joshua Ross

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October 10, 2007 at 12:39 pm

11. Fear of being right / Fear of Success

What if you are right, you have a good idea. Then what? In some places it is dangerous to outshine the boss.

Or being wrong is familiar. If you are right, then what?

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October 12, 2007 at 2:54 pm

Nice list. I liked the idea of not being serious and accept the fact that we all make mistakes and it is not wrong to make mistakes. The point of being absolutely fool so far as the norms and values of present society are concerned is also really appreciable. After all, we all are free spirit and who is to judge what we do is an act of foolishness or real creativity. If Einstein thought Newtonian Physics was ultimate, we would still be in an underdeveloped situation.

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October 15, 2007 at 12:08 am

I can relate to all 10 of these mental blocks. they happen every day for me.

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October 15, 2007 at 3:15 pm

I must point out that what you intend in writing “logical mind” is, in fact, much more appropriately expressed as “empirical mind” or “infinitely rational mind.” Logic and Metaphor are often synonymous because we frequently posit a certain subset of restrictions i.e. “the box” (derived via metaphor, “hypothetical situations”, etc.) from which we originate our thought processes (logic) artificially. Thus you are apparently suggesting that in order to escape the perception of “the box”, we have to express the box “metaphorically.” That is unless you are speaking in this section of a ‘greater truth’ as being expressed only symbolically/metaphorically, in which case I must question the “there is no box” statement you made in the first place since truth as metaphor necessarily implies a “box.”

What I think you mean is something more akin to the following: Infinite rationalization is “often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts.” Instead, intuition often provides a route to creative ideas where over-thinking hinders.

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October 17, 2007 at 5:10 am

Can someone please explain to me what on earth Max is trying to say in his comment #99?? However correct he may be in his assertions… I think he is missing the whole point in this post*. Please see #1, 7, 8, and 9.

*By my posting my comment, I admit I am somewhat guilty of the same… or not? I am merely posting a comment because I found Max’s comment very fitting and ironic to this discussion =) Comments anyone?

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October 18, 2007 at 5:10 pm

Sir,Your writeup explicitly instructs every aspiring scribe/word player to do the “not done” and how!within a one to ten.Yes i can actually realise and sense that it takes a shameless,convinced and a bold(Pablo Picasso); to draw attention and get a “thats great one”.You have cleared all my blocks and gates of thought and imagination.many thanks

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October 24, 2007 at 9:27 pm

Very inspiring and well written summary of what it takes to strip away your delusions to your own personal path to enlightment. To strengthen the impact of the article, you might have given more personal examples of how these principals have inspired you.

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October 25, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Jeremy’s “negative” comment re “creativity” as a self-help concept is “thinking outside the box” — the “box” being your approach, Brian. Artists (like Jeremy) follow their own threads & dare to look sideways at popular trends. It’s disappointing that your responses got bitter & attacking, as if you can’t allow others to question your thinking. Your take on creativity is helpful to business people & copywriters. Consider that it falls short for makers of written or visual or musical art. PS I’ve read a Whack inthe Side of the Head & had to sieve out bits & pieces that apply to art-making — being creative as a corporate employee was different from being creative as a mom or as a visual artist or as a writer of fiction or non-fiction. Jeremy is “also right.”

October 25, 2007 at 5:42 pm

I didn’t respond to Jeremy the way I did because he has a different opinion, I responded that way because he’s a condescending ass.

Why do so-called “artists” think they have a right to be snide? Jeremy can say whatever he wants, as long as he wears big boy pants and can handle someone telling him what they think of him in turn.

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December 18, 2007 at 5:41 pm

This is an excellent article.

I work as an advertising account planner (the person in the advertising agency responsible for coming up with the ‘big idea’ for a campaign). Account planning is all about creative thinking.

Anyway, the points you make are exactly the sort of things we follow on a daily basis in order to come up with that ‘big idea’.

December 18, 2007 at 5:49 pm

I think all the points you make sum up accurately the shortfall in creative thinking.

One of my favourite techniques for creative thinking is disruptive thinking (disruptive thinking is just a kind of creative thinking flavour, or to put it another way, a kind of creative thinking attitude). Disruptive thinking is about questioning ‘good’ ideas to see if they really are good. And to explore ‘bad’ ideas to see if they contain the potential for sparking off great ideas. Disruptive thinking is about turning things on their head, shuffling them about, and seeing what comes out.

Eamon http://www.spotlightideas.co.uk

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December 31, 2007 at 10:47 am

I don’t agree to all but majority of the points are very well explained.Nice

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January 22, 2008 at 7:21 pm

WOW! This was really great! Stuff like this doesnt normally interest me. O.o Or what if it does?

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February 13, 2008 at 6:27 am

Hi, I think that you are absolutelly right about the “there is no box” but no matter what people are thinking they are acting like they are in The Box. It is always easy to be there, as you feel more confortable and safe. It is the same with the expression – you prefer to do only thinks you are sure of 🙂 . Even writing anonymously is not giving confidence. But still most of the people need inspiration to start breaking their boundaries and then comes the creativity :).

Good Luck! Alexander

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February 17, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Thanks for the great tips. I needed to hear the “allow you mind to be at play.”

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February 18, 2008 at 4:25 am

Well i say being practical is the one which is more helpful.Otherwise theoretically much can be said without its practical implementation.

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February 23, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Well, you have certainly given me a lot to think about. I think I have spent so much time and effort getting outside of the box, that I have ignored why it is I wanted to be there! Pretty amazing concept…thanks for challenging some of my most basic understandings! Truly valuable!

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March 6, 2008 at 1:02 pm

This is a great post. It makes me see a lot of mistakes I’ve been making. Sometimes when trying to write creatively, I will be stuck on starting it a certain way and I have a hard time stepping back and shelving my original idea and starting from scratch.

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March 12, 2008 at 11:29 am

Sometimes the blocks stem from subconscious beliefs that get in our way … the website I listed above is not mine, but is an awesome way to find and begin removing those blocks.

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March 28, 2008 at 2:24 am

Some excellent information indeed. Thank you! If I do this right, I’ll be linking to this post at my site. Thank you for the background. 🙂

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April 25, 2008 at 10:54 am

I’ve been accused of #7 too many times in my life….one of my cousin used to tell me all the time that I need to just “act a fool every once in a while”.

At the time this sounded like the dumbest advice ever given,but I understand how things like conformity and failing to unwind from time to time can be harmful to your personal evolutionary development.

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May 9, 2008 at 2:49 am

I am greatly thankful , you could help indeed , may GOD bless you Brian Clark .

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May 19, 2008 at 1:28 am

Thanks so much for these great tips. Hopefully I can live/blog up my creativity. Thanks again.

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June 18, 2008 at 2:32 am

Absolutely brilliant list, bookmarked for inspirational reading later.

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July 3, 2008 at 4:49 am

Point 9 is great. Most of us are afraid to commit mistakes and to be labeled WRONG. Now I realize that its ok to commit mistakes. Sometimes I get frustrated doing things repeatedly and finding out that something is wrong.

Can I use your article in my blogspot? I like to share this to other people. Thanks a lot.

July 3, 2008 at 10:30 am

All these points show and prove something I’ve been saying for a long time: As A Man Thinketh So Is He ❗

If we take the opposite mindstate of these mental blocks then we will become it…just as taking on the blocked mindset made us “blocked” in the beginning. All mindstates were learned at some point in time…even the negative ones.

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July 21, 2008 at 3:26 am

Brian, this is super! I couldn’t help but spread the word on my blog.

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July 31, 2008 at 8:10 am

These rules go beyond writing and can be applied to career goals, relationships, and how you perceive the world.

Of course if everyone opened their eyes to this, then creative jobs would be even more competitive than they already are.

It’s a shame that even most of the people who read this will never be brave enough to follow through with these ideas without the right motivation.

Great advice. I’m bookmarking this page.

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August 13, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Hi everyone ! Hi Brian! Your cool writing style and creative choice of ideas, are really inspiring me, and enticing me to comment ^^” Yes, you are right, in “Matrix,” there is no spoon, and by the way, there is no Keanu Reeves neither 🙂 Simply some images of a spoon, and a lot of images of Keanu running at a pace of about 29 images per second. Plus, I didn’t listen to the recording of his true voice, I watched the dubbed version, in French. “There is no box.” Alright, but what if we questioned what the “box” referred to in the conversation? To illustrate my “angle” of view, let’s look at this “fool” alternative title: “Do You Let This Decahedral Box Confine Your Creative Potential?” (in geometry, decahedral = polyhedral with 10 faces ) Not as charismatic as the original title, I know 🙂 But, in my opinion, in the widely used phrase “think outside of the box,” the “box” symbolizes simply obstacles that are blocking us towards attaining something that is located outside of a restricted parameter of possibilities, and in general, we are looking for solutions to problems. I think that the image of a box is used to help us consider all the possibilities (outside) VS limited current situations (inside.) For instance, how happy is a bird sealed in a cage? Can you consider the big number of kilometers that it wants to fly, compared to the extremely restricted space of the cage ? I really don’t know but, I wouldn’t want to be in its slippers : ) However, I’m sure of one thing; it was not the bird who created the cage, and it certainly didn’t want to find itself in that particular situation… The “box” can have several meanings, according to specific contexts, and that’s why it is convenient to consider an important factor: relativity. If we talk about “thinking,” then these obstacles (faces of a box) represent its limits; thus “think outside of the box” in this context, is equal to “think outside of your thinking limits,” and we could say also: “break out of your limited thinking.” If we succeed in bringing our thinking beyond it’s former limits, (using some creativity stimuli borrowed from other people –like Brian and Roger-, inner or environmental elements or entities,) then we may be able to start enjoying higher level creative thinking. Does one create the “box” himself or herself? Do we create our own obstacles and limits ourselves? We may be the cause of some (ex. Wrong beliefs: I can’t do that, I am not…, I will never…,) but there are external blocking factors also (Environmental: nature? Cloudy and rainy days? Society? Bad people? Information ? Politics? Handicap?) it all depends on the context. And even if I don’t think that we create mentally all the types of limiting factors ourselves, It can be true when we are able to recognize conceptual or physical blocks, then instead of walking around them, we end up using them as an excuse. Another “strange” cause maybe what is called the “law of attraction”: you keep thinking about problems that don’t exist in your reality, and you end up attracting them to you… but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to analyze your current position, approach, mindset, ideas, techniques, contacts, environment, influences, your personal methods, etc. A second example is when someone struggles to step out of the “comfort zone” when he or she sets the goal of attaining financial freedom. Could we say “there is no comfort zone”? I think we could say that, but we need to address, we need to “articulate” this problem anyway, in order to process it and overcome its relatively limiting and prohibiting effects. Whether we call it “comfort zone,” “burying one’s head in the sand” (like an ostrich) or, I don’t know, maybe “current lifestyle survival instinct” it is only a tool, a mere social representation concept. The most important thing is to detect and capture all the detractors, in order to change them or eliminate them from your way towards your goal. Thanks Brian for sharing your list, I’m sure I’ll get back to it, just to make sure I’ll not be forgetting some crucial elements while .

August 20, 2008 at 6:08 am

“Thanks Brian for sharing your list, I’m sure I’ll get back to it, just to make sure I’ll not be forgetting some crucial elements while .”

Umps! I didn’t notice the end of the sentence… the last changes in the original “text editing soft” I used were not saved.

What I wanted to say is: I’ll be sure to get back to this list of 10 elements while working creatively on one of my mini projects : )

Thanks again Brian, have a cool day everyone!

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August 23, 2008 at 5:44 am

[…]It’s a shame that even most of the people who read this will never be brave enough to follow through with these ideas without the right motivation[…]

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September 5, 2008 at 2:03 pm

I’m doing a study on how this article has affect your life pesonally and professionally. Anyone can share with me about ur view on this wonderful piece of writing..??

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October 13, 2008 at 2:54 am

this site is a very helpful, in that it builds self confidence

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November 7, 2008 at 12:09 pm

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November 11, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Great post, thanks!

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November 11, 2008 at 5:43 pm

Great info. Keep up the encouragement. Reading about a different side of the coin is sometimes all one needs to be able to think again. Thanks.

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November 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Outstanding article, the idea of understanding that there “is no box” is the center of all of other ideas, it redirect us to different world with no rules and no limitations.

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December 8, 2008 at 11:20 am

Love the blog…putting your work on my feeds so I can keep up! Timely and well said synopsis, especially for the ever expanding and unconventional world around the web, social media and business attitutes in general. Thank you.

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February 11, 2009 at 12:35 am

I found your blog tonight and signed up! Beautifully said!

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February 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I’ve learned that if you have writer’s block, the best thing to do is brainstorm with other writers. They can offer you suggestions that will help get you past your block and moving forward with your writing. Blurbtree.com is a great website where you can write something and post it on the web, then invite specific people to add comments or ideas to your writing. Working together, Blurbtree.com will prove to be a fun and helpful tool as you press forward with your writing!

February 15, 2009 at 3:44 pm

For the writer’s block, it seems that all you have to do is to do something entertaining for a certain period of time (preferably something you do very rarely), untill you “de-block” your writing’s interruption. It may take some minutes, or some hours to deblock. It depends. So whenever you “think” you get this writer’s block, then do something complitely different from your habits, or from your hobbies. If, for example, you never paint, then paint (or draw, etc…) I hope this helps.

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April 21, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Yeah its really an awesome post and inspired me a lot.

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May 4, 2009 at 11:07 pm

I really liked this article that really, it highlights the value of creativity and the fact that the creative process can be non linear.

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June 20, 2009 at 11:40 am

The facts are that your are your own worse enemey when it comes to doing anything. This is a great list of mental blocks to study and use. When you see this happeining to you, fight the blocks and act!!!

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July 16, 2009 at 12:39 pm

“We create our own limits” I had a cuz that can barely speak english, he just know some basics but was far from having a good hearing. We were spending 4th of July at a barbeque pool party, some good looking girls were nearby and he was the person that approach them and start having a cool conversation.

I guess everybody will think that not speaking the same language will be a huge limitation in order to have a social relationship well this limitation is not on my cuz mind, it just doesnt exist.

Yes, we definitely often create our own limits or think more on our limitations.

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August 6, 2009 at 8:59 am

I have started blogs and haven’t been able to keep up with them, but you have given me an idea for a blog that I know I’ll be able to keep current. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

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September 23, 2009 at 2:21 pm

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October 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Thinking logical, and being practical, my top two tips from this post, both can get you along way. The other “common ways” also have good points, and this was a very good post in all. Cheers – [email protected] 4 marketing p’s blog

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October 2, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Good post. I agree with a comment above that the business world does lean towards stifling creativity. Writers are expected to be creative within boundaries set by business owners; fly free, but do it our way. Umm… yeah, that makes sense.

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October 4, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Brian, it does not look that you ever have a writing block or a problem with being creative. It is a known that with our western world education by parents and school, we unlearn our natural creativity. A few children are lucky, when their parents let them their God given creativity by not constantly telling them how they have to see things, when they see sth. in a different way or draw sth. differently from how adults perceive it.

I am trying to awaken lost abilities, which is said to be possible.

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October 12, 2009 at 1:06 am

Very well said!! I am guilty of a lot of these especially the thinking out of the box one. This is very helpful. I’m subscribed!!!

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October 15, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Play another game, solve a completely different problem, consume a new style of something.

By doing one thing for too long, we become absorbed in the rules, conscious or not. Our mental and physical muscles get used to performing a certain type of action.

But when we dive into something new, we start exercising a new type of muscle. We grow. We become more aware and conscious, because the activity is new. With a fresh perspective, looking back at the current problem lets us see it from an outside perspective. We see not only the rules but around them, letting us sidestep and think creatively.

It’s no wonder the greatest creative works are unique, with lesser stuff being derivative of it but not the other way around.

Awesome reminder to stay fresh and have our creative juices constantly surprised and flowing, Oleg

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November 23, 2009 at 3:28 am

i think this article is great ! it throws light to some aspect that we often forget to even think about leave alone working on them . I agree with you that evey individual have a creative side but it totaly depends on the individual as to how far they are willing to make a fool of themselves to explore and bring out their creative side. I have been encouraged!

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November 24, 2009 at 1:38 pm

This was a great post. Visiting here is a continual learning process. Hopefully, I can apply what I’m learning to my blogging 🙂

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November 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Thanks for compiling this list. Fortunately for me, when it comes to vocationally-related matters, I can allow myself to think very creatively. Where these issues catch me (and yeah, I suffer from all 10 of the above considerations) is when I’m trying to write fiction. I wish I could somehow transplant the Captain Kirk-esque chutzpah I bring to blogging and proposal writing to my more personal creative endeavours, but so far, despite being actively self-examining and self-improving, I have failed.

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November 27, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Great post. I especially like Nos. 9 and 10.

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December 6, 2009 at 12:03 am

excellent post ,its really informative & useful as well.

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December 17, 2009 at 7:18 am

I have first time accessed thi blog.. but really impressive post… Creative thinking is the result of right-brain activity – intuition, insight, inspiration. Creative thinking skills are not taught. They do not require intelligence or even experience, although these qualities are needed to put creative ideas into practice.

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December 24, 2009 at 3:24 am

.]It’s a shame that even most of the people who read this will never be brave enough to follow through with these ideas without the right motivation

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January 21, 2010 at 12:16 am

Oh wow, thanks for this!

Back at work from a long vacation and been having terrible mental block. This article is just what I need to shake me out of it!

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March 1, 2010 at 10:57 am

Yes, I recognize all ten of these mental blocks to creative thinking. They are all part of my prevarication technique.

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May 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm

great post. I like # 5 :]

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July 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

These are true points. As a writer, we all need tips on how to write better or even be writers. There are so many sites on here to learn from.

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July 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm

thanks for helping me get my course back in life. i was almost losing it until i read through your piece. God bless you

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July 27, 2010 at 3:16 pm

You’ve listed these thoughts keeping us away from exploring creativity in such simple language. Thanks for sharing.

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August 3, 2010 at 3:44 am

Applause to you. What a wonderful entry.

You know all these 10 point are so true. And i really once myself know they were true. But seems like people opinion put me in a box somehow as time goes by. But come to the think of it, there really is no box, how curious

Like for example, afraid to be wrong, seriously i was quite fearless, and then some jerks come in and say how wrong i am in experimenting with things. And this is wrong that is wrong. And then i shift to become very afraid of being wrong.

I feel weird now after seeing this post, almost as if the box have vanish. haha

Ahh..i really feel enlighten.

September 1, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Points #2 and #10 resonated with me — thinking metaphorically and acknowledging creativity as inherent. Serendipitously, a recent post to my blog used the metaphor of a morning glory vine in bloom in my back yard.

“Morning glories turn their trumpets to the sky, and nothing in nature mocks them for it. They do not aspire to be blue, they embody blue.” I invite you to read more at http://scrollwork.blogspot.com/2010/08/blue-toward-blue.html

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September 2, 2010 at 2:03 am

I think point number 10 is the most important. You have to believe you are creative and that no matter how creative thinking you are you can improve. Check out some of the games and challenges on my website ( http://creativitygames.net ). You will see that it is a lot easier than you think.

Opportunities are everywhere.

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September 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I agree with the fact that we ALL are creative, every one is. I believe, creativity is in our nature, but some people who don’t think they are, beause they don’t know themselves that well or are passive due to social, family or financial issues and obstacles. I believe depression is mostly effective in the way we think to become creative or active, and getting out of our boxes (illusive boxes).

However, “thinking outside of the box,” in my opinion is NOT a wrong way to look at. I think simply it’s more helpful to think that there is a box in order to get out of our comfort zones to shake off our dust, it works as a trigger, imaginary speaking.

I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for posting, very informative.

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September 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I completely agree about ‘box thinking’. But, I do not completely dismiss the outside of the box. I think it is unhealthy thinking of it as a box.

You can’t escape what you’re in, without understanding it.

When people ask ‘what is the universe expanding into?’ they are asking the basic question. But you never see someone asking you if the universe expands into itself. Simply because we can’t understand anything, that doesn’t have an outside.

Why a box? Why not a circle? Or a line. Or nothing.

We think too big, so in turn we are thinking too small.

I don’t think you can think ‘outside’ until you think ‘inside’.

For example; when someone judges another by what they see, they are thinking outside of what they should understand. But by seeing inside, they see a bigger picture. And begin seeing the inside, before the outside.

Thus expanding their box. Instead of creating another one outside of it. Which can only result in more and more boxes.

Idk if anyone understands what I am talking about, or if this makes any sense at all.

But basically, we can’t see the outside, if we don’t see the inside. Which may eliminate the outside.

i have no idea what i’m talking about, but it makes sense in my little head.

September 26, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Actually, we may already be outside. And the outside is smaller than the inside.

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September 27, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Good thinking Chez, it makes sense in my little head too.

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October 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

To revisit Point 7: “Most of what keeps us civilized boils down to conformity, consistency, shared values, and yes, thinking about things the same way everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but if you can mentally accept that it’s actually nothing more than groupthink that helps a society function, you can then give yourself permission to turn everything that’s accepted upside down and shake out the illusions.”

You do, however, have to be prepared to be seen as interfering with the function of society. That can be a very dangerous place to be – thus all the groupthink.

Creativity is best achieved by people who know that it is not always a perfect good. It has its price, and the price is sometimes very high. You threaten people – sometimes very ambitious and intelligent people, who can retaliate.

October 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I’ve learned to be skeptical of opportunities that purport to seek my creativity. I made the mistake of accepting such an opportunity, offered by ambitious, intelligent, uber-accomplished but rigid thinkers. I tried but failed to please them. It’s true what Seth Godin says, that you won’t succeed by giving people what you think they need — you must give them what they demand. They demanded obeisance. Before I realized it, I had been pounded into a dried out bouillon cube version of my formerly inspired self. A very high price, indeed, Frank.

Many creatives must not only live among pragmatists but make a living with skill sets that don’t involve creativity. It’s still a pragmatist’s world down here among the rank and file. We die a little every day, not from failing, but from gradually losing the will to try something innovative.

I gave myself permission to try chucking the cubicle that had shaped me in its likeness. From refusing to be square, my bank statements dwindled to a series of round zeroes. Failure of this kind does not equate with defeat!


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October 28, 2010 at 8:10 am

I agree for not being to serious. Always being serious to show how sincere are you is always a big block in the way of creative thinking.

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November 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm

This is something that I should just add to my desktop and read every day. A wonderful set of ideas on how to keep the creative juices flowing.

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November 7, 2010 at 8:14 am

I need to start remember these points and practice doing the opposite them daily.

November 7, 2010 at 8:59 am

Lately, I have been playing some 2D fighting video game with my little brother, who is really strong (he learns fast, plus he was more trained.)

He was going to win another fight when something strange happened, I was thinking about some serious subjects completely unrelated to the game and I went far deep in my thinking, and then I started to play very strangely with completely unexpected moves… result? I won.

I noticed that I took too many risks at some strange situations, but since they were non-logical and diffrent everytime, it disturbed my opponent who lost control over his well established strategies.

As soon as I got out of my deep thinking mood, well, he started to win once again… lol

The funny thing is, it happens many times, in videogames or in real life, I am sure tou noticed these “strange and unexpected” actions by other peaople at work or at home : )

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November 10, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Great commentary on how people manage to limit themselves without even knowing that they are doing it. The bits on Logical Thinking and Being Wrong is Bad I like the most although I found all extremely relevant. I enjoyed this post immensely.

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December 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Number 10! That’s me. I’m not creative, I’ve just learned to keep going until what I want to say is said. Then I do about 10 rewrites. Thank goodness for spellchecker! Thanks for the post…

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December 24, 2010 at 9:39 am

You know I really have to agree with you on the “play is not work” point. It seems that for me the biggest hindrance is the fact that I set it in my mind that I have to finish writing x article/post/whatever by x date/hour. That puts a lot of pressure on me making what I normally think of as fun and creatively engaging into a “job”. And you’re absolutely right that’s NOT conducive to creative writing. In fact it’s just when I feel that I “have” to post that I tend to have the worst writers block.

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January 13, 2011 at 1:34 am

Hi Sammy, you just said what’s on my mind.

I am very passionate about writing, but when I began writing to make a living, the joy I derive from the former seemed to have evaporated in order to comply with the latter. I reduced my writing as a commodity, not as a creative outlet for me, which defeated all purpose of why I decided to write in the first place.

As to the article, Leo Buscaglia would have shed tears of joy if he were alive today. He thought modern schools destroyed creative thinking, and spent his life encouraging people to be free to make mistakes, to experiment with their lives, and to be loving human beings in the process. He would have given Brian a very warm hug.

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February 7, 2011 at 5:30 am

Great photo for this article! It’s extremely relevant to the piece.

I also have to agree with what Sammy and Bickie posted before me. It’s truly a challenge to turn what you love into a profession and still remain passionate about it. It’s a real test.

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February 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Brian! love this! Unfortunately, I think many people think that creativity and thinking (as in being cerebral…) are mutually exclusive of one another. May go back to the traditional education thing…. Just the opposite is really true – the brightest are also most likely the most creative. Which is exactly the point the ParmFarm tries to drive home…

Amy Parmenter

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February 19, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Great article! I m not sure that it is possible to overstate the wisdom of talking to certified fool when seeking perspectives on complex and/or difficult issues.

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March 11, 2011 at 3:48 am

Useful one. Creative thinking is really seeing things or situation with many a different perspective and then evaluating and reaching to a solution.

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May 9, 2011 at 11:03 am

Out of all the tips contained in this article I think I agree most with this: “Not only is real life ambiguous, it’s often illogical to the point of madness” Oftentimes in social media especially we want to be sure we are doing things the “right” way and we over analyze them to the point of doing them ALL WRONG. Another thing you said that really stands out to me is “There is no box” That is an excellent way of looking at things. Creativity once stifled is hard to get back. We must use caution to not stifle our creative side or that of our employees. John Souza SocialMediaMagic.Com

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May 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Great article. I’m going to tweet it now and re-read it later when I embark on writing a few new posts. Thank you!

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May 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm

indeed a great post to help analyze and enhance creativity. thank you so much

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July 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Brian, your post is an inspiration to my creatively challenged mind. Over the past year and a half I have been going through some though times in relation to creativity. I wont you to know that you have just made a significant change in my life. First think I take from you is to STOP telling myself I am not a creative thinker. Thank you

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July 21, 2011 at 10:47 am

Great points Brian. I would like to add one more factor that creates a mental block- “conflicting advice”. There is just so much information available online that it is easy to be confused and overwhelmed.

Here is a simple example: Should I start a business that I am passionate about?

There are so many strong opinions about this topic either way that it can be extremely confusing for someone looking for guidance or advise. This results in paralysis by analysis where nothing gets done and more time is spent on researching more on the topic to find out what to do instead of actually doing it.

I have personally struggled with this dilemma myself and at the end of the day I realized, there is no right or wrong answer because people have been extremely successful in businesses that they are passionate about and businesses they have no interest in.

I understood that it is important for ME to honestly assess what works for ME because what works for others need not necessarily work for ME.

This helped me clear off a major mental block because now I look inwards for guidance than blindly following someone even he/she happens to be a successful person.

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July 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I seriously think I should read this post every single day! I have a sort of pledge to blog every single day. I check your blog and countless others for content ideas. This post has helped me a lot, appreciate the tips/advice.

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October 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I strongly agree with you. When i finished reading, i had to sit down shocked and thinking. I had to form a way to remember the ten points. Thanks alot

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August 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm

This is really an excellent post. Think out of the box and you will get the right answers. Of course, I should say right answers. There is always more than one answer and the only obstacle is your mind. Really, the very first obstacle is your mind. Free your mind. I almost never get writer’s block. I just start writing without worring about the content and lo and behold it gets finished.

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October 8, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I am not a blogger (yet) but I am a writer–fiction, fantasy/paranormal fiction and poetry–and have learned through many years of trying to write “the right way” to stop worrying about style/consistent style. The story is an entity unto itself and knows how it wants/needs to be told–just start writing and it will tell itself.

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November 2, 2011 at 7:21 am

Passion and creativity is the word.

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November 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Well written ! You offer words of inspiration to start my creative mind flowing, thank you! I enjoyed your quote, “You’re already capable of creative thinking at all times, but you have to strip away the imaginary mental blocks (or boxes) that you’ve picked up along the way to wherever you are today.” This comment is so true that we are all born creative individuals but unfortunately our creatvity may become stifled along the way. My husband Bernard Katz wrote about his own views on this particular subject. “Can’t Draw a Straight Line.”

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January 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Just had to say that it’s a Misconception that Thomas Edison invented the Lightbulb.. In reality it was invented much earlier in 1802 by Joseph Swan, and Also Edison wasn’t the “great” inventor that history has made him out to be.. his company he made gained fame by taking other peoples inventions paying them small amounts and creating patents on them.. and usually in an underhanded way at that.. most of the things Edison tried to invent didn’t even work.. but he was probably the first Corporate shark..

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January 30, 2012 at 11:35 am

At first i thought i would start a lawsuit against whoever wrote this piece for violation of intimacy, transcendental stalking and throwing out 9/10th of my soul out there for everyone to read, but then i realized this was actually a good thing. I mean, if other people do fit all these points, then it means there are more sick individual around than what i thought. So thank you internet, thank you Brian Clark, thank you random virtual roaming for taking me here. I have to say i feel the closest to point 2, which i apply on a daily basis, and for those of you who would doubt my words (which you should by the way) then i can only encourage to check this link and hear many stories, told by different people united under one same flag of identity, but each one somehow telling tales about the lack of signification, the abuse of metaphorical nonsense and the symptoms of this lethal sickness called ‘humanitis’…


Thanks again for this beautiful but intrusive work of words,

Another sick individual,


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February 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm

I was searching for a way to think creatively because every time I have thought through a problem creatively, the solution was way worth the effort, whereas normal thought processes brought a solution that was just “good enough”. I agreed with all the points in this post. However, are there simply only 10 mental blocks to creative thinking or has the author already boxed himself into a top 10 list. Could there been a number 11? Creativity is a skill that we must all learn in a world where conformity, logic, normality, and practicality rule. It is not natural to think creatively so we must always remind ourselves to think creatively.

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February 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Isn’t it funny how when we talk about creativity, some people will automatically think of an artist (painter, writer). I worked with so many different group of individuals, I can’t tell you how many times when presented to work on several projects, some of them would immediately point out all the reasons why it would be impossible to resolve. Others, would come in just shooting out any possible solutions…

The biggest block in some of these individuals was the fact that when presented with a problem, they thought about all the limitations the had, therefore, found themsleves in a situation where they did not believe there was a solution.

I found that this same thing happened when faced with life challenges…they stick to what they know, feel they can not get past a certain situation because of their limitations…But, WOW, the ones that believed there was a solution to every problem, did they ever get creative, this also in their life challenges….you know what, all other difficulties seemed easier….they had trained their mind to come up with creative solutions…

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March 22, 2012 at 12:31 am

Hmm Well I was just searching on yahoo and just came across your blog, in general I just only visit blogs and retrieve my needed info but this time the useful info that you posted in this post urged me to post here and appreciate your diligent work. I just bookmarked your site. Thank you again.

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March 24, 2012 at 12:49 am

Thank you for posting this Brian! I have been searching the internet, magazines, books etc…., trying to find out why I am stuck in this rut. I am a self taught pianist/composer working on my third album. The reason no one hears my music is because I have these reservations about whether anyone will actually like my music so I record the music and pretty much do nothing with it. Your post has really given me a lot of insight as far as being my own critic. As a matter of fact it has given me a lot of insight about other areas of my life that are not the way I want them and I now realize that I am the reason they are that way. I am smiling right now because I now know that I can stop worrying about thinking outside the box because “There is no box” 🙂 Thanks again

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May 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Excellent list! Particularly like the “there is no box to think outside of” line as I hate the term “thinking outside the box” and believe this can be an extremely dangerous thing to do! Especially in business.

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May 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Why are the copyblogger posts always so dang great. Thanks again for a fun and inspiring reminder of how to enhance our creative practice. Nice!

This article's comments are closed.

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10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking and How to Overcome Them

Team Pepper

A mental block to creative thinking for any writer is when they cannot produce new ideas, work, or experiences in a creative slowdown. A block to creative thinking occurs when authors cannot develop new topics to write about. If left untreated, it can prevent you from writing for days, weeks, or even months. 

mental block in creative problem solving

Many writers want everything they do to be perfect, which causes perfectionism. Many authors struggle with mental blocks to creative thinking. There are several approaches to overcome blocks to creative thinking. 

This article will look at the reasons for the mental blocks to creative thinking and how to overcome them.

What is Creative Writing? 

As the name implies, creative writing is a type of writing that deviates from the norms of conventional, commercial, scientific, or technology to show. It’s the “skill of making stuff up” or “putting a creative twist on history,” as in creative non-fiction.

Although the term might be a little hazy, creative writing is generally defined as any sort of writing that is unique and self-expressive.

mental block in creative problem solving

Instead, it comprises a variety of genres and forms seen in non-fiction book writing, including narrative, scriptwriting, poems, writing, journalism, and more.

Concentrating on narrative craft, focusing on character development, narrative, and plot, infusing its framework with creativity, innovation, and tale, is typically recognizable.

mental block in creative problem solving

What is a Mental Block?

A mental block is the inability to remember or think of something you can normally do, often caused by emotional tension.

You may be feeling exhausted rather than motivated and excited about your article ideas. A mental barrier is a condition that prevents us from thinking. You can’t use your innate creative ability because of a mental impediment.

mental block in creative problem solving

One fast way to recognize when you’re suffering from a mental block is to catch yourself second-guessing your actions. You’d be confident in your decisions and writing ability if you weren’t artistically inhibited. You’d be able to write articles quickly.

It makes it impossible for you to use your innate creative ability. You find yourself in an enigma: a lack of clarity, a loss of focus, and finally, a lack of motivation.

The inability to access one’s creativity is known as “creative blockages” or “hurdles to inspiration.” Writers, musicians, performers, and artists who work in creative fields are more prone to having creative blocks, which can linger for days, weeks, months, or even years.

10 Mental Blocks That Prevent Creative Writing and Tips to Overcome Them

mental block in creative problem solving

1. Making inferences

Making too many assumptions limits your ability to develop new and imaginative solutions to a problem or circumstance. Any conclusions based on factual data or not enough proof to back them up should be quickly dismissed.

2. Taking yourself too seriously

Fun, humor, and spontaneity are inextricably linked to creativity. Some individuals have the most bizarre ideas that make you wonder where they came up with them, and it’s not unusual for these ideas to elicit laughter or even replies offering even more bizarre ideas, creating a pleasant atmosphere. 

Taking things too seriously doesn’t typically go well with being creative. To keep the right creative part of your brain lubricated, you need to have some fun.

3. If you believe there is just one answer, you’re mistaken

When confronted with an issue, typically, we think there is only one solution—fail to perceive any other possibilities, and refuse to consider them without thoroughly assessing them. 

Flexibility and creativity go hand in hand; don’t get too attached to one concept, miss out on other possibilities; take the time to evaluate all other ideas objectively.

4. There is a communication breakdown

Creative barriers can occur between the ears as well as between individuals. When you work in a group, conflicts are unavoidable, and they may make it tough to produce your best job—especially if you work with one of the proverbial “difficult people.”

mental block in creative problem solving

5. Failure of apprehension

Experience is the best teacher, and we can only learn by doing. When we try something new and fail, we want to save face. This is because we are constantly chastised or mocked when we fail or make a mistake.

It’s no surprise that humans strive for perfection and despise failure. You flunk a topic and are regarded as a failure. Even when we try our hardest yet fail, the world makes us regret our failure. 

We are constantly reminded of our inability to do things correctly and made to feel defeated. The consequences are unavoidable. We avoid attempting anything because we are afraid of failing, and we lose our originality as a result.

6. Too ready to pass judgment

As previously said, if we assess ideas too fast and dismiss them as unsuitable because we didn’t spend enough time examining and considering each new concept, we risk missing out on a lot of possible innovative solutions to issues and creative ideas coming from ourselves or others.

7. The emotional chasm

Creativity can be exhilarating. It’s not pleasurable. When confronted with the unknown, you can fear what you’ll learn. Maybe your topic is complex, embarrassing, or plain strange. Whatever the case may be, these anxieties and apprehensions lead to procrastination.

8. It is essential to be practical.

By working as a professional writer, your new ideas may often get suffocated before they completely develop. It’s a good idea to let a plan stand on its own for a time before judging its true viability.

9. Being broke

We are not simply talking about money, but a shortage of funds is always an issue for artists. You may also be short on time, expertise, a brittle network, or the equipment or other resources you require to complete the task.

10. Maintaining your routines/habits at all times.

Staying safe in your routine, avoiding change, and being in your comfort zone are all enemies of creativity. We often get into the trap of being comfortable performing the same routine over and over again in our daily lives, such as taking the same road to work every day, since we’re used to it. 

mental block in creative problem solving

Change your routine, take a different route to work, and you’ll never know what you’ll see, meet, or hear that will jog your memory and get your creative juices flowing.

Tips to Overcome Mental Blocks That Prevent Creative Writing

mental block in creative problem solving

1. Set aside time and space to create

This may seem self-evident, yet many creative individuals lead hectic lives and find themselves frustrated by a lack of time to create. You’ll need to set aside some time and space to develop your creative abilities. You must be committed to it, just as you must be to exercise.

What if you don’t have access to a studio or office?

Try to work in a tiny part of the living room, kitchen, or bedroom. We know a talented artist who enjoys painting in the toilet! Years ago, we worked at a kitchen table.

2. Increase your movement

There’s a reason why it’s said that a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. Exercise forces you to integrate your mind and body, allowing you to be more present and conscious. 

Exercise also induces the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which provide feelings of happiness and well-being while also reducing fear and tension. Both are essential for increasing creativity.

mental block in creative problem solving

Make physical activity your daily habits, whether it’s a morning yoga session, laps in the pool, or lifting weights, practice workouts you love and are comfortable with.

3. Don’t be scared to step back. 

Open briefs are the most likely to stifle creativity. Try to remove yourself from work; rest, and return with a fresh perspective.

4. Investigate alternative forms of creativity

Inspiration may strike at any time. Consider areas other than illustration and design, such as photography, typography, fashion, film, packaging, and signs.

mental block in creative problem solving

5. Oppose the current

Try to approach each brief in the opposite direction of what others might. It may not be the final path you choose, but it can help you avoid clichéd circumstances.

A variety of factors can cause mental blockages, but they are most common when you are emotionally invested in the result of a scenario.

Pressure to deliver and perform increases when we adopt specific tasks’ prejudices. When the stakes are high, we are more likely to freeze and become trapped.

These are some examples that are causing the mental block.

Key Takeaways

There are various ways and successful strategies for overcoming mental blocks to creative thinking.

When we develop certain preconceptions toward work, the pressure to provide and perform intensifies. We are more inclined to freeze and become imprisoned when the stakes are high.

Don’t allow mental blocks to creative thinking to stop you from coming up with brilliant ideas. Try any of these simple approaches to understanding how to overcome mental blocks and remove the clutter in your head and get those creative juices flowing.

Five frequent mental blocks prevent you from using creative thinking to solve problems.  1. Emotional barrier 2. Personal problems  3. Communication breakdown 4. Being a “serious” person 5. Being ambiguous

The inability to access one’s creativity can be a block to creative thinking or a hurdle to inspiration. Writers, musicians, performers, and artists who work in creative fields are more prone to having creative blocks, which can linger for days, weeks, months, or even years.

1. Tackle small tasks first  2. Setting aside time and space to create  3. Investigate alternative forms of creativity  4. Build a solid routine 5. Create a deadline  6. Listen to music  7. Be kind to yourself 8. Change your environment  9. Writing exercise  10. Read through blogs

When our cognitive processes entrap us, we experience mental obstacles. We may become overwhelmed or nervous about the outcome of a project to the point that we cannot make the effort necessary to accomplish it.

By definition, creative writing entails being “creative,” making stuff up, and letting your imagination run wild. Essays are about being impartial and realistic, presenting thoughts and ideas as directly as possible, and increasing the researcher’s knowledge rather than their imagination.

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What Blocks People From Creativity and Creative Thinking?

One of the most essential skills for solving problems in business is creativity. At the same time, our workspace is rarely the first thing that comes to mind when we think of creativity, innovation, and inspiration.

If you feel blocked from creative thinking or your team is struggling to think outside the box when solving problems, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the most common causes of creative blocks.

Once you understand why people are being blocked from creativity, you can then come up with a solution that will encourage innovative thought in the office.

Let's take a look at what blocks people from creativity and what you can do to overcome creative blocks in the workplace.

Table of Contents

What is a creative block, what are the benefits of having a creative workplace, what blocks people from creativity, 1. mental blocks, 2. being too routinized, 3. being too serious, 4. not having creative outlets, 5. personal problems, 6. not separating creation from the critique, 8. poor communication, 9. being afraid of taking risks or being wrong, 10. perfectionism, 11. believing they aren't the creative type, 12. not knowing what's expected, tips for boosting creative thinking in the workplace, 1. establish a clear vision, 2. promote continuous learning, 3. bring in speakers, 4. move to a different environment, 5. provide a stimulating atmosphere, 6. encourage individuality, 7. consider implementing flexible work hours, 8. act on good ideas, boosting creativity in the workplace: final thoughts.

When someone is creatively blocked, they don't have access to their creative impulses or modes of thinking. It's common for people in creative professions to face creative blocks periodically, but it can also occur in the office.

Dealing With a Creative Block

Creativity is essential for coming up with solutions to unusual problems and strategizing the future plans of your brand. When you or your team is facing a creative block, it can be a serious obstacle to your goals and desired outcomes.

A creative mindset in the office can produce many valuable benefits to any organization. Not only can it increase productivity and enhance problem-solving in the office, but it can also boost morale and improve your team's ability to work together.

A Creative Workplace

When your workplace promotes and encourages creativity, there can also be long-term benefits. Over time, you'll find that engagement and interaction in the workplace are improved and will lead to an increased ability to attract and retain top-notch employees.

Dealing With Creativity Block

Anyone can experience a creative block, and it can happen for numerous reasons. Let's look at some of the most common causes of creative blocks to help you identify the best possible solution to your innovative drought.

In some cases, people will face a creative block when they are stuck in familiar ways of looking at things. When facing a problem, they fail to see a number of viable options because they are trapped by their own thinking.

Dealing With a Mental Block

On the other hand, a person can have so much invested in a project or problem that they freeze up when trying to come up with a solution. If they feel that the stakes are high, they might be unwilling, at some level, to even entertain potential creative solutions or take the first steps towards completing a project.

Having the right  habits and routines is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a productive work life. At the same time, having too strict a routine can limit an individual's creative thinking and expression.

Employee Feeling Too Routinized

We all have comfort zones that help us feel stable and safe; there isn't anything inherently wrong with that. However,  experiencing positive stress or eustress can result in several positive feelings, including inspiration, flow, motivation, and creativity.

If you are dealing with a creative block or you feel your team is lacking in creative thinking, it's possible that you could all use a soft push outside your respective comfort zones. 

Being Too Serious In The Workplace

Some people on your team might be perfectly creative in their home life and hobbies but struggle to think creatively when in the office. There is certainly a focus on consistency, conformity, and professionalism in the office, and some individuals might feel this is counter to how they express themselves creatively.

Employee Lacking Creative Outlets

Creativity is a lot like a muscle, and it needs to be exercised to display its full strength. If you feel that creative thinking is lacking in your business, it's possible that your team doesn't have creative outlets they use either in their professional or personal lives.

If you're looking for ways to tap into your employees' creative processes, check out our assessment entitled  Encouraging Innovation Through 5 Key Conversations .

Dealing With Personal Problems

When a person is thinking creatively, it means that they have extra energy to burn. It is a skill that demands focus. If someone is dealing with personal problems– whether it be divorce, a death in the family, or medical issues– they don't have a lot of mental energy to put towards thinking innovatively.

We all know that not all ideas are good ideas. However, constantly redlining thoughts before they even fully emerge from your mind disrupts your ability to think creatively.

Holding a Brainstorming Session

Expressing oneself creatively and critiquing the product of creativity are two separate steps. If you feel your team is creatively blocked because they are afraid their ideas will get shot down right away, consider holding brainstorming sessions that focus on creating and collecting ideas before having a separate session to critique and redline those ideas.

When a person constantly feels overwhelmed and swamped, it can lead to the form of exhaustion known as burnout. If you or anyone on your team has been dealing with physical, mental, or emotional stress in an excessive and prolonged way, it can result in feeling completely drained.

It's possible that the creative block you're facing is due to being burned out. When your body and mind are firing on all cylinders constantly, there isn't a lot of excess energy for creative thinking or innovative ideas.

Burnt Out Employee

There are many things you can do to overcome burnout, including:

Poor Team Communication

When it seems like you're struggling with creativity blocks from an entire team, it's possible that it has to do with a communication breakdown. There will inevitably be some tension between teams when working together, but this kind of issue can throw a wrench in everyone's ability to think creatively.

If you're wondering how to improve communication skills in the workplace to overcome creative blocks, check out  these eight activities to boost workplace communication .

Team Making a Decision

If you or your team is afraid of making mistakes, taking risks, or being wrong, it can seriously hamper creativity. Creativity is an active and positive process that can get completely derailed if someone is unwilling to make even the slightest error.

If you have it in your head that anything you produce or say needs to be perfect, you'll likely hold yourself back from the ability to be creative. When you need a creative solution to a problem in the workplace, being a perfectionist will leave you drawing a blank.

Team Working Through a Problem

To overcome this, you have to separate the tasks of thinking creatively and critiquing the resulting ideas.

Sometimes, people are creatively blocked because they don't believe themselves to be creative people. It's common to associate creativity with being highly skilled at drawing or a musical instrument, pushing some people away from recognizing their creativity.

Employee Struggling With Creative Thinking

Creativity is like a muscle that needs to be  built and strengthened . When an individual goes through their whole life assuming they aren't creative, it simply means they haven't started working to develop their creative muscles yet.

Employee Unaware of What to Do

Your workplace may suffer from a creativity drought simply because people aren't clear about what is expected of them. If this is the case, there's a good chance your team is more concerned with looking busy than coming up with creative solutions to problems. By clearly outlining the expectations in the office and outwardly encouraging creative thinking, you might find a shift in the tone of the office over time.

Creatively Thinking Employee

Understanding why you or your team is creatively blocked is an essential step to solving the problem. However, there are some general tactics you can take to boost creativity in the office.

One important step you can take to boost creativity in the workplace is to establish a clear company mission and vision. Beyond that, you should reiterate these ideas often and ensure that your employees know your brand's strategies.

Employee Provided a Clear Vision

Doing so can help to overcome the issue of your team feeling left in the dark and unaware of what's expected of them. When you share information with them about the goals and mission of the company, it's much more possible for them to put their head in the game and be invested enough to offer creative solutions to problems.

Creativity is something that can essentially dry up if you aren't learning new things and taking in novel information. For this reason, it's a good idea to encourage your employees (and yourself!) to engage in activities that offer new methods and knowledge.

Team Continuously Learning

You can help your team continue their learning journey by supporting their efforts to attend conferences, events, and classes related to your field.

Industry Expert Speaker

One great way to encourage creativity is to hear new ideas and perspectives. To help boost creativity in the office, consider bringing in some speakers that are industry experts who have new, innovative ideas. This could even become a monthly event that occurs to help keep everyone's creative juices flowing.

Working in a Different Environment

No matter how much you love your desk or conference room, sometimes being in a familiar work environment can keep you locked in the same modes of thinking. If you feel like you or your team is uninspired, the solution might be as simple as moving to a different space to think about the topic at hand.

The environment we spend our time in significantly impacts our mood, and some atmospheres are more likely to promote creative thinking than others.

Stimulating Work Atmosphere

Consider making modifications to your office when it comes to the lighting, color, temperature, and sound. For example, if your office is constantly humming with activity, consider offering a quiet place where your team (or you!) can focus on the problem at hand.

Before people feel comfortable offering creative ideas, they need to know that their thoughts are valued. In the office, it's easy for people to become part of the pack rather than think and act individually, particularly if they believe this is what the company culture dictates.

Leader Encouraging Individuality

If they realize that you appreciate and hear the insights they offer, though, you'll find creativity in the office improves overall.

Employee Working Flexible Hours

If you feel that creativity in the office is lacking because your team is dealing with a lot of personal problems, it's possible that implementing flexible work hours could help to relieve some of their stress, offer them better work-life balance, and reduce the occurrence of burnout. If flexible scheduling would help your team have the mental space they need to think creatively, this could be well worth the effort.

One of the best ways to encourage your team to be creative is to act on the good ideas that come up during brainstorming sessions and acknowledge the positive aspects of other ideas.

Team Acting on a Good Idea

When someone comes up with a good idea, implement it and wait to see the positive outcomes. If there is a beneficial result from their concept, share it with the team to give them credit. You'll find that when you publicly commend a good idea, more solid creative ideas will start coming forward.

When we think of creativity, we often think of people as artists, musicians, and inventors. The truth of the matter is, though, that everyone is creative. When we can harness our creativity in the workplace, it can lead to better problem-solving skills, increased flexibility, better team performance, and more.

Highly Creative Employee

If you're looking for learning instruments to help you tap into your creative potential, check out our Second Edition of the  Breakthrough Creativity Profile . Created by Dr. Lynne Levesque, a creativity expert, this tool is based on the well-known personality theory of Carl Jung.

Do you have any experiences with these potential causes of creativity block? If so, how did you handle it? Was there a particular strategy you employed? Be sure to leave all your thoughts and comments down below! We'd love to hear about your experiences and will gladly get a conversation going on the topic. 

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6 Blocks to Creative Thinking and How to Overcome Them

6 Blocks to Creative Thinking and How to Overcome Them

Everything around you is a byproduct of Creative Thinking. From the art on your walls to the computer you use to the concrete you traverse on the sidewalk, someone put previously existing ideas together in a new way to make something of value. We take so many things for granted that are a byproduct of “out of the box” ideas from creative thinkers of the past.  

Creative Thinking helps us reframe information, challenge the status quo, and provide new perspectives to old problems. Although common misconceptions portray creativity as a skill exclusive to artists, musicians, and designers, creativity exists among individuals in every line of work across job functions and industries. And Creative Thinking is a skill that is only growing in importance.  The World Economic Forum lists creativity as one of 10 essential skills for 2025.

However, countless creative thinkers feel stifled, blocked, or even creatively drained for every fantastic innovative idea. As many creative thinkers can attest, mental blocks often seem to inhibit one’s innate creativity. These mental blocks can manifest in several ways, from lack of inspiration or direction, constantly second-guessing one’s decisions, and having a vocal and critical inner voice that limits progress on projects. They leave us uninspired, unmotivated, and worst of all, uncreative.

It is essential to learn how to identify the vast array of mental blocks and their manifestations, as this toolset can help creative thinkers overcome these frustrating obstacles . By helping fellow creative thinkers identify different forms of creative inhibitors and overcoming these obstacles, we can help develop a creative class prepared to conquer mental blocks and exercise their creativity when they need it the most.

Here are six major mental blocks to Creative Thinking that could be preventing you from expressing your innate creativity and how to overcome them .

1.  Feeling Uncreative

Perhaps one of the most common types of mental blocks is a general malaise of feeling uncreative. If you find that you tell yourself you are not creative, you may have experienced this mental block in the past. However, it is essential to remember that it is not possible to be uncreative. Everyone has innate creativity just waiting to be released. One way to resolve to believe that you aren’t creative is to change what you tell yourself. Try expressing to yourself that you are creative because eventually, you’ll believe it yourself. Another way would be to explore and find new ways of releasing your innate creativity. If you paint, try different techniques. If you sing, try new genres of songs. The critical thing to do here is to explore and see where your creativity will lead you.

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2.  Striving for Perfection

Striving for perfection is another common mental block that creative thinkers often face. Aiming to be perfect is an easy way to inhibit creativity. When individuals try to be perfect, it limits the way that they express their creativity. The need to be perfect stems from a fear of failure. However, creativity thrives off mistakes and failures. It is within these mistakes and failures that creative thinkers can learn and build upon their ideas. Without failure, the world would be robbed of so many innovative advances. To overcome this mental block , try open-ended creative exercises as they can help inspire free-flowing, uninhibited creativity. Open-ended activities often do not have a singular correct answer, allowing individuals to feel more comfortable expressing themselves in an unstructured manner. Open-ended exercises also help to discourage the notion of one singular correct answer, which may help individuals define their creativity without necessarily searching for an answer.

3.  Exiting Your Comfort Zone

As humans, we crave stability, safety, and routine. We love building up a comfort zone and staying in it. However, as comforting as having and sticking to a routine may be, it may also be severely limiting your creative expression . Just like striving for perfection can limit one’s Creative Thinking, staying within your normal routine will also lead to more difficulty expressing your creativity. Falling into a routine can be a mental block that is rather difficult to get out of. The fastest way to overcome this mental block is ultimately to change some aspect of your daily routine. Changing even small aspects of your routine will help add spontaneity back into your day and, as a result, will likely lead to more creative inspiration.

4.  Critiquing while Creating  

Many creative thinkers have equally strong inner editors, which they utilize to help best guide certain creative pursuits. At times, however, these inner editors can seemingly take a mind of their own, and suddenly, creative thinkers are flooded with negative critiques when trying to work. Silencing this inner voice is vital to overcoming this creative block and eventually finding joy in the creative process again. Do not let your ability to analyze and criticize stop you from expressing your creativity. If you’re the type of creative thinker who constantly critiques your work while you create, try to compartmentalize your time instead. Design a schedule that dedicates specific time for creativity and specific time for editing. Organizing your time in this way separates the two behaviors of creating and critiquing away from one another and discourages them from happening simultaneously.

5.   No Direction for Expression

When creative thinkers are feeling mental blocks, they often describe feeling blank and lacking new ideas. If creative thinkers express having no inspiration or no direction to work on a specific project, this means they are likely suffering from a mental block. This mental block manifests itself in seemingly draining creative thinkers of their motivation to create. Because creative thinkers feel as if they have no ideas, they have no notion of where to begin or take specific creative pursuits, creating a cycle of feeling uncreative. If you feel like you have no direction for your project, for example, no place to begin, try going with your gut feeling. Listening to your gut is an important skill to have, considering that our creativity comes intuitively from within.

6.  Giving into Default Thinking

Humans are creatures of habit, which means we are more than just susceptible to falling into simple routines. Our thinking patterns can also fall prey to the comfort of routines. As humans, we can develop default thinking patterns, which means that our brains try to do the least amount of work possible when thinking or developing solutions. These default thinking patterns can often lead to mental blocks in which it can feel difficult to access new creative ideas. Creativity exists between the familiar and the unknown, so overcoming default thinking patterns is vital to uncovering that new innovative idea. If you feel your default thinking patterns may be holding back your creative expression, try challenging your assumptions and initial ideas. In this way, you force your brain to dig deeper and think harder when thinking creatively. By challenging your default thinking, you are helping to make Creative Thinking a much more accessible skill. 

mental block in creative problem solving

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Writers’ Blokke

Writers’ Blokke

Rahul Anand

Jun 9, 2021


5 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking and How to Work Around Them

You are, and you aren’t are both true..

No wonder I am writing this. The shortest distance between writing and publishing is creative thinking unless your mind takes over. Imagine an ideal scenario of framing some idea and then creatively pursuing it till the finished product is delivered. Voila!

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