What’s Killing Your Creativity? Hint: It’s Probably Not What You Think

We all have those days, right? The days when we feel anything but creative, and instead end up exhausted, burnt out, and unmotivated. I’ve had quite a few of those days recently, and they’re tough. It’s hard to get past the dead-zone and get to work.

What's Killing Your Creativity

Feeling unmotivated is one of the most frustrating and discouraging things we face as creatives. I mean, we want to do our best work, after all, don’t we? So what’s the problem? What’s causing this void in the creative well?

Symptoms of a Greater Cause

There are a couple of things we tell ourselves when we end up in a creative slump:

  1. I’m not inspired
  2. I just don’t have the motivation right now

Both might be true, but chances are good these are only symptoms and there’s something larger at play.

But instead of searching for the greater cause, we’re often content to wallow in our lack of inspiration and motivation, which leads to things like procrastination, discouragement, frustration, and further lack of drive.

The Nature of Inspiration

The secret to productive creativity is understanding the nature of inspiration. It is not bound to you, nor will it come when you call it. Inspiration is wild, free, and mysterious, and you are not entitled to its company.

We’re quick to blame a dry creative well on lack of inspiration, but the truth is, lack of inspiration happens when you stop taking in new experiences and neglect the beauty around you.

The Real Creativity Killer

So if it’s not lack of inspiration or motivation, what is it? The real killer of creativity is usually much deeper: lack of stimulation.

As creatives, we tend to be content with living in our own little worlds, by our own rules, and operating within our own rhythms, but when you live in a bubble, the well runs dry. If you want to develop a creative lifestyle, you must learn to live in two worlds.

How to Stimulate Your Creativity

Vibrant creativity requires a regular dose of stimulation, or it grows stagnant. A few ways you can stimulate your creativity are:

  • Getting out of the house (going to a park, a coffee shop, or the mall)
  • Exploring outdoors
  • Talking to a friend
  • Going on a date with your spouse or significant other
  • Observing or interacting with others

Exploration and interaction are the fuel you need to stay creative, and when you neglect to get out of your lair, or spend too many days in isolation, your creativity will suffer.

So when you feel uninspired or unmotivated, examine your lifestyle. Have you been spending too much time alone, in the same place? When was the last time you experienced something new or different? How long has it been since you were intentional about stimulating your creativity?

It’s time to stop waiting around for inspiration to find you, and get out (literally), and do something about it. You’ll be amazed at the benefits.

Let’s chat!

  • How has lack of stimulation affected your creativity?
  • Do you struggle with feeling unmotivated and uninspired?
  • What is something you can do today to stimulate your creativity?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share it with a friend, or reply on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear how you stimulate your creativity!

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18 thoughts on “What’s Killing Your Creativity? Hint: It’s Probably Not What You Think

  1. This is a great post on an important topic! I’ve found that sometimes my creativity is crushed by my sense of limits– often, limits that don’t really have to be there. You’re right in that stepping outside our usual routine can help us find new perspective. This is also why I like listening to podcasts and reading good non-fiction books!

  2. I never really noticed that yes,..my inspiration generally comes when I’m somewhere, or with someone new, or in a cool experience I had to go pursue. Good conversations are great for inspiration. I’m more coming at this as a songwriter, and the principles really are very helpful,..thanks for the post Emily! 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting, Isaac! Yes, good conversations are a huge piece of inspiration for me. As a very introverted introvert, getting out is not usually that high on my list of priorities, but when I do, it’s definitely helpful and beneficial to my creativity. I just have to take it in smaller doses, I suppose, to keep from getting drained.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been spending almost every day lately alone at my desk; I rarely leave the house and I hadn’t visited any friends in a long time. It’s been getting harder and harder to find inspiration lately, and I’ve been feeling almost a bit depressed. Reading this post has really sparked my excitement to just get out of my routine and do some new things. :] It’s almost bit odd to think that getting away from the pen and paper can help your creativity, but it’s definitely true!
    On a side note, haha, hi! I’m Lilly; I’m a small-town girl fresh out of high school with a passion for fantasy stories/character design and illustration. :] I’m still kinda new to your blog, but I love your posts! Every one of them has been helpful and inspiring to me in some way. Keep up the amazing work; I can’t wait to see all the lovely things you write in the future <3

    • Hi there! Welcome. (: I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the blog and finding it encouraging. That’s so wonderful to hear!

      Yeah, I hear you. It can definitely get depressing when you’re cooped up and under-stimulated. I know I’ve struggled with that in the recent past, but getting out and just observing life outside has really done a lot to solve the problem. I hope you’ll find some inspiration in breaking routine as well!

  4. A breakup has been killing my creativity… 2 months of not being able to draw or do anything like that, ever since the break up happened. I can still crochet but that’s mindless. If it’s copying I’m fine too but not if it’s meant to come from me… I guess it’s because creativity comes so much from our emotional side. I guess I’ve been trying to push down my emotions instead of embracing them. But yes, I do need to get out even more (I have been socially active) to help me get out of my funk, or maybe stop focusing on the funk and getting down to it.

    • Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that, Maria.
      Yes, I think a lot of kinds of creativity are fueled by emotion, and it sometimes makes it difficult to create when you’re struggling. However, I’ve found that sometimes, what helps me get past tough times is to embrace that emotion–to pour it into my words, since my primary creative outlet is writing. Sometimes getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper–in whatever form you prefer; whether art, writing, or something else–can help you sort through and overcome them.

  5. One of the biggest things that kills creativity for me … and it seems for a lot of other creatives is Depression. it’s something that even under the greatest medical control I still seem to suffer greatly from. I have to say that medications have been a god send for me but even this doesn’t always keep the blues away for me. If you have any advice on this subject I would love to read it. I’ts a subject that is talked about a lot on the TED forums and so on. There is a strong link with creatives and depression. Most of the most creative people in the world suffered greatly from depression. Let me know what you think on this subject

    • Hey, Chuck! Thanks for commenting.
      Yes, I agree, depression can be a snare for a lot of creatives, and I sometimes struggle with feeling depressed myself. I think it may be because we creatives often attach ourselves very closely to our work–so closely that when we “fail” or someone criticizes us, the pain is personal. Instead of taking it objectively, we feel rejected. At least, that is often what causes me to feel depressed.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this.

  6. Sometimes your creativity can suffer because your mind focuses on something else. After my girlfriend died I couldn’t see clearly for a very long time (that was 16 months ago). I felt drained all the time and no matter how much I tried to feed my imagination I was still empty inside. Only recently I started traveling like mad and with new experiences I can slowly start living in the moment here and now and be more expressive. So yeah, changing a lifestyle is a good advice.

    • Hi, Brian. Wow. I am so sorry to hear about your girlfriend. I can’t imagine how horrible that must be and I pray you’ll be able to find healing through your journey.

      • Thank you, Emily. It means a lot. I have to say that the past year brought me closer to God than ever before (and that’s really something, considering I live in Europe). I don’t know how much strength I’d have if that was not true.
        Btw, I like your blog. It’s a nice blog. 🙂

        • Thanks, Brian. I’m glad you’ve been encouraged here and that God’s been strengthening you. I hope you’ll continue to find healing in Him.