Ten Obstacles to Creativity–and How to Overcome Them

Do you ever feel like this?


Photo Credit: Dave-F, Flickr Creative Commons

When you can’t quite find your creative groove, it can make you a little nuts! Check out these common obstacles to creativity—and then see what you can do to overcome them.

Ten Obstacles to Creativity

  1. Interruptions
  2. Lack of interruptions (aka breaks)
  3. Stress
  4. Lack of exercise
  5. Over-long hours and burnout
  6. Not taking yourself seriously
  7. Inability to take criticism
  8. New project-itis (aka inability to finish)
  9. Inability to let a project go (aka perfectionism)
  10. A loud inner critic

Resources to Overcome!

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Things to Love About Life…or: Why Stress Hurts Performance

This post is part of an ongoing series (first mentioned here) about looking for what’s going right in my writing life. It’s so easy to focus on everything else, don’t you think? On rejections, failed queries, long hours, or negative feedback…and yet, when we start looking for it, there are so many things to celebrate. I have an ulterior motive in all this: to increase my “positivity,” as defined by Barbara Fredrickson in her book of the same name. (Take the positivity quiz here.) Positivity is like a many-fingered vine, its tendrils twisting through our mood, productivity, family harmony, stress responses, creativity, and more. Join me in my journey to boost positivity, and along the way find more joy in writing and life!

It’s really hit me this week: when I write about what I love about the writing life, I’m writing what I love about life.

Tatters-smileemoticon Photo by Tatters:) on Flickr Creative Commons

When you think about it, the two aren’t that different. When I struggle with mood in my daily life, it’s often because I’m struggling in my writing life and vice versa. When I search for what’s going “right” in writing, the very act of looking shines joy on the rest of my life, too.

And as tempting as it is to claim that this connection exists because I’m a writing creative-type, I see this relationship everywhere I look.

Our feelings of success or failure at work spill over into our lives outside of work. The result? Stress hurts performance, creativity, and productivity.

Positivity in one life arena pulls us up, whereas negativity in another life arena drags us down.

John Medina sums it up in his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School:*

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Sue Mitchell, Writing and Creativity Coach

I’ve recently started with working with a writing coach

And I’ve found it so beneficial, I wanted to share the love.

If you’re like me, you may not know exactly what a writing coach does, how you would work with one, or how to tell if a coach is good fit. Join us Fridays for a series of interviews with writing coaches and their clients. Learn about the wide range of coaching styles, coaching goals, what a writing coach can do for your writing career—and what they can’t do. Who knows? Maybe you’ll decide it’s time to give yourself the gift of coaching, too!

For today’s guest, please offer a warm welcome to Sue Mitchell, whose website offers a wealth of creative information and inspiration. Read on to learn about her unique approach to coaching, creativity, and life!


How can a writer decide if working with a coach would benefit them?

Writing is usually a solitary activity, and that can sometimes result in a writer going around in circles in their head and not moving forward with their work. They may feel overwhelmed, procrastinate or worry that their work isn’t good enough. When writers feel this way, a coach can help them become more productive and rediscover their love of writing.

What sort of goals or skills do you work on with a client?

I help clients with goals like finding time to write, developing a regular writing practice, managing their inner critic, generating ideas or coping with the overwhelm of a large project or too many ideas.

What lies outside the client/coach relationship? (For ex., writing craft, critiques, organization, motivation, goals, psychology)

I do not critique my client’s work. Instead, I provide a safe place to question, experiment and make mistakes. I also do not provide instruction at this time. I am developing an online class on memoir writing, but I see that as a different role for me than coaching.

My style of coaching, which follows the Kaizen-Muse model, is a way of assisting the client to discover what works for them, elevating the importance of their creative work in their lives, and keeping them moving forward in the creative process, which can be a confusing, nonlinear path. I do offer information and suggestions on the creative process that are tailored specifically to writers, but the focus is not on improving the writer’s craft.

Tell me about the mechanics of a coaching relationship: how often you meet, the format, etc.

If I will be working with a client on an ongoing basis, I like to start off with four weekly sessions on the phone so we can become very familiar with each other and to provide very consistent support as new patterns of thought and action are established. We also communicate via email between sessions as much as needed. After the first month, clients may be ready to move on to less frequent meetings, often every other week.

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Handwriting Online?

I love to write longhand. It can spark creativity, get me past a creative block, and help me get into flow—and there’s science that shows writing longhand activates different parts of the brain than typing on a computer keyboard.

Plus there’s nothing quite like the feel of a beautiful pen gliding across paper.

I’m not sure this quite counts as writing longhand, but it’s so cool I just had to share. Enjoy!


Do you ever write longhand? What do you think of taking the “handwritten” approach online?