THE BLOG
05/13/2013 05:10 pm ET Updated Jul 13, 2013

Impediments to Creativity

Creativity is one of the best strengths to have. It helps you solve problems, and keeps you versatile and able to roll with change, which in this world is a real plus. My creative clients tell me that they are usually good at anything they put their hand to. For all its merits, creativity can be one of the most incapacitating strengths because sometimes there are just too many ideas to follow. Having choice is a good thing, but having too much choice can be debilitating. Being focused and having choices -- and not too many of them -- helps creativity work for you.

Creative people are like curious divers in a beautiful coral sea. They are free to explore the colorful shapes, new and interesting adaptations. They can sit and watch a tiny crab searching for its dinner or follow a clownfish to see where it goes. Maybe they get distracted by something more interesting and follow it for a while just as one idea replaces another. Synapses fire and recombine in fascinating and odd ways, which can be inspiring and rejuvenating. This is the ideal part of genius -- your head swimming with ideas. The ability to be curious and open-minded churns out new approaches and ideas no one has thought of before. One new thought begets another.

A client once told me that she wasted a lot of time watching her bird feeder. To me, this was how she relaxed, replenishing her creative and spiritual needs -- hardly a waste of time. She was opening up to what was, living in the moment. This is most definitely a good use of time if it makes her more creative. Sometimes our need to be productive and efficient gets in our way.

But creative people, like the rest of us, can get stuck. I believe everyone is creative to varying degrees. Creative people can churn out idea after idea, often getting nowhere. After a lot of trying, they have little to show for their talent but feelings of confusion and a sense of frustrated potential. It doesn't help that generating ideas and solutions is generally underappreciated and undervalued. It's no wonder how a lot of creatives feel like they are spinning their wheels in the mud.

Creativity is amorphous. It means different things to different people, and the general sense I get is that most people seem to think it has to do with being artistic. To me, creativity means making something out of nothing (create-ivity): generating solutions, useful ideas, a song, or solving problems. The emphasis is on "create." It's all well and good to have lots of ideas, lots of choices, but what good are all they if you don't use them to create something, especially for your own benefit? It's when you know you have a great idea and follow it with all your drive and passion that you can be truly creative. If you are not actually creating, you might be facing some obstacles.

Let's have a look at these impediments:

Lack of Focus: Creativity can be particularly unfocused. Productive creativity needs a container to help focus ideas. Creativity doesn't thrive in a vacuum; it needs some sort of a container just like a builder needs a blueprint to build a house. Most creative people rankle at too much structure and many believe that they need little or no structure. Having goals and a vision of what you want to produce helps you to follow some ideas and ignore others.

Lack of Discernment: Some creatives never met an idea they didn't like. We all need a way to discern how we want to spend our time. Creatives are notorious for starting something, then abandoning it when an even better idea comes along. To create means you have to see things through to completion. Discernment helps you know which ideas to spend your time on and which ones to put away until later.

Lack of Confidence: As creativity is generally misunderstood and underappreciated, it's typical for creative people to give their ideas away for free and fail to reap the rewards. When others undervalue our strengths, it's easy for us to undervalue them, too, leading to a lack of confidence and frustration. Creatives need to own their ideas.

Lack of Responsibility/Awareness: Not taking responsibility for our strengths lead us to downplay them, even make a joke of them. There may be underlying fears or a lack of awareness of the power of their ideas that keeps creatives from taking them seriously. Creative people who are still "in the closet" tend to downplay their abilities or make jokes about them, or tend to be humble about their ideas.

With creativity being so nebulous and individual, you may be wondering how I coach my creative clients. Although each style of creativity is exclusive to the individual, creatives tend to get stuck in the same ways.

Focus: I encourage my clients to narrow down their goals and their vision of how they want to live their lives. I help align their needs, goals and values so they can understand how to make creativity work for them in a focused and sustained way. I encourage them to consciously create "containers," or structures where their creativity can flourish.

Discernment: By being a mirror, giving them perspective and questioning them, it helps give them a bigger picture that puts their ideas into context. Looking at past decisions, we narrow down the criteria for discernment in accordance with their values, beliefs and needs.

Confidence: Through feedback, my clients begin to understand and value how unique and important their creativity is to them when they see how they use it in their lives. Helping my clients understand how to channel creativity to their benefit can really boost confidence and awareness.

Responsibility: I help my clients understand, become aware and take responsibility for who they are and what they can accomplish. Being creative is who you are and you have a responsibility to use it wisely, make it work for you or be overwhelmed by it.

Creativity is fluid, sometimes it's there and then it's gone. Like anything to do with us, our own creativity is too close for us to judge. It's like asking a fish to describe what water feels like. It doesn't have any idea because it has nothing to compare it with. It helps to have a second pair of eyes to look over your shoulder, be a mirror and give you feedback. Like the shoemaker's children who went shoeless, creatives are often the least likely to benefit from their ideas.

To make creativity work for you it's important to nurture your creativity, learn how to discern great ideas from ephemeral ones, consciously create a container for your thoughts, keep focused until you see the idea through and take responsibility and value your ideas. If you find yourself getting stuck, see if you fit into any of the categories above and harness your creativity to get going again.

For more by Bradley Foster, click here.

For more on success and motivation, click here.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
Life hacks and juicy stories to get you through the week.