How to Overcome Creative Blocks: 5 Challenges & Solutions

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Manage Your Day-to-Day" by 99U and Jocelyn K. Glei. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Do you feel like you don’t have enough time for creative work? Are you stuck on a project? How can creative blocks be turned into creative opportunities?

Whether you’re a creative professional, an entrepreneur, or anyone seeking to reclaim their creativity, Manage Your Day-to-Day inspires you toward reaching your full potential. In the book, Mark McGuinness addresses five creative blocks and provides strategies to help you lean into these challenges.

Keep reading to learn how to overcome creative blocks and break through toward success.

Overcoming Creative Blocks

Whether you’re a perfectionist or a pragmatist, you’ll inevitably feel stuck sometimes. Creativity coach Mark McGuinness explains that, while these moments can feel paralyzing, they have the potential to inspire rather than frustrate.

He argues that understanding the type of creative block you’re facing can be a powerful tool in overcoming it. McGuinness shares his advice on how to overcome creative blocks. Let’s take a look.

Creative Block #1: Lack of Inspiration

If you find yourself lacking inspiration for a project, take a break and allow your unconscious brain to continue working on it in the background, even if your conscious mind isn’t actively engaged. (Shortform note: Other experts recommend doing the opposite, and just diving in whether or not you feel inspired. In The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz says by simply going through the motions inspiration will come. For example, if you’re a writer, just start writing, jotting down any ideas that come to mind. Sooner or later, the act of writing will spur creative thinking.)

Creative Block #2: Lack of Extrinsic Motivation

The pressure for success can be overwhelming and hinder creativity. Create a dedicated space or time solely for creative pursuits, free from discussions about business or money, to protect and nurture your creative process. (Shortform note: Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, you could be working on a project where you were intrinsically motivated because you like the work, but extrinsically motivated because you’re getting paid for it.)

Creative Block #3: Emotional Block

Sometimes, an emotionally intense or intimidating project can lead to procrastination. Remind yourself that you have the ability to create whatever you desire, and, ultimately, you have control over who will eventually see your work.

Creative Block #4: Personal Issues

While challenges in your life can block creativity, the reverse can also be true: Your creative projects can serve as an oasis from life challenges. Embrace the opportunity to gain fresh perspectives by temporarily stepping away from the issues you’re wrestling with.

Creative Block #5: Limited Resources

Whether it’s a lack of financial resources, time, or knowledge, you can make a virtue of necessity by setting yourself the creative challenge of achieving as much as possible with what you have. Remind yourself that more resources don’t always lead to better results.

Why Some People Navigate Challenges Better Than Others

Whether it be grappling with personal trauma, navigating the weight of personal responsibilities, or a lack of financial resources, everyone at some point encounters challenges to their health and happiness that make creative work challenging. 

In Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains why some people are still able to focus on their work regardless of what they’re facing. He explains that there are three factors that affect your ability to effectively manage challenges.  

1. Outside support: Even if you face challenges, having support from family or friends can help you overcome them successfully. For example, a loved one who understands and encourages your creative pursuits can provide emotional support, offer a listening ear, or assist with practical tasks, thereby alleviating some of the burdens you may be facing.

2. Psychological resources: Having certain mental skills may help you overcome challenges. For example, developing a growth mindset, where you view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning rather than obstacles, can also empower you to persevere and find innovative solutions.

3. Positive coping style: A positive coping style allows you to set aside frustration or disappointment to objectively assess a situation and decide how to proceed. According to Csikszentmihalyi, a positive coping style (also called transformational coping) has three components: self-assurance, an outward focus, and a solution-oriented mindset.

While you may not always be able to control your level of outside support, you have the ability to cultivate psychological resources and develop a more positive coping style that can change how you deal with challenges when they occur. 
How to Overcome Creative Blocks: 5 Challenges & Solutions

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of 99U and Jocelyn K. Glei's "Manage Your Day-to-Day" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Manage Your Day-to-Day summary:

  • That creativity is the result of disciplined work habits, not innate genius
  • Tips from experts on how to boost your creativity, focus, and productivity
  • Why you should never strive for creative perfection

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.