Conquering Creative Paralysis

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t bring yourself to move to the next step? As if something was holding you back and you couldn’t quite place you finger on the issue?


Alex set his backpack down beside the open seat. “Hey, what’s up?”

Naomi sat back, letting the guitar slump in her lap before she rubbed her eyes. “Dude, I don’t know. Something isn’t right with this track.”

“Like what?” Alex asked, frowning.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But it’s driving me nuts.”

Alex reached over and tapped the spacebar. The euphoric tones of a soft acoustic ballad dripped like honey from the speakers. He glanced over to see Naomi cringe and wince at every well-placed note.

“I don’t know why you don’t like it,” he said. “Listen to yourself. It’s gorgeous.”

“It’s crap,” she said then rolled her eyes.

“Well, when is it due?”


“I would just send it,” Alex said. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Naomi said.


Fear is the creative’s greatest enemy. It will keep you from moving forward and getting things done. It will keep you from showing up when you should be first in line. It will destroy your ability to create the art that you were meant to create.

@@I suffer from creative paralysis, but I won’t let it control me anymore.@@

Here are a few things that will cause creative paralysis. You can overcome them, but they will sneak up and pounce on you if you’re not conscious of them.


Fear of Failure

“I don’t get it…” Alex said, turning to her. “Afraid of what?”

“That I’ll get burned,” she said, looking into his eyes. “What if he doesn’t like it? What if everyone hates it?”

No one likes rejection. No one likes to feel the sting of failure. From a very young age, we are encouraged to succeed. At the same time, we are told to avoid mistakes and embarrassment.

Because failure negatively re-enforces our behaviors, we tend to repeat patterns that have led us to the least amount of discomfort and patterns that trigger feelings we enjoy.

Remember that time you drew on the wall and your mother reprimanded that behavior?

Or how about the time you made a joke in class that got a huge laugh, but your teacher gave you detention for disruption?

And what about that time you decided to take a different route to work? You were 30 minutes late and your boss gave you a warning. Two more and you’re fired.

These are all times when you tried something new, but was disincentivized to repeat that behavior due to negative consequences. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. It’s how we learn to do things. It’s what makes us intelligent.

Where this fails you is when you start associating trying new things with negative consequences. Unfortunately, this is something that your parents or teachers may not have taught you. You may have been taught to fall in line, but may not have been taught when it’s appropriate to carve a new path.

@@A good creative accepts failure as a means to success.@@


Fear of Imperfection.

“I don’t get it…” Alex said, turning to her. “Afraid of what?”

“That I’m not doing it right,” she said, clicking over to a playlist. “Maybe I should study the examples they gave me a bit more…”

In our desire to create something that’s remarkable, we often get stuck in a cycle of endless revision. We create, analyse, compare, then re-create. We remain unsatisfied with what we’ve made because we fear our audience or buyers will see our flaws and hate us for them.

But (as someone smarter than me originally said) “Perfection is the enemy of done.”

If perfection is the end goal of your creativity, be prepared to never complete anything. There will always be new heights to master and new techniques to hone. But you’ll never succeed as a creative if you don’t know how to let a work go when you’ve done your absolute best.

@@A good creative knows to let go when they’ve done the best they can.@@


Fear of Success

“I don’t get it…” Alex said, turning to her. “Afraid of what?”

“That they’ll like it,” she said, drumming her fingers on the desk. “What if they want more and I can’t reproduce what I did right?”

Sometimes the fear of failure isn’t what’s holding us back. Sometimes it’s the fear that what we made does well and we can’t reproduce that same level of genius again and again. This seems like a crazy fear to some, but it’s a real fear.

Is moving out of your comfort zone worth it?

Part of being a creative is the willingness to experience new things. You need to be able to step into the unknown armed with the will to roll with the punches.

Still worried about how to remain successful after your first success?

Spend more time on your creative work. You can accidentally fall into success, but exercising your creativity will insure that your able to do it time and again.

Do you write music? Write more songs than you will distribute.

Do you make apps? Code more software than you’d ever share in the app stories.

All of what you create may not be worthy of sharing with the world. But it’s better to have more creative practice than less.

@@A good creative exercises creativity to insure success is not accidental.@@


What About You?

I hope this helped you move past your fears and take the next step you need to succeed. If so, please share this with others who might need it.

What’s keeping you from pressing on in your current creative endeavor?

How are you dealing with it?

Let me know in the comments below!