7 habits that kill creativity

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Remember when you were a kid and being an artist was fun? Finger paints and imaginary friends. Silly costumes and play-acting.

We didn’t think about whether or not our creations and performances would sell or receive a good review on a trendy site. The reward was the simple act of creation, to make something that didn’t exists before.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso

As we grow from the limitless imagination and wonderment of a child into adulthood, that sense of creative abandon is diluted. We are caged by rules. We become overly self-conscious, losing our own individual spark in our desire to fit in or be on top of the next big thing.

Before we know it, writing becomes a chore. What was a wild refuge where we could run free is now a cramped and stuffy cubicle. It happens slowly, like aging itself, when we wake up one day to look in the mirror and wonder, who the hell is this person?

Not only does our work suffer, it branches out into everything. If we can’t have fun with writing, we can’t have fun with publishing. Nor can we have fun with book publicity and marketing. It becomes contrived, rigid, cliché, or boring. We lose the passion that used to inflame us, and it all seems like work.

7 habits that kill creativity

1. Judging yourself too harshly

We writers worship our greats. We aspire to be like them, and maybe one day we will. One of the reasons I haven’t published the series I’ve been working on for eight years is because I thought it wasn’t good enough. It didn’t compare to the masterpieces of my writing gods, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Really? Did I think I was going to be the next Tolstoy? On my first book?

Perfect is the enemy of good. Don’t stall on a good story, waiting for it to become perfect. Our definition of perfection changes all the time So do the best you can, and then let it go.

2. Comparing yourself to others

So-and-so is a bestseller and you’re not. A writer who just got out of high school is getting nominated for a prestigious award while you have none. A comparative author has double the amount of followers you have. Either you feel like scrambling to catch up with them, or you become discouraged and depressed that you are so far behind.

This is a recipe for misery. You are your only competition. And you don’t know what those writers had to do to get where they are. Furthermore, their life may not even be as great as it appears online.

3. Trying too hard to make it happen

In trying to hard to make it happen, we rush, we get sloppy, we create self-imposed deadlines that stress us out. We forget the joy of writing when we are pushing too hard, and we can sound like simpering sycophants, braggadocios, drowning readers in purple prose. Don’t overthink it. Don’t pander. Just get into your natural flow. Trust your you-ness.

4. Setting unrealistic expectations

Goals are important, but so is their achievability. If you set a goal to write four novels in a year while working a full-time job and being a parent, you are setting yourself up for failure. Not meeting these goals will make you feel like giving up. You will feel stressed and frustrated. Make realistic expectations for yourself. Give yourself room to live life while you pursue them.

5. Rushing for success

If you’re aiming for success, great. We all want to become successful authors. But, contrary to popular belief, success doesn’t happen overnight. Most of the most popular authors slogged for years before getting recognition. If you’ve made up your mind to be miserable until you are a success, you could be miserable for a long time.

Learn to enjoy your ride. One day you might be ridiculously famous and look longingly back on these quiet days when there weren’t so many deadlines and life was less demanding.

6. Not learning anything new

One of my biggest setbacks was that I kept writing without ever having taken one class. Even if your talented, you need guidance and feedback to optimize your skills.

I finally took my first class in Sept. 2019 with amazing writer and human being, Richard Thomas. It was the catalyst for everything that is happening for me right now. Not only has it opened new pathways, but I also feel more confident in my abilities and know what I have to offer and who to offer it to.

Most of us are flying blind, but when you are aware of your weak points you can improve them. Learning keeps you growing. It keeps your writing fresh. It’s incredible how much more capable you feel when you own your gifts and know how to use them. Evolving as an artist is one of the most satisfying parts of being a writer. Get involved in this process.

7. Taking yourself too seriously

Do you dwell on mistakes? Lose hope after a failure? Maybe you got a rejection. Or your book launch flopped. Has a snarky reviewer ripped you to shreds? Yes. It sucks. There’s no denying that. You can allow yourself a half a day to mope around.

Then be realistic about it. Your work won’t get accepted one hundred percent of the time. Your latest book might not be the one that skyrockets you to stardom. Not every reviewer is going to get what you were trying to do with your story. Laugh it off and ask yourself, what can I learn from this, and more importantly, what’s next?

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