The Loss of Creativity

DisappearingCreativityI’ve lost my creative edge. No, I didn’t leave it under the couch or let it fall behind the dresser. I didn’t even leave it in the park or drop it out of my pocket. Instead, I let life steal it.

My mind used to race with new ideas. New thoughts. New dreams. I was constantly inspired to produce. But where once inspiration flowed, my mind’s creativity has been replaced by fear, doubt, worry. Where I once heard a muse, I now hear the mocking laughter of pain and anxiety.

Creativity doesn’t just happen

Creativity takes work. A lot of work, and maybe even more discipline. It requires you to read, watch TV, listen to podcasts, and consume information. It requires you to sit and think about what you heard. And it requires that you take action. When those processes start to break down, we begin to lose our creativity. But the insidious part is that we don’t notice it at first. We can still produce at a high level. At least for awhile. We can coast on fumes, but that’s all it is, coasting. Once you run out of that stored mental “energy” then you’re done.

What I’ve learned is that Creativity has three parts.

1. Prioritize. You can’t consume everything. In fact, some ideas are dangerous. Some activities are harmful. If you want to be truly creative you have to learn to prioritize. You have to develop a way to know what is “good” information to take in, and when reading that 1,000th news article/tidbit of Hollywood gossip/Facebook post is probably a waste of time. Not all information was created equal.

2. Focus. I teach both organizations and college students. What I’ve learned is that if you don’t focus on the material you won’t learn it. Sure you might remember it for a week. Maybe a month. But if you don’t truly focus on the material and learn it, you’ll see it disappear as your attention shifts. Of course this is true of all information. It all has a shelf-life. If it didn’t we’d all remember high school algebra. Focus keeps us front-and-center on the information we consume.

3. Act. Creativity takes intention. It requires a certain amount of personal risk. If you create it means the world can judge you. And it will judge you. The world these days is especially harsh. The tone of the interent is one of sarcasm. (Of course that is also true of politicians, ESPN, and “talking heads” in general.) Because of this, it’s natural to hold onto your ideas. But that’s not really creativity. Creativity only truly happens when you share your ideas with the world, no matter how scary that is.

The best laid plans

We like to lay life out in simple step-by-step processes on sites like Upmarket. And for good reason. A lot of why we fail is simply because we have terrible habits. Or we don’t know how to get from Point A to Point B. Lists can help with that. What lists can’t help with is when life upends itself and makes you face-plant on the sidewalk. My creativity fell apart when my son was diagnosed with a series of serious medical issues.

Over the last two years, I’ve let life steal my creativity. I’ve allowed the voice of fear to creep into my mind at night, wondering if my son will be okay, if I’ve done enough as a father. It’s hard to turn that off once it starts. But one of the things I’ve learned is that because creativity takes work, it’s not magical. And that means even if the best laid plans have failed, you can always start over. You can always start new habits. You can always re-prioritize. You can always choose to do something different.

And that’s a reason enough to get out that pen and give it another shot.

Photo Credit: Karen Rustad

About Eric Barrett

Eric Barrett is an organizational psychologist who specializes in connecting the dots of work, life, and meaning. He has worked as an organizational psychologist for over a decade, and is most recently working on developing social media guidelines for a real estate company. He also teaches psychology at Xavier University. In his spare time he… wait, who are we kidding… he has no spare time. You can follow him on Twitter @MeaningToWork or his blog at Meaning to Work.


  1. nice post idea great tq share

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