The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things Which Kill Creativity

Posted on 25. Sep, 2009 by in Lists, Motivation, Workspace

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things Which Kill Creativity

A major factor causing procrastination is lack of creativity. This find its roots deep in a freelancer’s own life, and specifically in the freelancer’s head. I have discussed the twelve bitches of life which cause me to lack inspiration from time to time. These are the dirty dozen who should be avoided at all times!

1. Mouthful

Ever heard the expression “Bitten off more than he can chew”? When a person has too many things on their plate, they can become burdensome and cause one to become extremely stressed. Having to deal with too much work all at the same time will cause the quality of the work to decrease.

A freelance web designer, for example, will design better when he has more time to conjure up his skills and apply them as opposed to hurrying just to meet a deadline. A simple solution to this is better organisation and mature estimates of deadlines.

2. Fear

Fear can be of many things. Some people fear spiders, while others fear heights. I fear waking up one day and finding Madonna in bed next to me…yuck…that ugly old grandma! I was however, speaking of fear of failure.

So many freelancers are too scared to explore beyond their usual routine or to even practice what they have learnt to its full breadth. One of the many adverse effects which fear of failure has on a person is that they will become so scared of their work being rejected that they will spend too much time worrying about avoiding failure as opposed to worrying about how to grow in their field of expertise.

3. Money

The recession has had many effects on us, it even claimed the life of Michael Jackson (a joke, for all you serious people out there), however the biggest effect of the recession is debt. Mounting debt moneyand late bills with court orders and bullying bailiffs will hardly help keep your creative mind intact. This causes a person to work harder but at the cost of the quality of service they provide.

Yes, work harder if you have the stress of debt and financial insecurity. Remember that the only way in which the plan of working hard can ever be successful is by keeping the super computer between your ears totally inspired.

4. Distractions

When you work, you should work! If you are working and are the kind of weirdo who wants to updates their Facebook status at the end of every fart then you really need a parent control on your computer! Tweeting and updating your Facebook status will get you nothing apart from a few girls realising how sad you really are!

Take regular breaks and attend to Facebook or play Gears of War in your break, not during work!

5. Family and Friends

Human beings are such that when something depresses our loved ones, it affects us. This can be with serious issues but also with trivial small things. For example if your partner has had a bad day and wishes to exert their frustration, you should learn to become more listening instead of shouting back and causing a massive argument. This will help you reduce your levels of stress, and therefore you’re less likely to procrastinate as such.

Some problems are minor and can be resolved through talking and taking active steps to better a relationship, however other serious problems may require counseling or something similar. Remember, a happy surrounding will make you happy and more efficient with work.

6. Your Health

Health does not always mean ‘mental health’. In fact I mean the vast spectrum of things which will have ill effects on your body causing you to have limited concentration and reduce your productivity.


Stress and depression are perhaps the main things in the 21st century causing us to fall behind. However, there are other things relating to health which can cause problems. In my opinion obesity and malnutrition of vital vitamins is perhaps the main cause of a ‘zombified’ freelancer.

I would recommend a daily jog. Psychiatrists recommend this for reducing stress levels and depression as it can release serotonin, a hormone which in turn will cause you to feel happier. Running can also reduce excess fat and also help you get out of general laziness. It also provides you with the ever important fresh air which every freelancer can never get enough of in front of their monitor!

A healthy diet can also help. Apart from teaching me new ways of insulting people, Gordon Ramsay also taught me that cooking healthy, edible food need not be such a chore and hard. Just Google some healthy recipes and I guarantee you will enjoy cooking and eating your food!

7. Insomnia

I had a friend who suffered for years with insomnia. It not only caused him to fall behind at university but also had detrimental effects on his social life. After years of suffering at the hand of such a treatable problem, he visited his doctor and got some medication.

Personally, I would use medication as a last resort. If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed trying to get to sleep, I would recommend getting up from bed. Your bed should be for sleep and not for simple relaxing. Carry on doing whatever you are until you feel sleepy and then go to bed. This way your bed is associated with sleep only as opposed to lying there waiting for sleep.

Try waking up earlier and packing your day full of productive tasks, you will end up being exhausted and as soon as sleep begins to overtake, tuck yourself in and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

8. Lacking direction in life

Many freelancers will feel the lack of motivation due to not knowing what they wish to achieve in life. I feel that this is a personal decision and nobody can tell you where you should be in ten years time.

I would recommend getting a blank piece of paper and writing down all the things which motivate you. Make a list of your dreams and the things you want to achieve by the end of your life. Knowing these things better will help organise your mind better so that you can aim toward something in life.

If it is a specific car or a massive house which motivates you and you feel that it is what you wish to achieve, then print off a picture of your dream home along with your dream car. Stick it up at your workspace so you can see it and remember your aim.

9. Deadlines

If I was to ask the people reading this article “What kills creativity?” I am sure 9/10 of you would reply ‘Deadlines’”. An irritable client who will repeatedly ask for updates on their work several times a day or cause you grief over a deadline will cause you to lose creativity and lack inspiration. For God’s sake, deadline even has the word ‘dead’ in it!

Your reputation is on the line if you are late, so I would warn you from falling into the trap of trying to impress a client by giving them ambitious deadlines. In fact, I would recommend that you overestimate how long a project will take so as to not offend the client for being late.

10. Block

You can call it writer’s block, or designer’s block. In reality we do pass through a phase every now and again where we don’t feel as creative as before.

I would recommend taking a walk through a pleasant park, going mountain/hill walking or simply looking to art. A holiday to an inspirational country such as Egypt, Dubai or Japan may lift the block and get you inspired again!

11. Competition

Watching a freelancer friend overtake you in the field and reach new heights can cause one’s spirits to become dampened. “Why is he so successful?” and negative questions of this sort will creep up and cause your attitude to become negative. This will cause unwanted reactions on your creativity.

If I was to ask you to draw a picture on a day at random when you felt excited and happy, you may draw a picture of beautiful scenery or a portrait of the ones who you love. Comparatively if you drew a picture on a day when you felt down, depressed, exhausted or frustrated you may draw a picture of a dull, dark setting.

Don’t let your competition get you down, in fact mould your unhappiness into motivation. Be happy for your friend and know that success is not far away for you as well. If they got there earlier, it hardly means anything, you will be at that level of success very soon if you keep at it.

12. Belief

I feel that this is the core point of creativity. If you believe that you are a good designer, you will design well. Similarly if you believe you are a good writer then you will write well.

There is a “Law of Attraction” and it’s a load of utter bollocks because it claims that you and I are “gods”. The theory however raises some good points such as saying that if you believe that you will get something you will get it. The ‘theory’ of attraction claims that this is due to the universe answering the manifestation of your thoughts. The truth is that if you believe in yourself then your actions and behaviour will change such that you will start to see routes towards achieving your goals.

Remember that you are special and unique in your own amazingbeach_believe way. I know a freelancer who is a designer and had been designing for years and has amazing capability and talent. One day he decided that he may not have what it takes any more and began falling down a oily slope until he realised that he was designing to same level as before. The problem was he was near the bottom of the slope and had lost business because of this. The moral of the story being that if you are good at what you do, doubting that will cause you to lose valuable clients.


Whatever it is which starts killing your creativity, do away with it – fast! Talk to friends, family, professionals and do not feel shy about talking to them. They will offer advice and help you through any problems.

Finally ask yourself “Is there anything in my life killing my creativity?”. If there is then please share it with us below so everyone can benefit from your experiences.

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18 Responses to “The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things Which Kill Creativity”

  1. Ryvon Designs

    25. Sep, 2009

    Some great points. I think a large number of them can easily relate to a couple overall “umbrellas”. Balanced (personally and socially), Knowing yourself (your skills, your likes, dislikes and opinions), and being happy/content (both with the external and your internal).

    For myself, if I’m unbalanced I try quick to find out what it is that is tugging more and fix it fast. And I always try, when I feel angst or unhappiness coming on, to remind myself of what I have to be happy about. Quite often, it’s as simple as smiling over a warm cup of tea on a chilly morning, and things start to slip right back into place.

    Thanks for sharing these! I’ll be sure to pass them on and look forward to reading the comments.


  2. Paul Hebner

    25. Sep, 2009

    Yes, I’ve faced all 12 of those killers, sometimes all at once.

  3. [...] The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things Which Kill Creativity [...]

  4. [...] The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things Which Kill Creativity [...]

  5. Anne

    26. Sep, 2009

    A well thought-out list – great points. I’ve faced at least half in my time as a freelancer. It’s important to learn how to get back up again and move forward better than before – it’s a process for sure.

  6. Daniel

    26. Sep, 2009

    That was so true. It’s always helping a tiny little bit to remember, that you’re not the only one struggling with such things. Thank you for this list and greetings from Germany.

  7. Gustavo Parada

    26. Sep, 2009

    Really true. This text Motivates me the most!

    If your not a freelancer designer, your lazy boss, also could kill your cretivity. Loading you up with a great amount of jobs that he doesn’t even know how to deal or do!
    When even though you do great layouts that satisfies his clients in the dead line and he’s always complaining about your work.
    or when you realize that the jealosy about your talent take you away from growing up in the field!

  8. Jane

    27. Sep, 2009

    Great article. I do facing them now. I’m doing a full design job and freelance. And when i have a 2 months dateline (4 projects) for my freelance job, I got a big project for my full design job. And I just want to take my head off for some rest. What I realize is, whenever you are in stress or not in the mood or just bored with things, it can be express from your design. My friend said that to me last 2 weeks when i’m in stress and I couldn’t agree with him more.
    I’m agree with you. Having holiday from time to time, I guess it can inspire you more and be more productive after the holiday.

  9. dotndot

    27. Sep, 2009

    Good post….to the point…

  10. [...] The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things Which Kill Creativity [...]

  11. Dave Sparks

    28. Sep, 2009

    Come one, Madonna may be an ugly old grandma but you know she’d show you a good time ;-)

  12. MIchael

    28. Sep, 2009

    I agree with this list and have been caught with all 12 at once…and a few times.

    Now think about this….waking up next to Madonna…..become famous as one of Madonna’s friends….gain higer paid clients….paid more + work less = enjoy life.

  13. tab0reqq

    28. Sep, 2009

    Great article. It describes almost all aspects of lazy day i have during last weeks. Some other problems caused this too, but this article is awesome.

  14. David Rice

    30. Sep, 2009

    A fantastic list. I think a great way to get past many of these things is to simply be aware of their presence. Often times simply realizing the source of your hindrance can be enough to cope with it and move on to better, more efficient design.

  15. fajarfaqih

    01. Oct, 2009

    yeah, you are right. As you said, insomnia had detrimental effects on my social life. I`ll try to sleep at right time. Thanks Shoaib.

  16. Shoaib

    05. Oct, 2009

    Pam – Some excellent advise. I do sometimes sip some tea to brush over most of the above points. Thanks for that advise.

    Daniel – thanks for your comment. How is the weather in Germany?

    Gustavo – True, that is why it is such a joy to freelance.

    Jane – Yes a holiday would work wonders. Especially if you go to an amazing location.

    Dave and Michael – It may make me popular and she may give me a good time, she is an ugly old grandma nonetheless! Urrgh, you guys can have her! lol.

    David Rice – True, knowledge is power.

    Fajarfaqih – no problemo ;)

    Thanks to everyone who left a comment :)

  17. Mark Carter

    08. Oct, 2009

    Definitely agree about ‘your health’. Sitting in front of a computer all day isn’t the greatest for your health. I try to make sure I get to swim, and meditate each day as a healthy balance to designing.

    thanks for sharing this ….

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