Tell Us Your Creative Blocks – and We’ll Help You Smash Through Them!

This post is part of the Break Through Your Creative Blocks series.

Karate master chopping through a stack of tiles

EDIT: The creative blocks series is now closed to new submissions. At the foot of this post you’ll find links to the articles published so far – and if you sign up for free updates you’ll get all the new ones delivered to you the instant I publish them.

Right, let’s see what we can do to make 2010 a great year for you!

We’re kicking off the New Year with a new blog series – Break Through Your Creative Blocks. Starting tomorrow, we’re going to tackle some of the biggest obstacles encountered by people who set out to create amazing things. (That would be you.)

We’ve already drafted a list of different types of block, based on our own creative struggles and the years we’ve spent helping other people. But to make sure we address the challenges that matter most to you, we’d like you to tell us what those are.

This is your chance to have your creative bugbears banished by the Lateral Action team.

What’s Getting in the Way of Your Creative Ambitions?

Tell us about your creative block, and we’ll devote a blog post to offering suggestions for getting around it – or over it, under it, or blasting straight through it – to your next creative breakthrough.

Here’s how it will work:

  1. Tell us where and how you get stuck in your creative process, by leaving a comment on this post or e-mailing Mark with LATERAL ACTION CREATIVE BLOCKS as your subject header.
  2. Important: unless you tell us you want to remain anonymous, we will assume you are happy for us to publish your name and link to your website if we quote you on this blog. We’re happy to quote you anonymously, but it’s up to you to make it very clear that that’s what you’d like us to do.
  3. We won’t be able to respond to every comment and e-mail individually. But we will do our best to address every type of creative block you tell us about. For certain types of blocks, will probably get several people telling us essentially the same thing. In these cases, we may quote more than one of you, but probably not everyone, to avoid repetition for readers.
  4. For each type of block, we’ll offer the best advice we can, giving you specific, actionable things you can do to get past your block and back in the creative zone.

By ‘creative block’ we simply mean any pattern of thinking, feeling or behaviour that interferes with your creative thinking and execution. It could be a great big block that has got in your way for years – or just a niggly little hiccup that holds you up at a certain stage of the process.

NB We’re not talking about environmental obstacles, but things that you think, feel or do yourself – although a block could involve your response to your environment. So, for example, “Being interrupted” doesn’t count as a block, but “Allowing myself to be interrupted when I know I should really be focusing on my own work” does.

A Creative Approach to Unblocking Your Creativity

We can’t offer you a cast-iron guarantee that our suggestions will work – hey, this is creativity! If success were guaranteed it wouldn’t be creative, right? 😉 But we’ve spent many years helping creative people of all kinds to turbo-charge their performance, and in that time we’ve seen plenty of recurring problems – and solutions. So we’re keen to give you the benefit of that experience.

Plus for many of the creative blocks we hear about, we’ve “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” ourselves. And we’re still here churning out stuff on a regular basis, so we must be doing something right. 🙂

We hope that the solutions we offer to individual blocks will be helpful to those of you who have been struggling with them. But we want to aim a little higher than just solving problems in isolation.

You see, creative work can be frustrating, and if you work alone, feeling blocked can be a very lonely experience. One of the things we’ve noticed when working with individuals is that very often, it’s helpful just to know that you’re not the only person who has ever faced this problem. Sometimes, that’s all it takes is someone to relax and smile, and start to see the beginnings of a way forward.

So one of our goals of this series is to take the lid off the creative process, examine the challenges together, and for everyone involved to realise that being blocked or stuck doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you personally – this kind of thing is just an occupational hazard for those of us who live to create remarkable things.

And we sincerely hope you won’t leave all the hard work to us. 😉 The best approach to creative problem-solving is collaborative teamwork – so we’re banking on you to pitch in with your own suggestions and solutions, in the comments for each post.

Let’s Go to Work…

Right, time for us all to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Get those comments and e-mails rolling in, telling us about the creative blocks you most want to overcome. And make sure you’re subscribed, so that you get the first creative block (and solution) tomorrow…

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a creative coach with over 15 years’ experience of helping people get past their creative blocks and into the creative zone. For a FREE 26-week creative career guide, sign up for Mark’s course The Creative Pathfinder.

Table of Contents for Break Through Your Creative Blocks

  1. Tell Us Your Creative Blocks – and We’ll Help You Smash Through Them! « You Are Here

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

Productivity for Creative People

Mark McGuinness' latest book Productivity for Creative People is a is a collection of insights, tips, and techniques to help you carve out time for your most important work – amid the demands and distractions of 21st century life.

“Of all the writers I know, I have learned the most about how to be a productive creative person from Mark. His tips are always realistic, accessible, and sticky. It’s not just talk, this is productivity advice that will change your life.”

Jocelyn Glei, author and Founding Editor, 99U

More about Productivity for Creative People. >>

Responses to this Post


  1. Hey Mark,

    Well here is what I am struggling with as of late. My block is not so much about creating content, but rather find more creative ways to contact people and getting them to respond.

    For instance, one of the things I am working towards in 2010 is a regular podcast where I will interview people and get their quit stories (these include jobs, but also the quitting of bad habits, attitudes and relationships.)

    I feel though that my approach is a little lame and lacking the creativity needed to get a response from people.

    Any and all suggestions are welcome.

    Thanks my friend,


  2. Self-doubt. I have an idea, then I start analyzing and criticizing it… Can I really do this?
    Do I really want to do this?
    Will people really want this?
    Isn’t there is too much competition?
    Why waste my time on something that’s going to fail?
    … then in my despair I move onto something else without taking action.

  3. That’s easy. I have two kids. I can’t seem to get much work done anymore. I need GTD for kids creative help. Time is my block right now. I need help stealing some back for creative work. I have not done a video tutorial in about a year.


  4. Hi Mark, thank you for a great post and amazing offer to help.
    I have some blocks that may sound familiar.
    1) Organization – have a lot on my plate and not completing any tasks.
    2) Content – I’m listening at this stage but struggle with what to tweet/blog about and how to tie it into my business of personal fitness trainer
    3) Completing website – I was laid off my job a couple of months ago and started to take steps to being an entrepreneur. Stuck on creating amazing website about personal fitness through boxing workouts
    4) Sales – looking for creative ways to establish sales funnel/pipeline.

    I appreciate your time and effort and look forward to any suggestions.

  5. I have no problem generating ideas and making them real. An abundance, really, which leads to my ‘block.’
    As a solopreneur, I need more rigorous feedback on my ideas. While I am in two professional mastermind groups and have several other professionals who serve as advisors to me, I always feel the need for someone who can challenge my ideas and incite me to be more thorough in my thinking and research.
    It’s not so much a block as an Achilles Heel.
    Thanks for asking the question!

  6. Great idea here.

    I have problems with time management, and staying on task.

    Plus I don’t have any accountability partners for my actions.

    Guess I also in a way have the fair of failing or not succeeding.

    And last but not least is to combine most of these points here together so I can finish my Social Media Strategy for 2010 by 01252010, which is one of my goals.

    Looking forward to some creative follow ups here..

    I’ll tweet this article..

    Cheers.. Are

  7. Taking action. I have ideas, but seem to spend more time studying all of the new materials I have about how to implement those ideas, trying to be sure I have it just right. I need to get content written for two sites I have set up, and seem to be stuck in studying how to get started. Once started, then being sure I continue to create something that is consistent and valuable.

  8. Hi Mark,

    I journal every day and capture all sorts of ideas and feelings around my work – I have a list of four or five things I would like to do, each quite a major project, some for which I don’t yet have the skills to follow through.

    Here’s where I get stuck: when I sign-up to a course, so there is a reason to complete, my pattern of “being a good boy” kicks in and I focus fabulously, getting great marks. But when I am working alone, I get caught between projects, all equally fascinating – and I procrastinate my time away. I’m afraid of making a mistake and choosing the wrong project. And my unconscious keeps finding more and more fascinating things to learn and try out.

    So, summary – I don’t start a concrete project when there isn’t quality feedback at the end. I make it all very serious and lose the playfulness of the whole process.

    Hope that’s useful – just writing this post is useful to me 🙂


  9. I often find im so tired at the times i set aside for creative thinking that i susbtitute it to rest! I suppose i shouldn’t ‘set aside’ times and let it just happen naturally?

  10. Hey guys,

    I get a particular block when my content doesn’t seem to be stellar, “flagship” worthy, or insanely interesting.

    Also, and maybe related to the above block, I have trouble knowing what is considered standard knowledge and what may be new to my audience.


  11. Thanks everyone, plenty to work with here! And some great e-mails coming in too.

    Watch this space…

  12. Hi Mark,

    While my 9-5 job is quite creative (arts manager) I struggle to find time to write outside of work hours, writing being what I consider my first and favourite creative pursuit.

    When I get home there is always something else to do – housework, seeing friends, spending time with my partner, catching up the news etc. Or else I’m “too tired”.

    Suggestions and strategies would be great! Aside from “STOP PROCRASTINATING” :))


  13. Thank you for doing this!

    I’m currently trying to make a proposal document for my performing/production work to send to funding bodies & people I find interesting for sponsorship. However, no matter what I come up with, it just seems lame and ineffective. I know I don’t want to go down the traditional business-plan route, because that’s not me at all, but at the same time I feel like I don’t have enough design or sales skills to pull it off.

    Actually the sales skill thing would be a great block query – I’m so wary of cold-calling. Petrified, even. I’m much better with emails and have gotten a couple of gigs that way, but cold-calling gives me the shits. Yet I feel that if I don’t cold-call I’m missing out on things. How can I effectively cold-call, and how can I ask for things/help/guidance without sounding like an asshole?

    (there’s also the typical “i have no money, and the stuff that will help me make money costs money” concern, which dovetails into “i’m too scared to ask for help in case it goes wrong”, but that’s probably really common)

  14. Outside of a government pay scale (gs 12, 13), I have no idea what my skills are worth. None whatsoever. And no idea how to find out.

    I have found out I can’t give my time away. Nobody wants it if it’s free.

    I also have a problem figuring out exactly what it is I do. Too many years of training in academics. Superb at research.

    This is probably a clue to fill out Dave Navarro’s worksheets on just these topics.

    #13 You need to cold call. Just grab the Yellow Pages, open a page at random, and call some business up. Telling them you are running a survey. Seriously, you need to do this.

  15. Hey Mark

    I’ve currently started a marketplace is the problem I’m running into is creating a place where both buyers AND sellers want to go. I’ve run into a problem that seems like the chicken and the egg question, what comes first?

    I know that I need to get creative if my website is going to grow, I need something that can go viral! I’ve sent hundreds of personal emails and I’ve messaged sellers on twitter but I’ve had no success.

  16. First, I love this site.

    Second, my current issue is a creative block concerning the overall branding and direction of my blog. I started out blogging because I just wanted to write whatever quirky thoughts came into my head during the 9-5. It just happened that most of those thoughts were entertaining in a humorous way – so now I’m somewhat pinned into an observational humor category. Usually, my method of figuring things out is to just keep writing until I have the a-ha moment when the answer is clear and I’m absolutely positive it can be no other way. Do you have a recommendation for this dilemma?

  17. Concerned says:

    This isn’t my personal creativity block (thanks heavens), but I have a big problem trying to prove people that their creativity issue is more likely an issue of not having creativity or a very wrong way to solve what really blocks it.

    I run a website for a musician and a lot of musicians gather on my forum. A lot of them encourages drug use and explains how that makes them inspired and creative. Can you prove that this approach is stupid and that they should dig deeper for the true source of the problem instead?

  18. Hi
    My problem is all about execution, get to excited at first, involves in to many projects and then i get overloaded with things to do. This makes me procrastinate, do other less important things and many things doesn’t get completed. This in turn makes me more overloaded, feel bad about myself and the threshold to to do what needs to be done get’s huger and huger like an evil circle.
    Family responsibilities and many “must do’s” add to the problem.

  19. Hi Mark!

    I’ve been blogging over at The Mogul Mom for 3 years, covering every topic imaginable for mom entrepreneurs.

    Lately, I feel like I’m “all blogged out”. I feel like there’s nothing left for me to write about. I find myself referring to old blog posts when my readers ask me questions I’ve already answered. I feel like Forrest Gump when he says, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

    Is being “all blogged out” a creative block?

    Thanks so much!

  20. can wrong job serve as a creative block?

  21. @ Heather – It certainly sounds like it… Maybe a break would do you good!

    @ Sara – Oh yes… (he said with feeling).

  22. Okay…I got several ideas to try out…but most of the times I feel, “hey, there are lot of people like me in the world, and lot of super intelligent guyz – wouldn’t they have thought of the same thing and implemented it? Will I fail if I implement my own idea?

    I’ve been trying to overcome, but it’s really a toughie.

  23. Hi, well here’s my block right now. I start writing, then look at what I write and think, that doesn’t look good enough, it looks lame, I can come up with something better to say then that, or something better to describe that, so i’m erasing and rewriting then saying the same thing again, and erasing and rewriting again.

    I keep doing this several times before I can either move on, or I eventually give up. I also find myself saying things like this half way though my stories about the story itself and then stop working on it mid way and I don’t know how to get through this. Please help?


  24. That inner critic is a punk at the beginning of a project. I am an aspiring copywriter, and this guy is always in my head telling me how terrible my writing is.

    I’ve read ‘Hey Whipple Squeeze This’ and the best was I have found to drown inner-critic out is to have as many ideas about one project as possible. In the first stages, just create as many good headlines, tones to be use, or even ideas for the project and place them in my notebook. The notebook is also key, because the computer is constantly correcting me as I work, giving more chances for the inner critic to tell me how bad I am. After hammering out all the ideas, I let the critic go to work, and he finds me the best ideas out of the many.

    The notebook is crucial for another reason. I can draw my ideas, I can write however I want, and faster than on any computer. The ideas flow better, and anything that can allow you to think smoother is great in my books. You will also find your heart and soul pouring into your work like never before. At that point, your critic is driven to tears; he doesn’t know what to say, and that is just fine by me.

  25. I don’t know if this has already been mentioned but any idea what one can do about having multiple, diverse ambitions and the insatiable desire to do them all at once? I feel like I can do many things: draw comics, write novels, perhaps even build an indie game–but whenever I start one I get inspired to try something else because of something I see. I can write, draw and do all kinds of digital work fairly well so I struggle with picking a single medium and sticking with a project until completion.