As an artist or creative thinker, you may often feel that your ability to be creative is a gift from the gods. However, being creative doesn’t only have its advantages, but also some disadvantages that come along with it. In this post, we’ll take a look at the downsides of creativity and show you how to deal with them.
There’s Always a Price to Pay for Creativity
In this life, nothing comes for free. You either pay for something with your time, energy, or money. Being creative is no different. Often you want to indulge in as many creative activities as possible.
But like all good things, creativity comes at a price.
Being creative takes us into the realm of imagination and exploration, and that means our minds aren’t always in balance. And that’s on purpose.
During the creative process, our minds can become unstable or negative, which can be very difficult. Creative thinking is associated with mood swings and depression.
Related: Why Creative Process Matters
Sometimes these mental problems are a result of neglecting other, healthy activities because we’re so focused on creative pursuits and the creative idea in front of us. Or they can be an undesirable result of the isolation that intense creative work often requires.
This doesn’t mean we should stop listening or speaking our primary “creative language.” It’s okay to let ideas run through our heads or to engage more with creative impulses and feelings. To see the light, we need the dark.
Or, as J.R.R. Tolkein put it when speaking of his creative writing process with Lord of the Rings, to draw inspiration from the “leaf-mould of the mind.”
Only we have to take care of our mental and physical health.
Taming the Clash of Ideas and Thoughts
A necessary ingredient of creativity is to have a wide range of ideas.
Some of them are new, others are crazy. The creative process is called divergent thinking, where we find many possible solutions to a given problem or creative task. This includes artistic creativity, where we must resolve, for example, the line on a canvas or the resonance of a chapter in a work of fiction.
This in turn means that many ideas pop into our heads at any given time, which can be a problem. Social media and modern technology serve to accentuate the phenomenon, because of the welter of ideas you find there.
If we don’t learn to process these ideas, they can easily overwhelm us and cause us stress, anxiety, and depression.
Not to mention that they get in the way of our work.
This doesn’t mean that we should stop coming up with ideas, but that we should learn to deal with them.
The most important solution is to have a reliable and trustworthy new idea capture system that allows you to dump all the things floating around in your brain and retrieve them at a meaningful time.
Also, remember Stephen King’s sage advice that the ideas worth using are the ones that refuse to go away!
Creativity also involves combining many ideas into one bigger idea. You can do this by writing down your ideas and looking at them objectively – by stepping back and taking some distance. Sometimes just changing the way you look at a problem is enough to generate new, original ideas.
Creative Project Overload
A side effect of the collision of ideas described above is that as creative thinkers and doers, we begin to accumulate many projects.
This can become a similar disadvantage to the idea and thought overload issue, above – too many projects mean we don’t have time to work on any of them.
In turn, if we can’t successfully complete projects, it can lead to inactivity and even depression.
I can think of few things as discouraging as a list of unfinished projects staring accusingly at you, saying, “What the hell were you thinking? Why didn’t you finish that project?’
The good news is that we can use a similar technique to capture and manage multiple ideas to deal with this. The main difference is that we pay more attention to building in a priority system to identify and focus on the really important projects. And so you don’t feel bad about dropping the less important projects.
Some sayings I’ve come across that are useful:
“We can do anything, but we can’t do everything“
“Learn to sacrifice your darlings“
as well as
“Priorities are like arms – you should have two of them”.
Divided Focus as a Creativity Trap
One thing to be aware of as a creative person is that the very characteristics and practices of creativity – for example, drifting into daydreaming as part of a creative ideation process – can make it difficult to focus on authentic work.
You might also choose to read a chapter from a book or watch a movie scene on YouTube. As little inspirations for your own work.
These times of creative reverie can distract you from more important and immediate tasks (such as working with clients, meeting deadlines, and managing time for other activities and life demands).
Personally, I deal with this challenge by using apps like Session when I write to help me focus on writing. I don’t use them by default, but only when I really need them.
Also, a (seemingly) more appealing project may come up and you start thinking about that project instead of the one you were supposed to finish.
In this context, my mind goes to
Henry Miller’s personal “commandments” of writing
1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to Black Spring.
3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5. When you can’t create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilisers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it – but go back to it next day. Concentrate.
Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.HENRY MILLER
especially numbers 1, 2, 3, and 10!
I think his sayings apply to other forms of creative work as well.
Disadvantages and Limitations of Creativity in Business
The business and the corporate world sometimes give the impression that creativity is something to be harnessed rather than given free rein.
That’s why you’ll find all sorts of analyzes in the Harvard Business Review and elsewhere that try to model creativity skills and package them into “innovation.”
This makes sense if you consider that creativity always involves risk, whereas business is often about managing risk and executing a plan worked out in advance.
Creativity and creative people are difficult to control from a management perspective. When strategies and plans that have taken months or even years are at stake, not to mention large sums of money, it becomes clear why creativity in business can have its downsides.
There are also concerns that creative people can be unproductive in a business environment.
Yet creativity often offers the best opportunity to outperform the competition using innovative ideas and creative solutions. Therefore, companies need to recognize this and accept the risk if it gives their business a greater chance of competitive advantage and success.
Anything that smacks of “artistic creativity” tends to be viewed with suspicion in companies.
From an employee’s perspective, this means that if you’re a creative person, you may end up losing out to less creative and more business-oriented employees. You may even have to employ strategies and change your profile and public appearance accordingly. As awful as that sounds.
Related: What Does It Mean to Be Creative
Creativity as a Marker for Undesirable Character Traits
Research seems to show that those who see themselves as creative people are often more narcissistic and that this trait also comes into play in actual creative performance.
In a British study published in Thinking Skills and Creativity, subjects who described themselves as creative were more likely to agree with statements such as “People always recognize my authority” and “I like to be the center of attention.”
It seems that creativity is also associated with a sense of entitlement and dishonesty – which I imagine is because creativity requires lateral thinking and breaking the rules.
Acting dishonestly can give the sense that the person isn’t only being creative, but also freeing themselves from the usual constraints.
This freedom is usually accompanied by rebellion, which is often one of the key factors in a creative mind – but which can also have a negative impact on society.
Disadvantages of Being a Creative Artist
Frankly, one of the biggest drawbacks of an artistic vocation or working in a creative industry is probably financial insecurity. The fact is that while most jobs in the arts pay well, they’re temporary.
Also, artists have to spend a lot of time working, which limits the time they’ve for other activities, such as a regular job.
Depending on where you live, it can be very difficult to find and share your creative skills with others, as many people aren’t as interested in actively pursuing the arts.
So you may find yourself in a certain isolation and loneliness. This isn’t always a bad thing: Isolation is often an aspect of creativity. It takes a lot of courage, discipline, and focus to stay creative and committed to creative work.
The description of a “struggling artist” doesn’t just refer to financial hardships. Every artist knows an inner struggle as he or she wrestles with concepts that are often intangible and just within reach before they finally bear fruit. This can take the form of depression, anxiety, and even fear.
How Can You Minimize Common Creativity Disadvantages?
By being aware of the above drawbacks and taking care of yourself (sleep, nutrition, community, and more), you can do a lot to reduce the drawbacks of creative work.
Always remember that being creative and working creatively is worth it, especially for yourself.
Not only does it offer the prospect of successes worth having, but it connects you on a deep level with your true potential.
That is the real advantage of being a creative human being!