Not long ago, I came across a list of obstacles to creativity from a business site, which inspired me to think about some of the things that seem to disrupt creative flow in writers. Here are a few that I came up with — see what you think:
Editing while writing: Writing and editing are two different kinds of activities and they require very different mindsets. When you try to do both at the same time, you can really sabotage your momentum and frustrate your muse. Creating is about coming up with ideas, playing around with them, staying open to possibilities, and making unexpected connections. Editing is about analyzing those ideas, pulling them apart, and making judgments about what works and doesn’t work. In order to develop more ideas, it helps if you separating your writing from your revising/editing.
Over-researching: I’ve done this myself and so have lots of writers, including the Pulitzer Prize winner, Stacy Schiff. The problem with gathering too much information is that it soon graduates from a hill to a mountain. When that happens, you can feel so overwhelmed that you feel incapable of digesting it and capturing it on paper. Knowing when to stop collecting information and start taking action is key. One approach is to gather just enough information to get your juices flowing and then dive into your writing. As you write, you’ll find information gaps — and you can either fill them in right away or flag them and go back later.
Gathering too much feedback: A writer I know is having a hard time finishing her novel. She told me that one reason is the amount of feedback she’s gotten; after the fact, she realized that she sent it out to too many people and received conflicting views, which have created confusion instead of clarity during her revision process. Now she’s not sure who’s opinions make most sense and how she should move forward.
What barriers to creativity do you find it most challenging to leap over? Any advice on pushing past them?