Obstacles to Creativity

Obstacles to creativity might include not having the tools or the skills.

In my case there may be an idea that I have but I don’t have the skills that will enable me bring the idea into reality. For some ideas, I may be willing to learn the needed skills and for other ideas, the necessary skill is not something I want to pursue.

The new idea may require tools or a facility that I don’t have.

Moving beyond the above obstacles then there are personal obstacles.

The first obstacle is the inability to START. We can all find examples in our life where we either hesitated or refused to take the first step.  This is a big one for me.  Sometimes I have a hard time making that first step to “just start”.    Once I do start, then I am productive.

There is fear: “what if I can’t do this”? This falls under fear of failure. “Will this just be another failure”? “Do I need another failure in my life”?

Fear of criticism. I don’t know anybody that likes to be criticized.

“I told someone about this ideas and they said it will never work”.

For me the following is an important part of the creativity process.

A new idea is like an infant. An infant needs to be protected. It should not be exposed to a hostile environment.

Exposing your new ideas to those who are quick to criticize or tell you why it won’t work is to be avoided. Your new idea, just as an infant, needs an empowering environment.

I only share new ideas with people whose opinion I respect and I know will be supportive.

For whatever reason, there are people who thrive on telling others that the idea just won’t fly. If the world had listened to these people we would still be living in caves.

I tend to work on a new idea until I can see that it is beginning to look like what I had envisioned and then share it with a few people who I know will be honest and encouraging.

To be fair, there is constructive criticism and there are a few people whose opinion I trust.

But there are others who want to offer “constructive criticism” whose main objective is to have their voice heard. More often than not these are people who don’t do any creative work themselves but just stand back and make comments about other people’s work.

If you get the idea that I don’t think very highly of these people, you’re right.

One more obstacle: For 40 years I’ve made my living through metal sculpture so I am very conscious of material costs and labor hours.

Often when I begin a new design the time it takes me to build a piece for sale is far longer than the money I can sell it for.

To illustrate this point I’ll use this small bicycle.

The time it took to make the first one made it far too expensive to put on the market. I made a fixture that holds the rods in place while I brazed them together. The handlebars were time consuming until I built a fixture that speeded up the forming.

By focusing in on the problem, I was able to streamline the assembly and this bicycle became one of the most profitable products I’ve ever come up with.

I am able to use this bicycle as a stand alone piece, or incorporated in a number of other pieces.

What I have learned is not to be too concerned about the profit but rather concentrate on the design and serendipity will step in and new ideas will begin to flow.

Early on, I would try a new piece and if it looked like it was going to take too much time to produce, I would abandon the project.  It took a while, but I learned not to give up.  By sticking to it, I’ve come up with products that has been a significant part of my income.

In the case of this bicycle, it’s a bicycle. There is nothing creative in the design. What is creative is how I have figured out ways to produce this bicycle that can sell for a marketable price.

It wasn’t much of stretch to add these pieces.


Think about this: Until I START, there is absolutely no reason for new ideas to unfold. If a Muse was standing beside me, there is no reason for them to give me further ideas until I START. It is only after I START that new ideas are even applicable.

To Start doesn’t always work. I have just spent over 30 hours trying to work out an idea using pewter. For the 30 hours I have invested I have nothing to show for it. Okay, maybe I know some ways that don’t work, but that’s about it.

Yet, there is something in the back of my mind that wants to give it another try.

Hoarding Ideas: Back in the 1970’s I was designing metal sculpture for a company. Knowing that I was going to be quitting in a few months, I started hoarding ideas. If I came up with a new idea which I thought I could use for my own personal use, I would keep it to myself.

All of a sudden I couldn’t think of anything new. I went completely blank for new ideas. For someone that didn’t have any problem coming up with new ideas it became embarrassing. After all, these people were paying me for new ideas.

I had no choice but to start using the designs I had been hoarding. As soon as I released my tight grasp on these hoarded ideas, new ideas once again started flowing.

From this I learned that the ideas that flow through my mind are not my ideas in the sense that I own them. They are universal and are free to anyone that wants to work with them. Since that time, I have been very free in giving ideas away. If I give an idea away two more ideas will flow into my mind. This never fails!

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