Creatively Blocked? You May Be Trying to Use Your Creativity for the Wrong Reasons

Whenever I talk to a new client who’s come to me because they’re suffering the pain of blocked creativity, I start by drilling down into the values that motivate their creative life. In other words, the reason they want to be creative or have more creativity in their lives. Through this exercise with my clients, I’ve found that most of the time this remains a general, vague sort of idea to people who feel called to be writers or artists. We know we want to connect with our creativity on a deeper level, but when we examine why that is, we have a hard time coming up with answers.

“I’ve always wanted to write a book.” “I really want to finish my book.” “I’ve always felt that being an artist would fulfill me.” These are a few of the most common statements I hear from people, usually followed by a description of how empty and depressed they’ve felt for the past few years, or most of their lives, because these things haven’t come to be. But still the reasons WHY they want these things remain elusive, until we begin to peel back the layers of what’s going on.

When I start asking the deeper questions, like, “what does that ‘fulfillment’ actually look like?” Or, “What would happen in your life if you finished your book?” That’s when we start getting to the real stuff. And again, at this point, I begin to hear the same things over and over. “Then I would feel like a success.” “Then my dad would finally see that I’ve accomplished something of merit.” “Then I would feel confident that writing is the career that will support me.”

Almost every one of these statements comes down to the same thing: approval from others, and control and security.

Much of the time, writers and artists who are suffering from blocked creativity are coming to their creativity with the expectation that it will soothe and satisfy all of their dysfunctional emotional patterns. That they will write the book that will finally solve their issue with low self-esteem. That they will start the creative business that will gain them the love and approval of the parent who has never loved or approved of them in the way they need. That whatever creative endeavor they undertake and are a “success” at will take care of all the emotional problems that seem to be causing so much pain in their lives.

Well, creativity definitely has the power to do this, but it has to be approached in the right way. When we come to creativity with a focus on it doing something for us in the external world, we are almost always going to be disappointed. The purpose of creativity is not to impress others and help you gain approval and love. That might happen from time to time, sure. You might win the big prize or the adulation of family and friends, but those things last for only a little while. And then you’re back to square one, trying to be more creative in a bid to satisfy your emotional needs through the reactions of others.

The true purpose of creativity is to move energy in our inner world. Creativity is a sacred tool to be used in the gathering of information about ourselves. When we approach creativity with no agenda and no expectations about how it should work, with an open mind that is genuinely curious about anything that shows up, seeing all of it as valuable information, messages from the soul to be deciphered by the mind, that’s when the game is changed. That’s when our creativity begins to grow, and flourish. That’s when we enter a deeply meaningful symbiotic relationship with our own creative energy.

So how do we begin a practice of using creativity for self-exploration? We just start. Without a plan, without a map of where to go from here, and maybe most importantly, without any expectation of what it should look like in the end. We begin, today, right now. We write one sentence, and then another. We start painting one picture. We start a blog and write the first blog post. We don’t need to know if the sentences will be a great opening hook for the novel we want to write. We don’t need to know if the picture is any good. We don’t need to have the next 10 blog posts planned out after this one, along with an outline of our brand and our message and a plan to blog every week for the next year. We don’t need any of that, because they all are just details that the mind gets caught up on in an attempt to make itself feel more secure, and like everything is under control.

When you begin to use your creativity in the way it was meant to be used by your soul, nothing is under control.

That’s the real secret: surrendering. And in the past few weeks, all of us are learning how to do that better than ever. We are being hit—all of us—with the realization again and again that we actually don’t control anything. Not Mother Nature, not the fate of the world, not the role of humanity in the universe. Nothing. We were not put here to control and build safe little worlds for ourselves so that we never have to deal with fear ever again.

On the contrary, we are here to meet the challenge.

And creativity is your magic sword.

So, today, I invite you, begin. Just begin. Anything. Write five words. Put down one glob of paint on the canvas. Whatever it is that’s calling to your heart, just begin.

And then tomorrow, begin again.

That’s the gift of creativity. There is always a new beginning, and it never really comes to an end. It is the limitless power to constantly renew yourself, the magic way to bring yourself back to life.

But you have to make the choice, you have to begin.

Lauren Sapala is the author of  The INFJ Revolution, a guide to identifying and dissolving the roadblocks that hold back INFJs, INFPs, HSPs, and empaths from finding and living their life purpose, and  The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers.

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