Blocks to Creativity

Writer’s block can also be called creative blocking. It is a phenomenon involving the temporary “loss” of the ability to continue to generate content, usually for lack of inspiration or creativity.

Creative thinking can be trained to increase a person’s creative responsiveness, but can also be easily blocked based on our actions.

Ideation Session @ Aalto Design Factory, 2019 — Joana Moreira

All children are born with enormous creative potential, according to António Valentim, a psychologist who claims that all the senses of a child are in a state of alertness to catch sounds, rhythms, shapes, colours, smells, among others. The creative capacity of a child comes from the experiences that it has with the objects, with the people and with the real events.

However, as we grow, involved with the paradigms and moral rules imposed by society, our capacities become limited, hijacking our creative confidence. Although we hold great innate imagination, intuition, and intelligence, we are trained in some ways not to use them [Junkins, 2016].

The blockages to creativity arise, because, as we grow, we work less and less our creativity, we cease to be “free spirits” to live under rules, paradigms and stereotypes. The human brain tends to simplify complex elements, thus falling into the comfort zone, instead of going in search of new possibilities. Creative blocks not only hamper the production of new ideas, but also contribute to a problematic circumstance that is not properly evaluated and, strategies to solve it are not found [Tschimmel, 2010].

Different types of blocks are identified, such as perceptual, cultural/intellectual, emotional and individual/organizational:

# Perceptual Blockages

Perception is the act of understanding, of the distinction of objects, of places, of everything around us. However, this understanding is not merely a reception of information, but rather a perception maneuvered through our sensory organs, which allows us to orient ourselves in the world [Tschimmel, 2010]. Indeed, our brain is developing mechanisms based on our experiences, and tends to choose what it knows, which is familiar to it, reflecting itself in perception and hunting, but annihilating our breadth and inhibiting original methods of resolution.

# Cultural / Intellectual Blockages

Most human beings are deprived of creativity even in school, because at this stage all children like to learn and to be exploitative. Cultural barriers arise essentially due to social and institutional rules. Goleman, Kaufman and Ray, in Creative Spirit, talk about Amabile’s “creative killers” They are: constant vigilance and observation of a child during an action, causing it to retract and diminish creative impulses; the evaluation, which makes children concerned about the judgment of others, wanting to impress rather than motivate and satisfy them; the reward, which can be a good stimulator for creativity, but in excess it becomes a suppression of pleasure; competition, where time and rhythm are always different, as we desire to win, the pressure will consequently lead to despair; the excessive control resulting from the teaching of household and school tasks in a detailed and meticulous manner that causes the child to feel the loss of time when he tries to explore an original path; the restriction of choices, to the extent that children must choose the path that causes them curiosity and passion, rather than the parents directing the children to what they want; and finally pressure, forcing children to learn and putting expectations often in areas they are not aware of will only generate the opposite effect to the intended, creating feelings of aversion.

Essentially, in cultural blocks, also known as intellectuals, we tend to make an early analysis of our ideas, blocking their flow in the beginning instead of giving them a free path due to the critical eye and the desire for a quick response. By choosing the easiest way, we quickly put the ideas of others “on the table” instead of ours.

According to Goleman, Kaufman & Ray [1992], time is unfortunately one of the worst killers of creativity. The current society lives to the rhythm of the haste and the stress, where everything is for yesterday and the children from the early educated to the sound of the “hurry up”, “we are in a hurry”. As “intrinsic motivation is the key to the child’s creativity, the main element of his cultivation is time,” so unlimited time allows the child to enter into a natural flow of creativity and pleasure.

# Individual and Organisational Blockages

Individually we create stereotypes for certain situations. Proctor [2005] points out that the biggest blockages are individual and organisational mentalities. When the human being creates a functional strategy, he tends to use it in a close and identical scenario, satisfying himself as basic and not looking for alternative and original answers. Resistance to change creates dysfunctionality in illogical reasoning.

# Emotional Blockages

Emotions are a set of reactions, with different durations and intensities, that help to understand what surrounds us. They help us to perceive good and evil, what is important and what is not worthwhile, and they refer us to good or bad experiences. Therefore, our perception changes according to our state of mind. Anger, anxiety, insecurity, low self-esteem and even love are emotional blocks that affect our perception and interpretation. Unstable emotional states, usually caused by pressures, worries, financial problems, among others, cause imbalances that prevent us from thinking clearly.

Identifying blocks in creativity helps to understand creative thinking.

However, knowledge can also constitute a blockage to creativity, because its excess leads us to analyze the facts instead of questioning them. A person who works creatively is incessantly curious, questions everything he discovers, and explores new avenues and solutions. Nevertheless, it is necessary to encourage and motivate the creative being, in one hand, and identify the blockages in order to reach more creative solutions on the other.


If you are interested in this topic I recommend you:

Moreira, J. (2016). O objecto como impulsionador do Pensamento criativo. Porto: ESAD, Matosinhos. Tese de Mestrado

Tschimmel, K. (2010). Sapiens e Demens no Pensamento Criativo do Design. Aveiro: Universidade de Aveiro, Departamento de Comunicação e Arte. Tese de Doutoramento

Proctor, T. (2005). Creative problem solving for managers: developing skills for decision making and innovation, 2a Ed. New York: Routledge.


Want to talk? I’m Joana and I’m always interested in meeting new people and hearing a new story.

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