This can be the obvious, audible noise. For instance, I love music with well-written lyrics and often find songs inspiring, but it must be turned off when I'm writing. A constantly ringing phone can also be a problem. But the noise does not have to be audible to drown out your focus and creativity. Can you really produce quality creative work when you're checking Twitter, Facebook, or your e-mail every few minutes? Mental noise can be just as distracting as audible noise, sometimes even more so.
Solution: While you can't control some noise (like construction outside), most distractions can be mastered fairly easily. Turn off the television, music, and phone. Close down your e-mail and social networking sites, and focus on what matters.
2. Exhaustion or Lack of Sleep
I actually thought of the topic for this post after a restless night when I was taking much longer than usual to complete a blog post. Inability to sleep or neglecting it in favor of other activities, like watching television or working late, eventually take its toll. It's not easy to put together a blog post, short story, or chapter in a novel when all you can think about is crawling back into bed or your mind is so exhausted it can't focus on one task for long.
Solution: If it's TV keeping you up, turn it off. If you're working late, try to budget your time so you can get to bed at a reasonable hour. That's not always easy when you lose track of time, which happens to me when I'm working or reading a book. If you need to, set an alarm on your cell phone or computer to let you know when you need to start winding down, especially if you're like me and have trouble falling asleep.
Stress can come from many places: lack of harmony in the home or office, financial problems, taking on a lot work and being under the pressure of too many deadlines, health issues or illness in your family, etc. While some people claim that they thrive under pressure, it can eventually burn you out, affecting your creative process and the quality of your writing. After all, a creative mind is a relaxed mind.
Solution: Some stressors, like illness in the family, you can't control. Minimize the ones you can so that you don't become overwhelmed. Once again, budgeting time and money can be good preparation. Setting aside time for relaxation and/or meditation can help you face problems with a clear mind and will also recharge your creative battery.
Self-sabotage can stem from any number of things: fear of failure and/or rejection, listening to your inner critic, procrastination, lack of confidence in your writing skills, etc. Whatever it is, it comes from your mind, affects your ability to write, and plunges you further into a creative slump.
Solution: Just as we all have our variations of self-sabotage, we also have different ways of defeating it. It is ultimately about building confidence in yourself and in your work. When you're not writing, read uplifting quotes, listen to uplifting audiobooks and music, or do whatever inspires you. However, the best way to build confidence in your writing skills is to improve by actually doing the creative work.
5. Negative People
While self-sabotage is negativity from within, some people in your life can deliver it as well. People who are unmotivated or have failed in some way and refuse to pick themselves back up drag others down with them. Since they couldn't do it, they are certain that you can't either and won't hesitate to say so. And negative thinking is far more contagious than positive thinking.
Solution: If possible, cut the negative people out entirely. It sounds cruel, but it will help not only your creativity but your outlook on other aspects of your life. If it's someone you can't cut off (a spouse, child, relative, co-worker, etc.), let that person know that you are no longer going to listen to negative comments, so he/she might as well save his/her breath.
Are there other creativity crushers? Could some of these be broken down further? Of course. But I've found that most fall into these categories. Besides, this isn't meant to be a comprehensive list, just a way to help pinpoint some of the problems and come up with solutions. I have struggled with all of these and continue to battle a few of them, so you're not alone.
So what creativity crushers do you struggle with? And what do you do to resolve them?