The Disadvantages of Creativity (and What To Do About Them)
As an artist or creative thinker, you may often feel that your ability to be creative is a gift from the gods. However, being creative doesn’t only have its advantages, but also some disadvantages that come along with it. In this post, we’ll take a look at the downsides of creativity and show you how to deal with them.
There’s Always a Price to Pay for Creativity
In this life, nothing comes for free. You either pay for something with your time, energy, or money. Being creative is no different. Often you want to indulge in as many creative activities as possible.
But like all good things, creativity comes at a price.
Being creative takes us into the realm of imagination and exploration, and that means our minds aren’t always in balance. And that’s on purpose.
During the creative process, our minds can become unstable or negative, which can be very difficult. Creative thinking is associated with mood swings and depression.
Sometimes these mental problems are a result of neglecting other, healthy activities because we’re so focused on creative pursuits and the creative idea in front of us. Or they can be an undesirable result of the isolation that intense creative work often requires.
This doesn’t mean we should stop listening or speaking our primary “creative language.” It’s okay to let ideas run through our heads or to engage more with creative impulses and feelings. To see the light, we need the dark.
Or, as J.R.R. Tolkein put it when speaking of his creative writing process with Lord of the Rings, to draw inspiration from the “leaf-mould of the mind.”
Only we have to take care of our mental and physical health.
Taming the Clash of Ideas and Thoughts
A necessary ingredient of creativity is to have a wide range of ideas.
Some of them are new, others are crazy. The creative process is called divergent thinking, where we find many possible solutions to a given problem or creative task. This includes artistic creativity, where we must resolve, for example, the line on a canvas or the resonance of a chapter in a work of fiction.
This in turn means that many ideas pop into our heads at any given time, which can be a problem. Social media and modern technology serve to accentuate the phenomenon, because of the welter of ideas you find there.
If we don’t learn to process these ideas, they can easily overwhelm us and cause us stress, anxiety, and depression.
Not to mention that they get in the way of our work.
This doesn’t mean that we should stop coming up with ideas, but that we should learn to deal with them.
The most important solution is to have a reliable and trustworthy new idea capture system that allows you to dump all the things floating around in your brain and retrieve them at a meaningful time.
Also, remember Stephen King’s sage advice that the ideas worth using are the ones that refuse to go away!
Creativity also involves combining many ideas into one bigger idea. You can do this by writing down your ideas and looking at them objectively – by stepping back and taking some distance. Sometimes just changing the way you look at a problem is enough to generate new, original ideas.
Creative Project Overload
A side effect of the collision of ideas described above is that as creative thinkers and doers, we begin to accumulate many projects.
This can become a similar disadvantage to the idea and thought overload issue, above – too many projects mean we don’t have time to work on any of them.
In turn, if we can’t successfully complete projects, it can lead to inactivity and even depression.
I can think of few things as discouraging as a list of unfinished projects staring accusingly at you, saying, “What the hell were you thinking? Why didn’t you finish that project?’
The good news is that we can use a similar technique to capture and manage multiple ideas to deal with this. The main difference is that we pay more attention to building in a priority system to identify and focus on the really important projects. And so you don’t feel bad about dropping the less important projects.
Some sayings I’ve come across that are useful:
“We can do anything, but we can’t do everything“
“Learn to sacrifice your darlings“
“Priorities are like arms – you should have two of them”.
Divided Focus as a Creativity Trap
One thing to be aware of as a creative person is that the very characteristics and practices of creativity – for example, drifting into daydreaming as part of a creative ideation process – can make it difficult to focus on authentic work.
You might also choose to read a chapter from a book or watch a movie scene on YouTube. As little inspirations for your own work.
These times of creative reverie can distract you from more important and immediate tasks (such as working with clients, meeting deadlines, and managing time for other activities and life demands).
Personally, I deal with this challenge by using apps like Session when I write to help me focus on writing. I don’t use them by default, but only when I really need them.
Also, a (seemingly) more appealing project may come up and you start thinking about that project instead of the one you were supposed to finish.
In this context, my mind goes to
Henry Miller’s personal “commandments” of writing
1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to Black Spring.
3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5. When you can’t create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilisers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it – but go back to it next day. Concentrate.
Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.
especially numbers 1, 2, 3, and 10!
I think his sayings apply to other forms of creative work as well.
Disadvantages and Limitations of Creativity in Business
The business and the corporate world sometimes give the impression that creativity is something to be harnessed rather than given free rein.
That’s why you’ll find all sorts of analyzes in the Harvard Business Review and elsewhere that try to model creativity skills and package them into “innovation.”
This makes sense if you consider that creativity always involves risk, whereas business is often about managing risk and executing a plan worked out in advance.
Creativity and creative people are difficult to control from a management perspective. When strategies and plans that have taken months or even years are at stake, not to mention large sums of money, it becomes clear why creativity in business can have its downsides.
There are also concerns that creative people can be unproductive in a business environment.
Yet creativity often offers the best opportunity to outperform the competition using innovative ideas and creative solutions. Therefore, companies need to recognize this and accept the risk if it gives their business a greater chance of competitive advantage and success.
Anything that smacks of “artistic creativity” tends to be viewed with suspicion in companies.
From an employee’s perspective, this means that if you’re a creative person, you may end up losing out to less creative and more business-oriented employees. You may even have to employ strategies and change your profile and public appearance accordingly. As awful as that sounds.
Creativity as a Marker for Undesirable Character Traits
Research seems to show that those who see themselves as creative people are often more narcissistic and that this trait also comes into play in actual creative performance.
In a British study published in Thinking Skills and Creativity, subjects who described themselves as creative were more likely to agree with statements such as “People always recognize my authority” and “I like to be the center of attention.”
It seems that creativity is also associated with a sense of entitlement and dishonesty – which I imagine is because creativity requires lateral thinking and breaking the rules.
Acting dishonestly can give the sense that the person isn’t only being creative, but also freeing themselves from the usual constraints.
This freedom is usually accompanied by rebellion, which is often one of the key factors in a creative mind – but which can also have a negative impact on society.
Disadvantages of Being a Creative Artist
Frankly, one of the biggest drawbacks of an artistic vocation or working in a creative industry is probably financial insecurity. The fact is that while most jobs in the arts pay well, they’re temporary.
Also, artists have to spend a lot of time working, which limits the time they’ve for other activities, such as a regular job.
Depending on where you live, it can be very difficult to find and share your creative skills with others, as many people aren’t as interested in actively pursuing the arts.
So you may find yourself in a certain isolation and loneliness. This isn’t always a bad thing: Isolation is often an aspect of creativity. It takes a lot of courage, discipline, and focus to stay creative and committed to creative work.
The description of a “struggling artist” doesn’t just refer to financial hardships. Every artist knows an inner struggle as he or she wrestles with concepts that are often intangible and just within reach before they finally bear fruit. This can take the form of depression, anxiety, and even fear.
How Can You Minimize Common Creativity Disadvantages?
By being aware of the above drawbacks and taking care of yourself (sleep, nutrition, community, and more), you can do a lot to reduce the drawbacks of creative work.
Always remember that being creative and working creatively is worth it, especially for yourself.
Not only does it offer the prospect of successes worth having, but it connects you on a deep level with your true potential.
Creative writing disadvantages
I am going to be writing a couple of posts about the advantages/disadvantages of creative writing courses and also my experiences (part 2). I thought it might be useful for a few people. when I thought about applying for a CW degree I googled about the advantages but there wasn’t much out there at the time. So I hope this might help someone at some point.
- I know a lot of writers who did creative writing courses and have gone far e.g. published, agents, book deals.
- I know a lot of people who stopped writing as soon as their certificate was nailed above their fire place.
- I also know a lot of people who didn’t do a course and have succeeded too.
- Realistic about rejection/acceptance
- Plus ideas, of course!
- Discipline – You can’t put it off. A deadline is a deadline.
- Motivation – Prompts help a lot of people. Also preparing for editing groups is a good kick up the backside.
- Feedback – From peers and tutors. My advice is to be in an editing group that your best friend or flatmate isn’t in. You want partial advice, not someone who is overly nice/nasty. However, having a friend on the same course can help you have someone to bounce off ideas and have pre-edit discussions. Feedback helps push one to be a better writer and step up one’s game.
- Competitive – Not racing but having the attitude of ‘I want to write a story that will get clapping too.’ It is healthy. Again, it’s motivational and it spurs you on to write.
- You can learn the rules and then break them.
- Book recommendations – find new writers to explore.
- Like-minded friends.
- You need to also remember – the tutor’s advice isn’t always the right advice. Get confident with your own judgements.
- Time – a degree is three years. Someone famous once said writing is a lifelong apprenticeship so those three years are just a drop in the ocean (I might have paraphrased).
- You can find a lot of advice in ‘how-to’ books or essays on the internet.
- Attitude of ‘you can’t teach talent’ – no you can’t. Its about nurturing.
- Read, read, read is the best education and then write, write, write – Actually this is the best advice!
- You can only work on assignments.
I will be also writing a post about my experiences of attending a BA, MA and also evening class soon. One was a complete disaster, another one had be reconsidering my future and another one got good near the end.
oh jess! Interesting post. as I never finished the BA and have quit prematurely every creative writing course I’ve ever taken I prpbably fall into the ‘don’t do it’ camp.
Love books, love writing, for the most part love the company of other writers and yet.
The Disadvantages of Being a Writer
In today’s digital age, writing is more ubiquitous than ever. Workers can communicate through email instead of making phone calls, friends can send each other text messages instead of talking in person and people can find all the news they need online. Some people write articles, books, advertisements, technical manuals and materials as a full-time job. For creative individuals with a strong command of written language, writing can be a fun and rewarding career. It also can be fraught with challenges that can put writers at a disadvantage compared to professionals in other fields.
Quality is Subjective
A potential disadvantage of being a writer is that the quality of work is subjective. The appeal of a written work can vary from one reader to the next. A young reader might enjoy a simple article with words that are easy to understand, while a mature reader might find it dull. This is different from other professions, such as accounting, where there are strict rules governing what is right and wrong. The subjective nature of writing often leads to disagreements between writers, editors and publishers.
Writers often face strong competition for jobs and clients, due to high interest in the occupation and low barriers to entry. There are no specific educational requirements needed to become a writer. Anyone with a pen or computer can attempt to become a writer (though not everyone can do it well). Because publishers have so many writers and submissions to choose from, they usually have a constant flow of material and therefore don’t need to offer full-time employment to writers. Many writers are forced to free-lance as independent contractors, work part-time, accept lower pay or take on undesirable projects.
Lack of Job Benefits
Job benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans can be worth thousands of dollars a year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68 percent of writers and authors were self-employed in 2010. Self-employed workers almost never receive job benefits from their clients. This means that many writers have to arrange and pay for health insurance, retirement plans and other important benefits on their own.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects total employment of writers and authors to increase by 6 percent from 2010 to 2020. This job growth rate is significantly lower than the projected national average of 14 percent. The number of media companies that have traditionally employed a lot of writers, such as newspapers and magazines, has been shrinking for years and is likely to continue shrinking over the coming decade. This could result in the elimination of many salaried writing jobs, forcing more writers to work as independent contractors who must compete with one other for assignments.
2016 Salary Information for Writers and Authors
Writers and authors earned a median annual salary of $61,240 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, writers and authors earned a 25th percentile salary of $43,130, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $83,500, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 131,200 people were employed in the U.S. as writers and authors.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Writers and Authors
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 27-3043 Writers and Authors
- O*NET OnLine: Details Report for: 27-3043.00 – Writers and Authors
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Writers and Authors
- Career Trend: Writers and Authors
Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.