Why Does Creativity Seem So Hard?

By Angie Dixon | Posted 5/23/06 | Updated 8/3/23

Related: Why is Being Creative Becoming More of a Challenge?

I've been pondering, lately, the idea of creativity as difficult.

As I write this, I'm coming out of a "creative slump," a period in which I found a lot of fairly mundane work to do, because I was having a difficult time with the creative work.

I'm assuming, but I think it's a fair assumption, that creativity at least sometimes seems hard to most people.

I'm curious as to why that is. I mean, if creativity is so special, and many people think it is, shouldn't it come easier? Or is the difficulty part of the special-ness?

I think "non-creative" people would be surprised to learn that "creative" people also find creativity hard.

And finally, to top off my assumptions and observations about creativity, I think it's often hardest right before we reach our creative "peak."

For many people, even people considered (by themselves and others) to be "creative," that creativity doesn't come easily all the time. And sometimes it seems harder than it really may be. Why is creativity sometimes so difficult, at least seemingly so?

First, creativity is mysterious. No one knows how it works. With athletic ability, for instance, we at least know it's strengthened by good diet and physical activity. Creativity seems to be strengthened by soda, chocolate, and lying in a hammock for hours on end. Though books on creativity abound, how it works remains a mystery to most of us.

Also, creativity is elusive. As every writer knows, if you sit down at your desk every day at 10, some days you'll "feel" creative and other days you won't. But if you just start creating, often you'll become creative, in spite of your creativity.

One of the main reasons creativity seems so hard is that we desire it so much. When you really want to "be creative," it's hard to see that what you're doing IS creative. It may seem derivative, boring, or just not very good, when in fact it's quite creative. Maybe not quite what you want, but creative.

And creativity is special. People (most people) look on creativity as something that people have that sets them apart and makes them different, and sometimes better, at least in some ways, than other people.

But what I think is THE primary reason creativity seems so hard is that few people believe they're creative. To that I say, "Nonsense!" Every human being on this earth is creative. We all create, every day, all day long. If you've ever altered a recipe, come up with an idea to increase sales at your company, planted a garden… you're creative.

Really, this is where I think the difficulty of creativity is greatest, because it's not just that you have to be creative, but that you also have to recognize that what you've done IS creative, whether it's the way you figured out the problem with the muffler on that 1983 Buick, or the way you combined the ingredients you had to make up for what you didn't have, or the plot of your new short story.

I know it seems hard sometimes, but hang in there, please, and keep being creative. It's important, not just to you, but to the people who benefit from what you create. And I say that especially to the people who would define themselves as "not creative," because some of our greatest creators, some of our most exciting innovations, come from you, and our world would be a poorer place without them.

Copyright ©2006 Angie Dixon. All rights reserved.