Overcoming The Creative Saboteur

distractions for creative people

image source: sites.psu.edu

In my last blog post I wrote about the reason why it is not the most clever strategy to wait until you are inspired in order to start working and how to avoid a creative block. In this article I will write about another mental burden that haunts creative people which is really strange and unlogic in its nature.

Given that you have managed to safe your creative spark or your idea and that you have made a plan to action, even the most crude one, and you are now sitting in front of your desk/machine/blank page of paper and you have four hours to complete the goal you have set yourself. And what happens now? You just do not want to do it. You want to check facebook first, your email, call back this old friend of yours you haven’t called in two years. Isn’t that irrational? You want to be creative, you know what you want to do, you have some time to do it and still you are struggling to do what you really want to do?

I call it the creative saboteur. We all have one. I have one too. I call him Greteltant-Michel – ok, that was a joke 🙂

The first step to overcome the creative saboteur is realising that he is there. The second step is switching on your creative helpers. You will have your own creative helpers, just as an example, these are mine:

  • Muting nearly all of my inner voices (with fast and loud metal, goth or industrial music, or retro wave music)
  • Getting awake – fast. With an unhealthy dose of coffee and a lot of tea
  • Firing up my will to reach my goals by refreshing the vision where I want to get to (with fast cut trailers)

Probably you won’t need all of your helpers every time you start working. Just take care that this initiation does not take long so you do not get distracted too much.

And now comes the third step. You will hate this:

Work. Full stop.

You will be tempted to do another thing, but you have to finish your task. When I am working on a storyboard for one of my shortfilms I have pages with rough scribbles of the frames I have to draw. Everytime I finish a frame I mark it as done and I know how many frames I have to get done until either I may stop or the time is over. If time is running out I just have to draw faster, which means that the frames may not be as perfect as I would love them to be. When I am writing a story I know how many scenes or story clusters I have to get through this day.

If there is a lot to get done it is painful, I do not want to lie to you. But this is what you want to do and the next day you will see your last day’s work and you will feel good about it. It does not always have to be like that, but it might happen. In case the creative saboteur is breathing down your neck this is a possibility to hit him.

Hit him hard.

With brute work power.

Do you experience the creative saboteur sometimes? How do you overcome the urge to do other things? Feel free to leave a comment below!

12 responses to “Overcoming The Creative Saboteur

  1. thanks for this interesting article 🙂 boy do i know the creative saboteur.. i was in hospital for a week, about 2 weeks ago and when i came home.. i was in a total funk. my saboteur hat a ball of a good time .. i had no energy, no ideas – ??? – no nothing.. this morning i had a strong cuppa and did some kickass…… so your blog entry made me smile.. tadaaaaaaaaaa i am not the only one 🙂


    • Oh, no, you are definitely not the only one, mumulux 🙂 I think we all have this kind of inner saboteur in us. But on the other it is also ok to have a rest some times. Especially when we are sick. I think it is also important to accept that we are no machines. I hope you are recovering well from your stay at the hospital.


  2. This is a really helpful post. I thought i was the only one! That blank word document can be so daunting!!

    Like you what works best for me is loud, droning repetitive metal (for me its black metal like Darkthrone, its atmospheric and simple so it doesn’t distract me).

    I am trying to finish my story about when I went to a rehab centre that was actually a cult, and I’m stuck on chapter four. I’m gonna bookmark this post, its very helpful.

    Cheers mate, love the site you’ve got here.


      • If you like atmospheric heavy music, Darkthrone is the band to listen to. I almost solely listen to them while writing. Them and a Ukrainian band called Drudkh – youtube their stuff, their albums are long out of print.

        If you do check out Darkthrone, these are the albums that stand faaar above the rest:

        #1 Panzerfaust – just incredible. so simple yet so atmospheric
        #2 – Transilvanian Hunger – similar to Panzerfaust but faster and more of a raw sound
        =#3 “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” and “Under a Funeral Moon”. Earlier stuff than the first two I listed, but just as atmospheric, but also even more of a raw sound.

        They are perfect for writing, the lyrics are often not in English, and when they are you can’t understand them anyways 😉 the repetition of every song gives a hypnotic quality to them, perfect for writing as there are no intricate guitar-work or drum patterns to distract me (I am a drummer/part-time bassist so it needs to be simple for me to concentrate on what I am writing).

        I’d love to know what you think of them mate! They help me in my creative process massively. I’d be very interested in what you think, not just of the music but if it helps you create or not.

        Sorry for the uber long comment mate


      • Thank you very much for your tracklist-hints, Jordan. I finally got to listen to them while I was gettings some illustrations done. The tracks are really heavy, dude. Just perfect for “I´m too tired to keep on, but there are still 10 more frames to get done”-situations 🙂 I think that I´ll add them to my last-resort-short-list 🙂 Thank you! And sorry for my late response.


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