Roger von Oech

Creative Think

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My advice is to go on a full frontal attack on her brain and eliminate the virus.

resources for this:
She should also check Adam's Khan other 2 blogs: crushpessimism and moodraiser
(I tried posting links to them but the spam filter thinks I'm advertising)

Paul R. Williams

It sounds like someone needs to step away, take a vacation or change something in their life.

I had a period a few months ago where I completely lost interest in my passion for organizational creativity and innovation. Turns out I got far, far too close to it. I became compulsive about learning everything which led to learning nothing in the end.

Take a break! Serendipity will find you again somewhere further down the road!

Andrew Leigh

SR - I'd say yes, yes and yes! Negativity shows itself in lots of different ways. The good news is that there are just as many ways of replacing the negative mindset with a positive one.

An simple and effective way to start is by using affirmations - positive statements about yourself and your abilities that you say out loud to yourself repeatedly. This might sound a bit new age-ish but the process is now very well understood.

Also -to stop the negative thinking in its tracks, try 'pattern breaking'. Whenever you catch yourself having negative thoughts clap your hands and say stop! Then replace the negative thought with your positive affirmations.

Try them - they do work.

One other point - expecting to be 'creative all the time' is maybe asking a little much of yourself. It may be that unrealistic expectations are leading to a sense of failure that in turn is feeding your feelings of negativity.

So finding a balance of expectation is important. One way you can do this is to think about what you would expect of someone else in your situation. The odds are you wouldn't expect so much. If that's the case then why expect more from yourself?

Good luck.


SR, I've been there, too, as have most of us. One of the things I've learned is when that sort of negativity pops up, start asking yourself some questions to understand where it's coming from. Are you feeling you've disappointed yourself or someone else in some way? Are you too close, as Peter mentioned? Are you overwhelmed with personal or business stuff? Are you bored? Trying to be a bit analytical about the emotions can sometimes help you find where you need to make changes.

Or could it just be that you've used up your reserve creative energy and just need to be filled up again? The 2 things that feed me are music and knitting (or some sort of fiber work). When I begin feeling like you're describing, I can be virtually certain that I haven't been listening to enough music or I haven't been creative with my hands. What is it that feeds your soul? Music? Nature? A group of friends just hanging out? Doing that thing on purpose is essential to keep the creativity flow going and the negativity flow ebbing.


I just finished "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield.
Be professional and do the work. It is more about naming the problem, Resistance, and sitting down to work.
It is a good complement to Roger's book, and very different. Roger's books can help you get out of a thinking trap or see a problem differently.
War of Art is about procrastination and doing the work.

David Zinger

Good question to which the writer already knows the answer: YES.

Roger von Oech

I've typically found that I've been my most creative when I've also been enthusiastic about what I'm doing and the project before me.

Everyone has a different creative thinking style. Although it doesn't show up that much in this blog (I work to squelch it), I can also be quite cynical. But when the cynicism beats down the enthusiasm, my creativity slips drastically.

When I get too cynical about stuff, I force myself to get away from what I'm doing. While away, I can usually find positive and exciting things about my projects.

Roger von Oech

Peter: Thanks! Sound like fun sites.

Paul: Good advice. Getting away can also help one discover a different path to wander down as well.

Andrew: Good advice. I generally found that creative people think they're creative, and lesser creative people don't think they are. The "I'm Not Creative" mental lock chapter in my book, "A Whack on the Side of the Head," is all about this.

Also: good point about it being unrealistic to be expect to be creative all of the time.

Dianna: Good stuff. Especially re-fueling your creative reserve. Interesting thing about music: I recently got a turn-table for Christmas. As a result, I'm listening to a lot of music that I haven't heard in decades. It's wonderfully stimulating!

Doug: I like your point about "being the professional" and doing the work.

David: I think you're right.

Jorge Castillo

SR, I'd like to give my humble advice:

REMEMBER those moments when you had feel exactly the opposite. Close your eyes and remember how you FEEL when in a creative- optimistic mood. Very important: remember how did you start.

Next time you start a new project close your eyes first and remember these good feelings for about a minute. Open your eyes and begin! It always work!

Valeria Maltoni

It can be stimulating also to create in a different place. If it's nice outside, maybe go take a walk in a park, find a bench from where you can let your mind rest and your sketches fly.

patti digh

SR - perhaps you are equating creativity not with negativity, but with perfectionism? maybe doing some reverse design would help--instead of sitting down to "design the best desk lamp," for example, where the stakes are so high--perhaps you could get back to creativity if you did the opposite: design the absolute worst desk lamp you can imagine. Maybe that would free you up from the stress of being creative. Have fun with it, exaggerate it, make the worst damn lamp you can imagine (no socket, no bulb, made of rice krispie squares) and you might find yourself laughing instead of stressing...hope that helps!


Sounds like pushing too hard, or forcing it would also work to 'block' creativity. I can grasp the idea that expecting way too much is unrealistic. I pressure myself all the time like that.

So, perhaps 'being creative' isn't the real problem? A few here are suggesting a break, or refueling. Varying creative styles is also an interesting concept. Perhaps one has to find one that works?

Saurabh Garg

There are two things about it. One may be you are very good with expressing Negativity I dont really know a lot but Graffiti as a medium of expression emerged out of negativity.

Can you harness this negative energy to create something?

Second way to look at things is that may be you need a break. Apart from vacations and breaks, I think the best way to re-juice-up your life is to work in a mundane task and try to make it interesting. Common example could be wait tables, deliver things, work on an assembly line. Observe things there and try to draw comparisons.



I'd like to sincerely thank everyone for taking the time to offer their advice. You've all given me a lot to think about. Most of all, I've learned that I'm not alone, and that's very comforting. I'd also like to thank Mr. von Oech for sharing this. I appreciate it.


Roger, the sites I shared are not FUN... they are practical. They are like medicine. Not fun but effective.
(ok, they are fun too but that isn't their main characteristic) :)


One thing that ALWAYS works for me in combatting negativity is going for a good workout! It may take some effort to get yourself to get into it, but watch those results...

Cam Beck

Hm... Just from this, it sounds like burnout. Step away from the drawing table and read or do something unrelated, fun, and still challenging and fulfilling.

Don't be in love with the outcome as much as you are finding (a creative stimulus unrelated to art) and enjoying the process.

Also, collaborate with other people who have the same passions as you do. Loving a common goal can help you form bonds and kinship with people, giving you goals to accomplish that are bigger than any one of you, individually.


Advice for this letter writer: Take a break from creating, "for the man" and let your negativity loose to create. Design something with hard edges and destructive intent, create a fictional character that is full of anger and malace. If you need to, do all this under a psuedo name, so the people at church won't think you've gone off the deep end. It may be that your return from the deep end itself will be the rebirth of your career creativity.

Tony Pearson (IBM)

I would advise to "encourage" the negativity.
The most successful people in history were the ones most unhappy with the status quo. Use the negativity to your best advantage. Musicians, Artists and other creative types are all known for their negativity, self-destructive lifestyles. This is not an act, I think they use this negativity to help them be more creative. Thinking differently than everyone else allows you to create something that nobody else thought of.

Roger von Oech

Jorge ,Valeria, Otto, Kirk, Cam, Saurabgh, and Patti: Very good advice. Applies not only to SR, but to others of us as well.

SR: I think you are getting the idea that many of us have been in your place.

Peter: Yeah, I realized that when I clicked on them and they didn't go anywhere. But they SHOULD be real!

Tony: Excellent point. People who are totally happy with the status quo aren't going to go out of their to change it.

Here's a post I did a while ago on the power of "dissatisfaction":

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