Is Your Creativity Being Stifled?


Have you ever felt creatively stifled? Could there be some external force inhibiting you from living up to your creative potential? Are you in an environment that tries to cage your creative side?

I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Not only that, I’ve experienced it as well. Far too many times have I seen and felt the tragedy of untapped, unappreciated, or undermined creative potential. In most cases it is a person in authority who has concluded that anything that doesn’t fit their mold isn’t any good. They have concluded that their ideas, regardless of where their strength lies, are superior. Therefore, anyone who has something fresh, new, or outside-the-box to offer must adhere to their standard or be dismissed as irrelevant.

Adobe recently did a study on the state of creativity in the world. It’s pretty astonishing what they came up with. Don’t take my word for it though, see for yourself:

Adobe State of Create Infographic

[Click for larger image.]

Tell me that doesn’t make your heart sad.

Out of the people surveyed 80% of them believed that creativity is crucial to economic growth. Astonishingly, only 25% of people actually believe they’re living up to their creative potential! The statistic directly below shows that 75% of people believe they are under pressure at work to be productive rather than creative.

A little while back I was interviewed for a podcast for artists and my interviewer asked me why I thought Christianity went through such a creative dry spell. I told him I wasn’t sure, but I was really excited that the “dark ages” of Christian creativity was over. Now that I think about it, and have seen it with my own eyes, I think I understand how it happened.

Too many leaders with too much authority and not enough humility to admit that someone can have bigger vision than them.

All of us were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are the creation, created in the image of the Creator. Some of us were gifted to be more creative than others, but all of us were meant to use our creativity to glorify the one who gave it to us.

If your creativity is being stifled by someone who thinks they have the authority to do so, always remember that it’s not you they’re stifling, it’s the one who gave you the creativity whom they must answer to. Channel the frustration you feel into a more positive outlet and let your creativity soar.

Have you ever felt creatively stifled? How did you deal with it?

Image courtesy of Adobe via Mashable.

Dustin W. Stout Avatar

63 responses to “Is Your Creativity Being Stifled?”

  1. K Avatar

    Hi Dustin. I’ve recently taken up UI/UX courses to increase my knowledge on the best practices for designing sites. I wanted to be able to communicate better using the terms UI/UX designers use to describe certain elements.
    Now that I’m more aware of what needs to be done to help ease the pain points on the users and try to suggest on ways to improve it, my boss dismisses them many times. On one instance, he said “Let client worry about that” and “If you add this, does it guarantee that this will prevent errors? What happens if it doesn’t? Do you need to keep adding this and adding that?”
    Obviously the UI is so visually straining that users cannot pay attention to the important details. Hence errors are realized only after the action is confirmed (and no turning back).
    I understand that there are deadlines to be met, higher priority issues to be resolved, and resources to consider, but if it’s bad design, user error and user frustration will never disappear.

  2. br Avatar

    Mine isn’t stifled by anyone but myself. I don’t know why, but I go through spurts of time where I just zone out. I’m talking weeks at a time. Then when I get it back I usually have so many interruptions that I can take it. I wish I lived near a lake with no one around where I could grab a huge cup of coffee and sit in the sunset while I write. i’m not that lucky.

  3. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Haha! Well the thing about creativity is– the more you use it, the stronger it gets. On a day-to-day basis, you only have so much and if you exhaust it regularly, that’s definitely not good. So I would agree that you should only spend it on the things that matter– and make them really matter.

  4. kathy Avatar

    Recently, I was given a project to do that everyone in the company does once or twice a year (this is a monthly safety project – I’ve only worked here for a couple months). I was working on a game or something that would be fun for people to do, and I was writing a little story to go with it so it would be more interesting and not boring. However, everybody was saying, “Oh, you don’t have to go to that kind of trouble. Everybody just prints out a bunch of stuff off the internet on the day it’s due and pastes it to a poster board. I finally stopped trying to rack my brain to come up with something cool and interesting. Just decided I’d scrap it all and do something boring like everyone else. I’ll just save my creativity for my own personal use.

  5. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Keep writing Chris! Never stop!

  6. Chris Jennings Penders Avatar

    Hi Dustin:
    My immediate family attempted to steer me down a different river

    I wouldn’t let them to divert me. I was strong enough to continue through whatever obstruction they put in front of me. Yes I was diverted, but I’m still in the same tributary that I wanted to be.

    Still writing.
    Still in the book business.
    Which is where I was told I’d never make a living. Seems to me I’g doing just that.

    It’s why I get so angry when parents attempt to divert the children’s river:


  7. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    That’s awesome Kristian! Thanks for sharing! What are you doing to capture ideas?

  8. Kristian Dale Avatar
    Kristian Dale

    Great post, Dustin!

    I am privileged enough to be in one of the finest photography schools out there. I am surrounded with photographers and artists every day, both those who are just starting out, and those who are about to graduate, as well as my teachers/professors who has been in the industry for decades! I am constantly expected to produce solid work to keep my professors happy, and to make sure I grow as much as possible, which can at times be very hard. At least when we mostly have one week projects.
    What I think is great though, is that my teachers are so passionate about what they are doing, and speaking to them outside of class is the most inspiring thing you can ever imagine!
    I have found that insecurity and self doubt is my main factor for getting creative blocks. A few weeks ago, I got into the mode (again) where I started to re-evaluate where I am going with my photography, and I started comparing myself to others. I strongly agree with Zack Arias, who says that comparing yourself to other photographers is the one thing that without a doubt will drain your inspiration. To me, it feels like I want to step away from who I am as an artist, and something just does not feel right.
    Luckily, I have almost unlimited resources of great people to speak to about it, and I recently sat down and talked about where I am going and what I want to do with my photography. Right now, I am so full of ideas that I don’t even know where to start. My idea book is filling up, and I can’t wait to create everything I currently have living in my mind.

    Kristian Dale

  9. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    We went to Long Beach yesterday and attended the RCX Expo (Radio Control Hobbies Expo) and man we saw some serious creativity going on there. There were 4 and 6 rotor choppers that were hand built from raw materials that a guy flew over some of the action. He had a camera mounted in the base so he could record images and the video was sent back to a computer via a usb reciever. Then there were the guys with the Rock Crawler RC Trucks. These guys had detailed their RC Trucks out to look just like the real thing so if you took a close up picture you might think they WERE the real thing. I came home and spent hours looking through pictures that had been taken of things I had missed because there was so much going on that we didn’t have time to see it all. I even got to drive the car I bought for Kaiya, only on the surface it was intended to drive on and I discovered I am missing a WHOLE lot of fun…lol. I wish I had taken video of the guys during the drifting event. I am not a huge fan of drifting but to see how these guys are able to make 1/10 scale cars handle and react in a drift just like a full size drift car that utilize completely different techniques is awesome. Then of course there was the die cast area with all the different and creative paint jobs on a 1/64th scale. Pretty cool stuff.

  10. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Ephesians 2:10….one of my favorite versus in the bible 🙂

    “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Since we are on the topic of creativity, who else thinks changing the Word “workmanship” as it appears in most translations to “handiwork” as it now does in the NIV2011 (or TNIV) reduces our value from a masterpiece of God to just another part of a handyman’s day?

  11. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    “There is no reward in life without risk” ~ Quote claimed by many but who knows where it really came from…lol. However I think we can trace it back further than most think.

    Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 has some great wisdom to offer.

  12. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Never underestimate the editing powers of MSPaint…LOL.

  13. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Photoshop CS5 is pretty awesomesause! It can be overwhelming however at first and I sometimes miss the old days when I knew everything about PaintShopPro. I just found a file of banners and buttons I made back in the late 90’s and thought about the hours I spent learning it all and now I am starting over with PS…lol.

  14. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Ever wonder how those 99cent only stores or chain discount stores like Big Lots or Tuesday Morning stay in business? It’s because even big corporations look at quantity before quality. They push for the numbers first and at the end of the line the products that fall short of the company standards get sold to resalers and discounters at bulk prices depending on how far they fall from the standard.

  15. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    I guess this is why I don’t read the Times…I couldn’t finish the article…lol. I know I’m not dumb and perhaps it’s just a lazy day but it seems to jump back and forth too much. What I do take from it seems to do less with creative people and more with people who have the means to capitolize in an emerging market. Certain markets are however self limiting in creativity. PayPal as the article uses is in a market where it would make no sence to begin a second auction funding company. I guess what I’m saying is it’s not like Thiel created the monopoly…the market did it for him.

  16. Brandon Avatar

    That’s interesting. I have never heard of that guy until now. I looked him up, and what you mentioned was interesting.

  17. Brandon Avatar

    Unfortunately, that’s they way it goes sometimes… Quality is always important! I’m going to check out your blog…

  18. Brandon Avatar


  19. Brandon Avatar

    Haha! I haven’t used photoshop before. I do have instagram though.

  20. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    It depends… I consider myself a Photoshop Ninja, but every now and then I’ll take an Instagram shortcut.

  21. Marlee Avatar

    Isn’t Erwin great?!

    I’d love to write for you sometime. Maybe I’ll come up with something really…creative. 😉

  22. Brandon Avatar

    By the way, I am still working on my ad. I will send it to you as soon as I can. It will probably be sometime next week.

  23. Brandon Avatar

    My vocation right now is school. I have to constantly work to make it interesting and fun! 🙂

  24. Brandon Avatar

    Oh! haha…by the way, what program do you use to edit your photos?

  25. Brandon Avatar

    For sure! I have learned that recently!

  26. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Crayola, Crayola, Crayola!

  27. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    I’ve been in that position too David… no fun. Their loss.

  28. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    I love you. 🙂

  29. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    There are many ways. It’s not easy, but it is worth it. If you work hard at it and truly give all your passion into it, a blog can be a very valuable and profitable outlet!

  30. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    I know it’s tough Adam. Maybe the greatest creative challenge is to make a non-creative vocation fun…

  31. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Thanks Brandon… I didn’t create them though… I wish I could have!

  32. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Creativity is always about taking risks! 😀

  33. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Oh man… love this!

  34. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Wow Marlee! I should have you guest post here sometime… 😉

    I am a fan of Erwin McManus’ work. I’ve actually seen him speak about that same thing and talk about the FedEx arrow. It’s really fascinating how children’s minds are so much more open than ours.

    And you are 100% on the mark with living our whole lives as a creative work– Ephesians 2:10.

  35. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Thanks Brad! I found that line to be a bit strange as well…

    I’m glad your new job allows you to flex a little more creative muscle. Keep working it out in your spare time. Us artists will never be satisfied with just one outlet. lol!

  36. Dustin W. Stout Avatar

    Thanks Laura! What are your thoughts on that?

  37. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Cool…thanks for the info.

  38. Brandon Avatar


  39. Joseph Lalonde Avatar

    TED Talks are short speeches given by remarkable people. Check out to see what’s going on.

  40. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Yep 🙂

  41. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    TED Talk?

  42. Marlee Avatar

    Did you see the arrow?

  43. Marlee Avatar

    I’m so with you, David! 🙂

  44. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    School of Discipleship 🙂 Sorry…I was rushing out the door so I abbreviated.

  45. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    By the way…after reading this…who else Googled the FedEx logo? Show of hands please…lol

  46. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    I think the main reason that children are more creative is because they are FREE to be so. Children can draw anything and a parent will praise it. So it encourages them to explore their creativity more and more. But then suddenly you become an adult and people start DIScouraging that same creativity and the world around you cries out for you to conform. Every commercial tells you how you should be dressing and what you should look like. So it’s no wonder that we lose that desire to think for ourselves and create…when there is that magic box and a parade of celebs to do it for us. It’s time we break out the Crayolas and draw outside the lines! Who’s with me? 🙂 Suddenly I feel like Bluto from the movie Animal House…lol

  47. Andrew Z Avatar

    Hey Brad!

    Had to jump in here. I’m a sales manager/sales trainer and am also an actor/writer. I totally hear ya.

    Interesting thing is, creativity CAN boost those numbers. It CAN generate leads. Granted, we may not be writing music and doing a monologue… per se… but we are exercising our creativity.

    Yesterday I used a TED talk to get my reps to think differently. It was energizing for me and for the reps.

  48. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Okay…where was I…LOL
    My dad and several relatives worked for Hughes Helicopters when they were still around and they actually fostered creativity. If you came up with a proceedure or a part for one of the product lines that saved time or money or that in some way enhanced the product or production you actually received a BONUS! Cold hard cash for doing something that most companies will fire you for now. Of course Howard Hughes didn’t make his fortune by thinking inside the box. Man..I’m heading to Long Beach Sunday. Now I wish his H4 Hercules was still down there so I could show Kaiya. That thing is awesome! Now that was creative!

  49. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Sorry…I had more to say but I had to help a friend in need and cut it short…now I am off to SOD @ Shepherd so I will contribute more later 🙂

  50. David Willard Jr Avatar
    David Willard Jr

    Another homerun Dustin! I have experienced this in the workplace in the past. When I worked in retail they were very strict about how you merchandised things and even when you merchandised clearance product which has NO “planogram” (preset setup) they were very specific about how it was to be done. I often would demonstrate merchandising techniques that made the products move faster and would get that double ended compliment of “That’s great, now change it to our way.” So for the sake of the company standard, we would sell less.

  51. Catarina Stout Avatar
    Catarina Stout

    Hey love!…such a great post 😉 I have felt like this many times. When I was younger I was involved in drama and dance. I encountered some teachers who were just about getting the job done instead of investing in and building on the strengths of the kids. This wasn’t all my dance teachers. I had some really great ones!

    I also noticed that when I was in the Masters program at CSUN I would always try to throw in some artwork or my own twist on stuff when it came to papers and projects…I would get bored of the material sometimes and I wanted to spice it up and actually enjoy it. Some teachers had creative atmospheres more than others. I understand though, because it’s kind of difficult to be creative with organizational communication (oh so dry and boring…never again in my Communication education on the other hand was AWESOME! Soooo creative!

    I feel that in a lot of situations you can break out of the box yourself….but….it’s so true that if your boss/teacher/coach/mentor is not open to your’re definitely stifled and might not reach your potential.

  52. Scott Avatar

    I was previously in an environment that they wanted us to be creative but when it came down to the wire it became quantity over quality and creativity took a backseat. With my personal blog, I definitely have a creative outlet but I would like to find a way to parlay that creative into a professional environment as well.

  53. mark omohundro Avatar

    Awesome post! I think that our ability to create come entirely from the fact that we bear His image. We can only create because God created us.

  54. adam Avatar

    My day job is not a very creative one. However, I do have a creative outlet in my blog and my side business doing web design. Without that creative outlet I would be miserbale…

  55. Brandon Avatar

    PS I really liked those pictures that you included in this post!

  56. Brandon Avatar

    I have felt this before. Mostly with my website. A few short weeks ago, this was me. Then I finally took the plunge to switch to self-hosted wordpress. Now, I have so many ideas for post series and such. I guess when you take risks, you allow creativity to flow. Never be content with the usual!

  57. Marlee Avatar

    Hey Dustin,

    I really appreciate your encouragement here. I think our innate creative ability is highly undervalued and really misunderstood by society at large. I know your stats show that people feel creativity is important, but their behavior definitely demonstrates otherwise.

    I think you pointed to something really imperative though. You noted: “All of us were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are the creation, created in the image of the Creator.”

    And I think that should serve as a ringing alarm to the fact that WE are creators too. We’ve been created in the image of a creator, and when you look at human civilization across human history you can see that we have an innate desire to create.

    It might be to create babies, systems, communities, art, commerce, on and on. We are creators. And the development of all those aforementioned things is creation. It is “art” in it’s own way. I mean how many other life forms have the ability to create something out of nothing? To envision a reality and bring it to pass? I think that leave us and God, baby! 🙂

    Erwin McManus talks a lot about this concept to his community of artists, but I think it applies to every single solitary human being.

    While visiting his church in LA over the Easter holiday, I had the pleasure of hearing him speak, and he told a story about how scientist had done some tests on the creative ability of children – because we all know how much more creative we are as kids, right?

    Well, they asked children to point out the arrow in the FedEx logo. Yeah…the is an arrow in it. Then they asked adults. The results where astounding…kids saw it almost instantly. 80% of adults couldn’t see it until it was pointed out to the, and 20% of adults saw it after a few seconds.

    I think we need to start seeing more of our live as a whole as creative work. We need to start seeing the journey of our life as our own personal work of art. I think if more of us did that we would not only feed our unique creative abilities, but we’d feel more creatively fulfilled. And that in turn would overflow into the world around us.

    Thanks for writing this. Love it.

  58. Brad E. Avatar
    Brad E.

    “In aggregate, US cities seen as most productive.” Tokyo, Paris, London, Berlin. Something seems fishy there.

    For about 6 years I felt like my creativity was being stifled at work. As a senior sales manager, I was held to sales numbers and was told I had to do whatever I had to do to reach them. The constant hustling, calling and working left very little room to exercise my creative muscles. As a musician and former theater major, it was very frustrating to not be able to use a lot of the gifts that God had blessed me with. The fortunate thing, I suppose, was that I had outlets outside of work for my creative side…that helped keep me sane.

    What I love about my new job is that it still has some of the aspects of my old sales job that I loved, like the competition, but it allows me to use my creativity in my writing and a bit of design work. Do I feel like I’m able to use my creativity fully? I guess not…but unless I can find a job writing music or jingles, that side of my creativity will probably continue to be left unused in my workplace.

    Good post, as always, Dustin.

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