Obstacles to Creativity

What is holding your students back from expressing greater creativity?

In order to improve student creativity, it is not enough to teach creative processes. We must also continuously work to identify and reduce our students’ creative obstacles. Possible obstacles include:

Obstacles to Focus
Physical discomfort – pain, hunger, temperature
A preoccupied mind – stress, restless
Distraction – sights, sounds, screens, notifications, addiction, interruptions
Lack of energy – mental and physical, sleep, a healthy body
Lack of discipline – the ability to focus as much of your mental energy as possible on a single task

Obstacles to Expression
A language to express it in – words, music etc.
Creative confidence – the courage to share your creativity with others
Supportive environment – free of judgement, space for everyone to contribute
Permission – encouragement to express divergent thinking

Obstacles to Stimulation
Creative environment – ideally with changing sensory stimuli, such as a walk outside
Creative collaborators – other people to bounce ideas off of

Obstacles to Practice
Lack of time – all creative processes take time, and the more the better
Lack of instruction – not having an experienced teacher to guide you
Lack of resources – money, tools, materials
Lack of a process – not knowing what to do or where to start, limited experience expressing creativity
Lack of a goal – no problem to work on or goal to work towards
Lack of knowledge – limited by the knowledge and skills available to them

Obstacles to Motivation
This could include a lack of curiosity, belief that you can actually do it, expectations, or limited opportunities for recognition or rewards.


This list is just a starting point. It raises more questions than it answers:

What are your students’s most significant blocks?
What is the best method for identifying their most significant block?
What obstacles are missing from this list?
Which obstacles on this list are the most common, and which are not very common?
Which are the most severe, and which are rarely severe?
What are the best methods for reducing each of these blocks?
And how can we help our students transfer their creativity outside our classrooms?

Of course, creativity is just a means to an end. Once the creativity starts flowing, the most important question of all is, where do you want to go from here?