Stuckness—it’s every creative’s nightmare. And when it comes, we tend to blame ourselves (mightily). Yet the real problem is often something surrounding the creative process—rather than the process itself.

In a piece describing the many species of creative block, Mark McGuinness writes about the emotional barriers that can hold us back:

Creativity can be intense. Faced with the unknown, you may be scared of what you’ll discover or reveal about yourself. Maybe your subject matter is painful, embarrassing, or downright weird. Whatever you’re trying to avoid, the only end product is procrastination.

When I was a student, the novelist John Fowles spoke at my college. When somebody asked if he had any advice for young writers, he talked about feeling embarrassed about the sexual content of some of his novels when he imagined his parents reading them. In the end he burst through the barrier by mentally shouting, “Fuck my parents!” as he sat down to write.

Give yourself permission to write, draw, or otherwise express whatever comes out—on the understanding that you will not make it public, at least for a while. Privacy will make it easier to get the draft version done. Then take a break before deciding whether you want to show it to an audience.

This is an excerpt from Manage Your Day-to-Day, the new book from 99U, with contributions from Mark McGuinness, Gretchen Rubin, Dan Ariely, Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield, and many more.

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