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Innovation, Creative Thinking, Disappointment

“Graduates from creative writing programs do not include insecurity, rejection and disappointment in their plans.” Dani Shapiro

“The feeling of frustration is an essential part of the creative process… Before we can find the answer — before we probably even know the question — we must be immersed in disappointment.” Johan Lehrer

We may get all enthused about a creative idea – a section of a novel or play, a dance routine, a concept for a photograph – but then we have to face the often frustrating challenges of making that idea real – while facing inner and outer hurdles.

The photo is Nicolas Cage as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman in ‘Adaptation’ (2002).

You can see a brief video clip from the movie in the article Why We Don’t Create, by coach and writer Cynthia Morris, who notes, “The original impulse of an idea is fun, energizing, exciting. The actual path to executing and completing that idea is fraught with our very human fears.”

Creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD warns this is one of our challenges. He says, “Only a small percentage of creative people work as often or as deeply as, by all rights, they might be expected to work.

“What stops them? Anxiety or some face of anxiety like doubt, worry, or fear. Anxiety is the great silencer of the creative person.”

[From my post Creating and Fear.]

So anxiety can be one of the reasons we get frustrated and feel disappointment about realizing creative ideas as fully as we want to.

Dr. Maisel addresses that issue much more in his book Mastering Creative Anxiety.

And even accomplished creators may feel anxious or insecure about their work. While editing Titanic (1997), James Cameron had a razor blade taped to an editing computer screen with a message: “Use if this film sucks.”

A wrestling match with expectations

Dani Shapiro declares, “Every single piece of writing I have ever completed — whether a novel, a memoir, an essay, short story or review — has begun as a wrestling match between hopelessness and something else, some other quality that all writers, if they are to keep going, must possess.

“Call it stubbornness, stamina, a take-no-prisoners determination, but a writer at work reminds me of nothing so much as a terrier with a bone: gnawing, biting, chewing, until finally there is nothing left to do but fall away.”

But, she says, today’s young writers “are besotted with the latest success stories: The 18-year-old who receives a million dollars for his first novel; the blogger who stumbles into a book deal; the graduate student who sets out to write a bestselling thriller — and did.

“The 5,000 students graduating each year from creative writing programs (not to mention the thousands more who attend literary festivals and conferences) do not include insecurity, rejection and disappointment in their plans.”

She adds, “I see it in their faces: the almost evangelical belief in the possibility of the instant score. And why not? They are, after all, the product of a moment that doesn’t reward persistence, that doesn’t see the value in delaying recognition, that doesn’t trust in the process but only the outcome.

From her article (on my Inner Writer site) A writing career becomes harder to scale.

Also see the Dani Shapiro author page on Amazon.

Here is a video by Flash Rosenberg (she is a Guggenheim Fellow, and NY Public Library artist-in-residence) from the post The Importance of Frustration in the Creative Process, Animated, by Maria Popova.

In his book Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer writes:

“Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer…

“When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problems were impossible to solve…

“The danger of telling this narrative is that the feeling of frustration… is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer — before we probably even know the question — we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach.”


Innovation, Creative Thinking, Disappointment

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2012). Innovation, Creative Thinking, Disappointment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Apr 2012
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