How to Combat a Creative Scarcity Mindset

 A black notebook with red writing that says "Write Ideas" with two overlapping speech bubbles. Next to the notebook is a wooden pencil. The notebook and pencil are on top of a dark stained wooden surface with slats.
Image ID: A black notebook with red writing that says “Write Ideas” with two overlapping speech bubbles. Next to the notebook is a wooden pencil. The notebook and pencil are on top of a dark stained wooden surface with slats.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

My relationship with my creativity has had its ups and downs.

I’ve had periods where I barely keep track of all the ideas I have, so I make lists upon lists so I don’t forget. I’ve had times where I was afraid I would run out of ideas if I didn’t limit them to a reasonable, achievable number of posts per week. Most recently, I took roughly half a year off writing, burned out, depressed, and worried my creativity would never return.

Luckily, creativity is not a scarce resource. It’s all around, and those of us looking for inspiration to share ideas, art, or words can find it without needing to go too far.

Of course, health (physical and mental) is a determining factor in how well we can express our creative sides, and it’s normal to have ups and downs in productivity, motivation, and creative output.

But you will never, ever run out of creativity forever, even if you need to take a break and press pause for a while.

I am living proof of that.

What is a scarcity mindset?

A scarcity mindset means that our brains are focused on what we lack, rather than what we have or what we can work toward bringing into our lives.

When you’re worried about money scarcity, you focus more on the risks of spending rather than acting as if money is abundant and flowing regularly into your life.

Example: I just ordered a $40 planner when I would normally talk myself out of it because it’s “frivolous.”

When you’re worried about food scarcity, you count and stretch every morsel, denying yourself what would fill you up instead of knowing that you have plenty to eat.

Example: My eating disorder, whom I have named Carl, routinely tells me I shouldn’t eat the last of anything so I can save it for later, and then it goes bad in the fridge.

When you’re worried about your business failing, you’re more prone to say yes to discounts or resist raising your rates just to close a sale rather than focusing on attracting the clients who are able and enthusiastic about paying your full price.

Example: I once raised my freelance rates from $25 to $40 an hour, lost one client, and had two more clients accept the change and roll with it.

AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT:

Scarcity is REAL, and I don’t want to pretend that true wealth and security come from your state of mind when you’re facing actual scarcity of income, resources, food, etc.

We live in a society that requires money to live, and you can’t visualize yourself out of traumatic poverty with positive affirmations. Some people are truly in dire straits and need to get on their feet with the basics before they can begin to feel safe going for their big pie-in-the-sky dreams. 

When it comes to things that are finite, like food, money, space in your house, hours of the day, and gas in your car, it makes sense to manage them so that you don’t run out. That’s effective resource management, and it is a survival level need.

Once your survival needs are met, though, THEN the work on your scarcity beliefs about money, creativity, and more can begin. This work takes your focus toward self-actualizing goals that move you toward bigger long-term personal development.

Creativity is unlimited

Why is it that so many of us are afraid that leaning into our inspiration will leave us creatively broke and unable to come up with new ideas tomorrow if we spend them all today?

Your creative ideas aren’t birthday wishes. You can say them out loud! And more will always come.

What thoughts are holding you back from believing that you can achieve what you desire?

  • Making money means I’m a bad person
  • I feel guilty succeeding when I know my friends are struggling
  • Putting myself out there is too risky
  • I don’t have good ideas
  • I’m not good enough at my service/art/trade to charge more for it
  • I’ll run out of ideas of things to write about
  • I can only use an idea once, so it has to be perfect
  • Why bother putting myself out there if I’m not an expert?
  • Other people can do it better than I can

Do any of these apply to you? Look for evidence to the contrary and dig deep about how those beliefs got there in the first place. (We can work on this together, or comment and I’ll try to reply ASAP!)

Think about how many Spider-Man movies there are. Filmmakers just keep remaking them with new actors and different plots. But they keep getting made, and they keep making money. And then we get awesome movies like Into the Spider-Verse.

Your ideas can grow and develop into new iterations too!

Think about the person you want to be in a year, three years, five years — what does that version of you think about these beliefs holding you back? 

Go to the place where you already have everything you desire, and see if you’re still worried about running out of ideas, talent, or happy customers.

Visualize yourself creating your art, your course, your products to the point of being sold out, booked solid, and able to refer potential clients to others in your circle because you’re at capacity with the exact right clients for you!

When in doubt, visualize Future You and see what they have to say about how they got there. I think you’ll find that running out of ideas was never a problem.

Get clarity on your goals

I help clients retrain their brains, rethinking negative thoughts and mental blocks so they can access all their creative potential! Book a free clarity call to see if we’re right for each other.

When Art is Your Love Language

When I’m so happy and satisfied and moved and full of love about something or someone, I make art about it.

I write poetry or love letters. I paint. I create little cartoon portraits on internet apps.

As children and still as adults, long afternoons and evenings were spent with my brother and sister, reaching over each other to get a tube of the next color we needed, trading brushes, just creating together. It led to a lifelong love of creativity and art as an expression of love, affection, and closeness.

When I love someone, I show it in art.

In April, coping with the early days of socially isolating due to the COVID pandemic, my partner and I sent letters to each other to get through the long stretches without seeing each other. I sent him six small watercolor paintings with my letters, and the last letter was a poem.

When my friend lost two pets over the summer, I thought “I should paint them a portrait of those pets.” I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll get there. Sometimes the art has to percolate.

My partner and his roommate love Skyrim, so I painted them a scene of a dragon flying among snowy mountains and a forest. I plan to paint my sister a similar one for her new home when she moves in with her fiancé.

An ex partner loved mermaids, and I painted her a scene of a mermaid looking out to sea at sunset. The mermaid had a back tattoo and a fin mohawk, and the sunset and water were the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

If I love you, I show it in art. In colors. In words.

I’ve tried selling art before, and it doesn’t always feel the same. It’s hard for me to get the art moving without that love behind it.

It’s okay to just enjoy your artistic hobbies and not try to monetize them — it’s a capitalist pressure to think we need to only do things that can bring in income.

Creating for the sake of creation is a radical act, and we should do it more often.

I’ve also made art for people who it turned out weren’t safe for me.

This art feels like a betrayal. Short stories I wrote for an abuser. A painting. A story recited in public about how real and true love and friendship could be.

That lost art was part of me, and undeserved by them. If I had a time machine I would write a different story. But I told that story — even if the story isn’t the truth anymore.

It hurts to know that I put that part of myself on paper or in words, when I later wish I never had.

I can’t take it back, but it hurts to feel like I wasted it.

When I’m feeling blocked creatively, is it because I don’t want to “waste” art on people?

In “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo says that it’s okay to discard (throw away, donate, or otherwise re-home) gifts from others, because sometimes the joy of the item was in the moment of giving. If it no longer gives you joy, it’s okay to discard.

Can the same be true of art?

In the moment, the creation of that art was joyous and full of love. In the moment, the art was pure. The words, the brushstrokes, the art, the love — it was all real.

And the love being real doesn’t mean that the pain wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the abuse wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the betrayal wasn’t real.

I can be at peace with the fact that those people received my art, and my love.

The authenticity of my love, and my art as an extension of it, is about me. Not them.

And I will keep making art.

And I will keep loving.