Creative Squelchers and the Content Creator

It's been a little over a month since my first blog post and the last one where I gave some background on the blog. Where did I go?

To be honest, I have been collecting research and writing posts and saving them all as drafts. I know that somewhat defeats the purpose of a blog, which is to document as I learn and explore creativity but I just never felt ready to publish them. They weren't complete. Which brings me to a topic close to my heart, creative squelchers and how to avoid them.

Image from one of my favorite illustrators:

Image from one of my favorite illustrators:


Today we are going to explore what a "squelcher" is, and how it can be detrimental in the workplace. Mark Runco describes a squelcher as actions and responses that inhibit or block creative thinking. In workplaces, squelchers can range from hasty negative conclusions to an offhand comment about conforming to company culture. Squelchers don't necessarily always come from management either, it can come from co-workers or even yourself! Read this quick list and self-evaluate...have you ever found yourself saying any of these comments in the workplace?

  • That's not how we do things here.
  • It can't be done.
  • We don't have the resources/time/expertise.
  • I knew it wouldn't work.
  • That sounds bizarre.
  • It's not ready.
  • It seems like a lot of work. Can you really do it?
  • You're new so you don't really understand, let's just do this the usual way. 

Creative squelchers are all a form of saying "no" to someone or to yourself. Often, it can be as simple as an offhand comment that might not seem like it would have a long term effect. While it might not seem serious, frequent and consist squelching behavior can result in a deeper rooted environment and culture that inhibits creativity, divergent thinking, productivity, and even trust among co-workers and management. If you work at home or remotely, creative squelchers can stem from and reinforce poor self-esteem, which only increases fear of failure, fear of risks, and fear of the unknown. This fear or uncertainty in any workplace environment can be paralyzing and cause people to continue working to fit a certain mold, rather than strive to exceed expectations, take risks, and push boundaries. 

To avoid saying creative squelchers, consider your responses to co-workers — or yourself — more carefully. While you might be concerned about keeping to deadlines (just an example), your comment could come off as doubting the individual as a professional, or undermining their abilities. "Can you really do it with such little time?" suddenly might make the individual feel self-conscious about their high-achieving goals/vision or doubt their capability. Instead, be constructive about how the individual can be efficient with time and resources. 

On receiving constant squelchers from a particular co-worker or manager, begin simply by understanding that most people are not trying to personally attack you. Their intention is usually good, and if the behavior is consistent take some time to speak openly to the individual about it. A good way to approach this topic is just pointing out when the squelching is occuring, and just let them know that you do not appreciate how they respond to your ideas. Instead, ask for constructive feedback and let them know you are open to suggestions that are specific and beneficial.

What happens when your biggest squelcher is yourself? Because this blog is tied to my final project, I focused much more on what content and research to include, which hindered my own creative process. I was bogged down by the details, which caused me to forget about the bigger picture. My advice to my future self is to just put yourself out there and do it. You can try something, and then learn from your mistakes. It seems cliche to say this, but if you don't try there really is nothing to work off of. Hence why even having all of these drafts sitting in my queue does mean they will get better over time. Sometimes re-reading, editing, and being so self-critical can be your biggest obstacle.