The Dream Stage of the Creativity Gap

The Creativity Gap is any point in the creative process where you fall off the wagon – the spots between dream and do where you get derailed. 

In this series, The 5 Stages of Creativity & You, I walk you through each stage of the creative process and show you how, why and where you may teeter and are in danger of falling into the Gap. The focus today is on Stage 1 – Dream.


Creativity Gap Stage 1 Dream

All art, all creative acts begin with a dream, a desire, the pleasure of entertaining possibilities; the play of ideas that are swimming round your head, making your fingers itchin’ to stitch, to paint, write, fold or mould. 

For most (but not all), dreaming up ideas and the inspiration to create it is the easiest and most enjoyable part of the creative process. It is certainly where I spend most of my time. As a child, there were three places that set my heart on fire, the art store, the book store, and it’s cousin, the library. Stepping over the threshold, the promise of possibilities washed over me. The world, it’s knowledge, mysteries, creations, beauty and ecstasy were literally at my fingertips. I still feel that way today. 

Falling into the Gap

We fall into the Creativity Gap in Stage 1 when we swamp and saturate ourselves with all the possibilities and end up never taking action on any of them because of indecision and overwhelm. We postpone taking action for fear of heading in the wrong direction, for fear that the skill in your hands won’t match the vision in your head, for fear the results won’t live up to the beauty and emotion you yearn to express.

The Dream stage also involves the accumulation gap – the hole we fall into acquiring dream sustaining tools – the must-have materials with which we will craft these creative dreams. You want to, believe you need to, have just the right brush, journal, color, fabric, paper, wax or elusive rusty object, before you begin to create. Acquiring dream tools is your safe way of making the dream more real, proof that your intentions are sincere.

For others, the Dream stage is an errant lover, here today, gone tomorrow. It is popularly known as artist’s block. No ideas, no desire, frustrated intention, absent inspiration. This gap you’re in is a washed out, waterless well.

By far, the biggest Gap in Stage 1 is MOTIVATION. The space between the desire and the doing is wide, very wide indeed. So wide that many spend their days, and therefore their lives, never bridging the motivation gap. The answer is simple really –  taking one small step, again and again and again.

“Leap and the net will appear,” said writer and naturalist John Burroughs. This he knew because he too would often find himself teetering on the edge of the Gap. The Gap is unavoidable. The secret is in knowing how to identify and bridge it. 

Have you experienced teetering or falling into the Creativity Gap in Stage 1? Join the Creative Conversation. Leave a comment, share your thoughts, solution or insight. Together we can bridge the gap.

Next week discover the danger of Stage 2 – Decision

As always…

Don’t wait for the stars to align.
Create your own constellation.


Creative Conversation 
with Betsy Akins

“…it is hard to let myself actually make things just because I enjoy it.”

Thank you for this wonderful message that calls creative expression an “unnamed longing.”  I too am disturbed about our society’s emphasis on the achievements and expressions of others.  Your confirmation that it is a need really resonates with me.

As an RN who has put the needs of others way before my own (for decades) at great sacrifice, it is hard to let myself actually make things just because I enjoy it.  (I once read about another RN who combines being a maker with work, and calls it “creating and caring.”)

I also appreciated your mention of the way creative expression enriches our lives and the lives of those we love, as that thought further affirms that fulfilling this longing is valid and is a basic need.

If you would like to join in the Creative Conversation, please send your 100+/- word creative conundrum or solution HERE.


  1. Thank you for naming this phenomenon. Today I fell into the “gap” because I was almost finished with two projects and I am afraid I will not be able to come up with another one ! I fear that my creative ideas will stop and then I added my fear that it doesn’t matter anyway, who cares about my art? I hate these negative thoughts- how discouraging and wasteful they are.

    • Lesley Riley says:

      Hello Mary. A phenomenon is right! I’m so excited to be bringing it out in the open so that we can identify where we might or do fall in and take the steps to move out of it. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

  2. Kelly Harms says:

    Man, you nailed this! I found myself nodding in agreement to every one of your points. I’m working on not letting the dreaming, the endless what-ifs, get in the way of actually creating things and moving forward (in art and in life!). Looking forward to the rest of the blog series.

    • Lesley Riley says:

      Thanks, Kelly. There are so many ways and places to fall into the GAP. Being aware is the beginning of climb out, isn’t it?

  3. What especially resonates with me is the acquisition of “dream tools”. Even as a child I had to have such-and-such before taking another step towards creativity. I currently have everything I could possibly “need” to pursue my art, yet I feel discontent. Like something is missing. I recently felt so overwhelmed by all of my choices that I froze. I was at a total loss as to what to do. So I did nothing. I now realize that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. I think I was more content with my box of 64 crayons and a tablet of paper than I am with a room full of every supply imaginable. Thank you so much for starting this series! You’ve already given me a lot to consider.

    • Lesley Riley says:

      Thank you, Bridget, for sharing your situation. I do believe it is quite common. Do stay tuned!