The “Finishing” Trap



Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work with many creative, imaginative and talented individuals.  I have found in my own life as well as in the lives of my friends and clients, that the creative impulse and imagination we possess are magnificent self-healing tools.  When we allow ourselves to follow our creative curiosity, we intuitively find outlets to our most difficult feelings.  We find ways to express what we can’t consciously or verbally say out loud. With that, we often find new, more helpful ways of thinking about our lives.


Sadly, more often than not, my creative, imaginative, and talented clients make their way into my office after long periods of creative droughts.  For some, the drought had started early in childhood, when their imaginative self expression was met with scorn and criticism, maybe even severe punishment.  For many, the drought took over gradually, as the creative curiosity and enthusiasm slowly gave room to fear of criticism, to the need to fit it into environments that were not accepting or supportive, and to the value our society puts on the end product rather than the creative process.


It is amazing to me how many of my blocked creative clients share similar self-defeating beliefs about the importance of “finishing”.  I have to admit, that for many years, I was trapped by a similar belief. I can’t tell you enough about how good it feels to be free of the pressure to “finish.”  But, I can  assure you that ever since I allowed myself to let go of this belief,  I have been having a lot more fun, by exploring different mediums of self expression, and consequently,  being able not only start, but also finish many creative projects.

The following is a typical conversation that happens at one point or another, during my sessions with blocked creatives:

Blocked Creative:  I had an idea for this project for a long time (write a short story, build a bench, plant a garden, take a cooking class, start a business, etc.) but I just haven’t been able to start.

Me:What stops you from starting?

BC: (Normally after a long pause,) well…I’m not sure that I will be able to finish it.  I will probably quit in the middle.  So why bother.  Right?

Me:What makes you think that you will quit?

BC: (Confidently) My history.  I never finish anything.  I have a basement full of unfinished projects. 

Me:  (Smiling mischievously) SO WHAT? 

BC:  (Looking confused) what do you mean?

Me:  So what if you don’t finish? 

BC:  (Looking at me as if I just grew a horn on my forehead,) well…uh…that wouldn’t be good, would it?

Me:  What’s not good about starting and not finishing?

BC:  Hmm …I guess that if I start something and don’t finish it, it would mean that I have failed…and…and… wasted (time, money, energy, etc.)

Me: So, who told that not finishing meant to fail or waste?  I mean – who told you that it was important to finish your projects?

BC:  Everyone!  My parents,  my spouse, my children, teacher, employers (and so on.)

Me:  Of course, when the goal is to be paid or get a grade, we must complete the task for which we will be graded or paid.  But, tell me -what makes you want to start this project (drawing, writing, building, cooking, etc.)?

BC:  I just always wanted to see how it would be to do it. 

Me:  So your goal, or your reward in this case is “to see how it would be to do it.”

BC:  Hmm…I guess so.

Me:And what if you figured out how it was to do it before you actually finished the project?

BC:  Hmm…well…that’s an interesting point (looking puzzled, but starting to smile).

Sooner or later in this conversation we discover that the initial goal of the blocked creative was to experience the PROCESS, and that the PRODUCT was an expectation made by others, who (unfortunately for them) could not appreciate the amazing benefits of simply exploring, experimenting, learning, and being in the moment of creativity.


If you are a blocked creative, I would like to encourage you to give yourself permission to not finish.  Rather, notice what happens when you are in that “zone”…you know what I’m talking about…that moment of focused concentration, the energy that flows through you, the excitement of discovery.  Many artists and creative thinkers describe the experience of being in the moment of creativity as a moment of connection to the world, the divine, or a higher self.   Really, there is nothing as wonderful as this zone, is there?

More information at

Below is a poem by Pablo Neruda, describing the moment of creativity as he experienced it.

How would you describe YOUR EXPERIENCE?

Please share.


And it was at that age … Poetry arrived

in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where

it came from, from winter or a river.

I don’t know how or when,

no they were not voices, they were not

words, nor silence,

but from a street I was summoned,

from the branches of night,

abruptly from the others,

among violent fires

or returning alone,

there I was without a face

and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth

had no way

with names,

my eyes were blind,

and something started in my soul,

fever or forgotten wings,

and I made my own way,


that fire,

and I wrote the first faint line,

faint, without substance, pure


pure wisdom

of someone who knows nothing,

and suddenly I saw

the heavens


and open,


palpitating plantations,

shadow perforated,


with arrows, fire and flowers,

the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,

drunk with the great starry


likeness, image of


felt myself a pure part

of the abyss,

I wheeled with the stars,

my heart broke loose on the wind.


A big Thank You to my friend Slava Bowman, for the pictures in this blog,  Slava is a successful Washington, MO photographer, who first started taking pictures as a hobby.  Her fearless exploration and curiosity gave birth to a successful blog “Re-Discover Washington,” that significantly energized Washington’s social and business communities.  Slava is a great example of how letting oneself explore may become a blessing to others.  You can find more of her photography on

Please feel free to contact me!

Appointments available online, serving Union, Washington, St. Louis and throughout the state of Missouri

Office Hours

Yael DiPlacido, LCSW


10:00 am-6:00 pm


10:00 am-6:00 pm


10:00 am-6:00 pm


10:00 am-6:00 pm