I tend to have difficulty trying to create something just for the sake of creating something. For example, if there’s a contest or a class assignment that just says “make a magazine spread about anything,” it takes me a really long time to figure out what “anything” will be. It’s a lot easier for me to be told to make a spread about a specific topic.
I know this probably has to do with creativity, and maybe this means I’m less creative than I’d like to say I am. But I think the root of the problem isn’t just creativity, it’s just that I need some sort of direction to narrow down the possibilities from an infinite number of choices. Infinity is a daunting concept, and I’d much rather avoid it. Besides, when I work for a client I [hopefully] won’t be told to “just make anything,” as the client would at least tell me what the design should be about.
I think this difference can possibly defined as “art” and “communication,” two concepts that divide graphic design and graphic design schools. Many schools put design in their art department, and if I were at one of those I may be better at designing “anything.” But I’m at a school where graphic design is in the communication department, and so I need to have concepts given to me first so I can convey them through design. That’s not to say that art has nothing to communicate, because it certainly does, but the abstract concepts they come from are entirely different.