Creative Constraints

Creative Constraints

My early morning walks along the water have become my idea sanctuary. Wandering downtown, soaking in silence, and admiring cotton candy-looking clouds awaken thoughts usually hidden beneath daily responsibilities and to-do lists.

During yesterday’s outing, as I walked over the bridge above the Intracoastal Waterway I thought about how constraints help us become more creative.

It may seem counterintuitive, but without constraints, every option is available to us. We’re faced with unlimited possibilities. It’s why we often feel overwhelmed when making decisions about content creation, business, and well…life. When we have so many options to choose from, oftentimes we choose none.

It happens in business, what to invest in, where to eat, what to spend time doing and even in choosing a romantic partner. Our options seem limitless. Until we give ourselves guidelines.

Let’s use content creation as an example. We could record videos, write a blog, start a podcast, design Infographics, write a whitepaper, or start a newsletter. With so many directions we can explore, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In fact, this phenomenon is known as the paradox of choice. It was popularized by American psychologist Barry Schwartz when he published his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. He identified that the range of choices we have available to us today is far greater than people had in the past.

You may think that would mean we were happier and more fulfilled. After all, who doesn’t want lots of choices? However, that’s not the case. Schwartz found that having this plethora of choices in the modern world was actually causing people to be less happy with their decisions.

So what does this have to do with creativity?

When we give ourselves constraints, we become more creative because we’ve created a box to play in. We’ve forced ourselves to make a choice.

If we decide videos will be our content medium of choice, we no longer expend precious energy thinking about all other platforms. We gain focus. Now we simply get to decide what kind of videos to create, what topics we will cover, and their length. These are added constraints that again, help us be more creative. When we choose to create one-minute videos, we make choices on how we are going to convey our message in the clearest, most impactful way in a limited amount of time instead of creating a possible 20-minute rambling session.

Giving ourselves constraints forces us to limit options, making it easier and more fun to be creative. It forces us to say yes to one thing so we can so no to others. It’s how small businesses without a huge marketing budget create killer campaigns that convert better than those of big corporations with unlimited resources. It’s the artist with limited supplies that creates a masterpiece, and the poet that writes an award-winning poem after challenging herself to create the story using only one hundred words.

How will you use constraints in your life to become more creative? If you’d like to share, send me a message on Instagram. I would love to hear from you.

Ideas to Inspire

1. This week’s episode of Create For No Reason is sure to have you laughing. My guest Stu Jefferey has over 910K followers on TikTok. His videos are hilarious and he is a talented creator we can all learn from.

2. If you’re interested in becoming a better writer, you may enjoy Anne Lamott’s book Bird By Bird. Check out my quick book review.

3. Inspiring Quote: “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”- Sylvia Plath

4. Book Recommendation: I was so excited to get my copy of Steven Pressfield’s new book, Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be. It’s an easy and inspiring read.

5. Journaling Prompt: How will you use constraints to spark your creativity?
For more journaling prompts, check out my Create For No Reason Journal.