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You're not as creative as you think
You're MORE, and you just don't know it.
If you've been around me for a reasonable amount of time you may have heard me share this very specific idea.
Creativity is a muscle and the only way to make it strong is to work out.
Of course, the opposite is true, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Painting, drawing, designing, sculpting, or taking photos are not inherently creative. They are merely acts that indulge a particular hemisphere of our brains.
They are mere acts that we perform. The creative part comes when we explore new territory.
When we allow ourselves to try new media, mediums, motifs, styles, subject matter, and ideas, that’s where real creativity happens.
The bolder get with our creativity, the more fearless we become, trying new things more often, but that fearlessness comes at a price.
There is a diminishing return on creativity because the more fearless we get, the harder it becomes to find creative solutions that scare us. And when we get so bold that nothing scares us, and we continue making what we’ve always made, our creative muscle starts to slowly atrophy,
However, there is one method that is proven to help generate creative thought no matter how bold and fearless we become.
When was the last time you purposely put a limitation on any creative work you made?
How did the work turn out, and how did it make you feel?
Scared, empowered, confused, happy?
Did you continue to use that same approach in your work, or at the very least, did it show you things about your work that you had not seen until then?
When we apply limitations on ourselves, it creates space in our consciousness previously occupied by total freedom, and that space can now be filled with new ideas.
Putting yourself in new boxes presents opportunities to work your way out of those boxes.
This Feels Strange
My son and I are big fans of Disney’s MCU, but we’re not comic book readers and we’re definitely not diehards.
Spend any time watching reaction videos about any of the Marvel movies and shows, and you’ll find an entire population of people that will argue every single irregularity that movies make against the original comics.
To push back against the irregularities, the ever-brilliant folks at Disney came up with a perfect solution by asking, “What if…”
In fact, they made an entire animated series on that topic where they indulged the possibility that what we know is only a single version of the stories and there are actually infinite variations of those stories, now referred to as the Multiverse.
It started with the first Dr. Strange movie, then Wandavision and Loki series, What If, Spiderman, and finally Dr. Strange again, and I’m certain we will continue to see it as a recurring theme in movies and shows to come.
Anytime there is a conflict between stories, we are programmed to assume it’s merely a different universe than the one we expect.
The byproduct is that the MCU has a new tool for creating an infinite amount of stories by merely asking, “What if…”
And so do you.
There are countless ways of implementing constraints in your work but allow me to kick it off with a few suggestions, and then you take it from there.
What if you couldn’t use a computer?
What if you only had one font?
What if you couldn’t use images?
What if you couldn’t use typography?
What if you could only use your mobile (non-tablet) device?
What if you could only use one brush
Or one color but mixed with white
What if you worked smaller
And then even smaller still?
What if you only had cheap materials?
What if you only worked on found objects?
What if you didn’t have clay?
What if you only had one tool besides your hand
What if you didn’t use your hands at all?
What if you worked blindfolded (safely, of course)?
What if you had to implement broken clay pieces?
What if you had only a cheap camera?
What if you only had an old iPhone?
What if you used film instead of digital?
What if you doubled exposed everything?
What if you taped off half your lens?
What if you shot at with only a glowstick for light?
What if you had only pens, no pencils?
What if you had to stay zoomed in the entire time?
What if you drew the same subject in several styles?
What if you could only use crayons
What if you had to draw with an eraser?
What if you couldn’t erase anything?
Many of these suggestions can be carried over to different disciplines, and the more you use them, the more opportunities you will find to add new constraints.
I know that I personally am in need of some new thinking and I want to try some of these in my work. The idea of constantly pushing my creative limits excites me and I can’t wait to explore these new worlds and share my experience.
I also invite you to share your own exploration, and if you find yourself stuck for ideas, hit me up. I’ll put some limitations on you.
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