Creative Limitations. Oxymoron, or the best thing ever?

Give children a schoolyard with no fences. They tend to play away from the fences. There is a ‘no-go zone’ around the edge that they avoid.

A fenced playground — they will play all the way up to the fences, and even invent games involving the fence itself.

What is working here are boundaries. When we know the limits, we can work right up to them, and push against them.

So, write a book. What book? Any book.

So many people want to be an author, and struggle to get started. The field is too broad, the choices and possibilities are endless.

Start on this, and you’ll think of that. Maybe that would be better… Is my idea the best one? Many aspiring authors can spend their whole lives in this place.

But.

Go to a weekend workshop and be presented with an elastic band, a tennis ball and a yoyo. There is now something to bounce ideas off, something to seed thinking. Ideas start to flow.

Try to write without the word ‘the.’ That gives our minds something to chew on.

Include the word ‘disguise.’ Suddenly we have something to ponder on.

These are all creative limitations, and I’d argue that they foster creativity rather than limit it.

Limitations narrow down the possibilities and get creativity started.

What happens is that we are distracted from the infinite possibilities that exist. We focus on the permutations and combinations of the one or two aspects of our limitation. We bounce off it and look at it from all angles. We focus.

One idea leads to another. Conversely ‘all the ideas in the world’ tend to float around out there, and keep on floating.

So, you might have guessed, I’m a fan of creative limitations.

Write a book. What book? Do a painting. What painting?

If the world won’t impose creative limitations on us, we need to do it ourselves.

There are ways to do this:

  • Open any book and choose the first noun that your finger comes to rest on. Not a good one? Excellent. The best ideas will come from tossing that word around for a while. Jumble the letters, try something on the opposite side of the world from it, fill in the Os and turn the tall letters into ones. Translate it into Japanese and back into English. Your character has a dream about it that makes him change his attitude to ……….. You get the idea.
  • Remove several of your usual tools. Create with what nature can provide.
  • Ask a friend to impose some limits on your usual process, or to give you something random to start with.
  • Hit the random button in Wikipedia.

The idea is not to reject your limit as being too hard, but to work through it, at least for a while. See what comes. From the most unlikely sources can come the best results.

Practice works too. You will get better at this the more you run with these seemingly limited scenarios.

Techniques that give you something random are great for finding limits

And if you are writing commercially, what better place to start than finding what people are searching for via Google Analytics or a similar service. if people want to know about X, already you have cut the whole world of possibilities down to something you can grasp and get creative about.

Creative Limitations. I love them. Creativity loves them.

More reading. There are ideas and one mantra for finding creative limits here. Feel free to be limited.