Creativity thrives on Constraints.

Jake Parker writes in his book, INKTOBER ALL YEAR LONG: “Creativity thrives on constraints. So, build into your challenge a few constraints. When you choose your ‘something,’ don’t go broad, be specific. Instead of challenging yourself to design ‘one hundred different aircraft,’ which could range from massive blimps to guys with jetpack, narrow it down to designing something like ‘one hundred different single seater fighter planes.’ It is in this narrow range of subject matter that you will truly begin to think outside the box.”

It has long been a conventional wisdom that the best way to boost your creativity is to unshackle yourself from all constraints. The theory says that the less you worry about, the more open you will be with ideas. However, this model has proved to be counterproductive over and over again.

You can’t dive right into a project without thinking about its budget or deadline. You can’t keep experimenting with different business models and call it creativity, and expect no repercussions. 

The paralysis of choice often stops us from getting started. There are some days when I have a huge list of ideas to write blog articles on. But I stare at a blank page for over an hour and then switch off my laptop, and start binge-watching Netflix on my mobile phone. 

Ernst Hemingway once bet his friends that he could write an entire story in six words. As impossible as it sounds, he did introduce characters, establish a relationship and told a tale. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Even if the exact details of the story remain unknown, it is still quite powerful. While working with such extreme limitations, Hemingway had to be extra careful while choosing his words, and craft them in a manner that creates both sense and suspense. 

As I am trying to work with some self-imposed constraints in my own creative life, I have seen a clear improvement in the quality of my work. The process has become much more enjoyable and I am more proud of the final output.