Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the seemingly unlimited possibilities for your creative project? Too many creative choices — sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But technology offers such a multitude of new tools, resources, and doodads, it can be hard to wade through all the options and make forward progress. Maybe it’s time to set a limit.
A few weeks ago, I read this article. To summarize, “When you have fewer resources, you use them more creatively.” It isn’t too surprising, since some of my favorite creative people have said the same:
- Musician, software developer, and technologist Brian Transeau, BT, says, “For me, personally, I find that limiting my tools makes me infinitely more creative.” (I love BT. I can geek out over him geeking out all day long. Speaking of limiting…)
- Although illustrator Abigail Halpin works in both traditional and digital mediums, she likes to begin a composition in regular ol’ pen or pencil.
- Austin Kleon finds incredible insights with a newspaper and a sharpie.
Think about it. How many visual artists have spent time exploring a single color? Or stuck with only one medium for a time? Film makers may try out a short silent film, or a black-and-white project. Stage plays may have only one set, or one actor to play all the parts.
Writers have really interesting ways of limiting scope but cranking up the creative juices. Try these:
Normally write fiction? Then try poetry. Short stories? How about collaborating with a local art student to create a graphic novel! Write a piece of nonfiction showcasing your expertise and pitch it to your home town newspaper. You might be surprised how putting yourself in an unfamiliar box ends up freeing your mind.
Limit Point of View
You could even tell your story using a fictional narrator that is experiencing limitations. I loved Firmin, a book narrated by a rat. A rather philosophical rat, but a rat is limited in certain ways, undoubtedly. Who can forget the movie Memento, where the protagonist suffers short-term memory loss? At the very least, challenge yourself to use a different point of view than your go-to preference. Obviously, you need to be careful with this maneuver. Mix it up, but keep it clear to the reader.
If you normally write on a laptop, then try to flesh out your project with paper. And if you outline on paper, use a chalkboard or a dry erase board, instead. Get your day’s assignment (a chapter, a scene, five pages, whatever) up on the wall before you let yourself commit your material to a digital device. Have you ever sat down to an old typewriter? Now that can infuse your story with drama! Oh, and what if you tried to dictate a poem or the bones of a story using your voice-to-text app? Pick one tool and run with it as far as you can.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer limitlessness of your options, then don’t be afraid to create some false boundaries for your projects. Picasso said, “If you have five elements available use only four. If you have four elements use three.”
What do you think? Do affluence and availability cause our creativity to suffer?