What to do when you’re creatively constrained

Creativity means making the most of it.

It’s easy to blame a lack of creative inspiration or motivation on circumstance, but to do so is to forget that creativity is about curiosity, resourcefulness, and action.

Creativity takes no excuses.

“My boss doesn’t allow for new ideas,” is another way of saying “I can’t come up with a creative way to sell my ideas, to innovate.”

“My job is too restrictive,” is another way of thinking you’re stuck with the perspective of the work you’ve been instructed to pursue.

But like the painter looking at the edges of the canvas, the best ideas are built within constraints, by seeing what’s possible within the bounds. As Steven Johnson writes in his book, Where Good Ideas Come From:

“Good ideas are…inevitably, constrained by the parts and skills that surround them.”

Often the solution to feeling creatively restricted is more creativity.

If you’re feeling creatively constrained, look at the resources available to you, flip your perspective, ask for help, or challenge yourself to innovate in small steps. If you find yourself constantly restricted in what you can do with your ideas, take a step back and determine what it is within yourself that is making you feel so.

Lack of energy or interest in the work, not enough on the table, feelings of the effort being unappreciated, these are all ways we lose touch with our creativity and turn toward external excuses rather than trying to solve the issues themselves.

Maybe above all, always remember the wise words from Pixar’s Ed Catmull:

“When faced with a challenge, get smarter.”