Getting around creative constraints


Constraints are a curious thing. Often they’re self inflicted, or even imagined. When we feel creatively stuck it’s either because the constraints we feel are too overwhelming are too restrictive, or because we’ve simply failed to see how temporary or fraud the constraints actually are.

A baby elephant who spends her life tied by rope to a small post in the floor will forever believe it is unmovable, even in her adulthood when her strength is 10x that of her younger self.

We, too, have ropes and posts in our lives which we become accustomed to.

We believe we can’t successfully start a business of our own because we wouldn’t know where to start, we’re not qualified. Qualifications to start anything in life are a rope and a post.

We feel stuck on a problem because it’s unfamiliar, daunting, and the risk of failing feels almost deadly. Risks are typically a rope and a post, particularly when it comes to creative endeavors.

If you want to embrace feeling stuck, because it’s comfortable and it’s all you’ve ever known, that’s ok. But the world is a really large place, one you can influence and change if you decide to.

And really that’s the thing about constraints, they’re only constraints if you decide they are. You’re stronger than you think. Sometimes you just have to push past what you perceive as boundaries and see what happens as a result. Even if that means writing with permanent marker on your work desk.

To get around constraints you can ask what would happen if you charged forward without regard to repercussions. Or ask others for their perspective. Or take a minute to step back and see why the constraints exist in the first place (and what exists just outside of them). Change the rules you’re playing by. And if you find yourself reaching the edge of your canvas, you should always feel entitled to write or paint or play just outside of it. The best insights always come when our work spills outside of the constraints.

What can you do if you viewed constraints as bendable, faux, or merely recommendations rather than rules?