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Creative Limits

July 27, 2012


No Admittance“When forced to work within a strict framework the imagination is taxed to its utmost—and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom the work is likely to sprawl.”  – T.S. Eliot

Nothing is more terrifying to an artist or a writer than an empty canvas or a blank sheet of paper. When we think of creativity, we think of freedom, no limits, other than our own imagination. But when we’re faced with too many choices, we freeze-up, get overwhelmed—become blocked.

One way to overcome these barriers, is to establish boundaries for our work. These restrictions can be liberating. Borders, fences, lines, frames—define our creative effort—they help us focus as we mix and match the limited elements to create the finished artwork. When we set self-imposed constraints for a project, like time, money, or materials, we narrow the field of possibilities and challenge ourselves to come up with a solution based on what’s available. It’s when we’re at our best creatively.

Whether it’s a haiku poem, a twenty minute presentation, a book, a painting, a photograph, a song or a dance—creative limits provide structure and clarity.

This can work for us in all areas of our life. When we have many possibilities we often end up doing nothing. But when we layout our own road map and create milestones with deadlines, we get a better understanding of our destination—of where we want to go and what we want to do along the way.

“If you have five elements available use only four. If you have four elements use three.” Pablo Picasso

Stay within the lines, the lines are our friends.

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