Freedom doesn’t make it easier to create — constraints do.
If I handed you a blank piece of paper and asked you to draw something, what would you draw?
How long would it take to decide?
How much would you worry if you had drawn the “right” thing or that what you chose was good enough?
Now, imagine an alternate scenario.
I hand you a piece of paper and say, “Draw a table.”
How much more quickly would you start to draw?
How much more confident would you be in what you created?
One more scenario: What if I hand you a piece of paper and say, “Draw a table using a red pen.”
Each scenario requires you to create something and there are infinite creations that would match the request.
But the more details I give you — the more constraints — the easier and less stressful it becomes for you to create.
You’re more likely to struggle when asked to draw something than when asked to draw something specific.
That’s because freedom doesn’t make it easier to create — constraints do.
Orson Welles knew this. That’s why he said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.”
Everyone tells you to think outside the box.
That your most creative work will be a direct result of the creative freedom you experience.
That you should be different. Think bigger. Start a revolution.
Zig when everyone zags.
That advice has its place, but it’s also a fast track to creative frustration.
Creative magic isn’t found outside the box, it’s inspired within it.
Creativity is a reaction. Without something to react to, it’s infinitely harder to turn nothing into something.
Successful creators embrace these constraints and find ways to create their own box.
Writers use genres and formats to establish boundaries for them to play within and help their stories find logical beginnings and ends.
Artists can use any color they want, but typically limit themselves to a specific palette or style.
Entrepreneurs seek to disrupt the status quo, but most often do so not by flying in the face of human nature, but rather by embracing it.
Which brings me back to you.
Choose a set of constraints for your work.
Set parameters for your vision.
Establish rules for what you will or won’t do.
Pin yourself in.
When you do, your creative process will become easier and your creations will become better.
As G.K. Chesterton said, “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”
Go find your frame.