Constraints Foster Creativity, Abundance Doesn’t
At the beginning of the year, I read an article on how constraints foster creativity. I was so fascinated with the article that I posted it on my Facebook Page. The article challenged my thinking on how constraints foster creativity.
I knew that putting limitations on yourself is a good way to work in a series and develop a body of work. But this article surprised me.
Because it went beyond what I knew which is, constraints foster creativity when you purposefully put limitations on yourself, to make another assertion.
It made the case, based on research, that the abundance of resources – any type of resource – is counter-productive to creativity. In other words, having more makes you less creative. Quite startling – don’t you think?
The More Resources You Have, the Less Creative You Are
The idea that constraints foster creativity means you don’t have to have more time in order to be creative. You don’t have to have more art supplies in order to be creative. You don’t have to have a bigger studio space in order to be creative. So ok, we get it! We don’t need to have more to create better.
But what if we just like to have more stuff? What if we just can’t do without? That’s no big deal, right? Sorry, but yes it is a big deal! Contrary to conventional wisdom, Scott Sonenshein, the author of Stretch, says “the odds of success decreases “if we amass lots of resources”. He goes on to explain that having more resources also leaves us feeling less capable and less accomplished.”
The More Resources You Have, the Less Accomplished You Feel.
Come to think of it, this makes perfect sense. If you have all the resources it takes, a large studio space with world-class technology, equipment, tools, and supplies yet you’re aren’t able to create exciting work, won’t you feel bummed? I would!!
I think most of us don’t realize that buying all the nice creative tools, equipment, and supplies will not make us more creative. So, somehow we fall victim to the notion that more is better.
But what exactly is it about the abundance of supplies that makes us less creative? Researchers say when we have a lot of things, we lose the incentive to use that thing in novel ways. However, if we encounter constraints in some way, our brains naturally look for creative ways to make things work for us.
So as I went about working in my studio, I wondered about the one thing that could be stifling our creativity. And hands down, the one thing textile artists and art quilters cannot have enough of is (drumroll please)….fabric!
Textile Artists Cannot Have Enough Fabric
Have you seen this quote?
“One yard of fabric like one cookie is never enough.
What about this one?
My husband lets me have all the fabric I can hide.
Does the excess fabric buying help our creativity? Nah…
I think it’s time we had a talk about the fabric problem most of us have. Don’t you think? Let’s have that talk in part 2 of this series. Shall we?
But before that, ponder over this:
Appreciate that you already have everything you need to succeed in business and life. Stop worrying about what you don’t have and start engaging what you do have in more useful ways. ~ Scott Soneshein
Test Your Fabric-Love Relationship?
Do you buy fabric when …..
- There’s a sale? Y/N
- You need it? Y/N
- You go by the fabric store? Y/N
- There’s no one home to see you bring it in? Y/N
- You feel like it? Y/N
How many of your answers were YES? Share your results in the comments section below.
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Mary Kay Love says
I answered yes to # 1 and #2, No to all the rest. My financial resources are indeed more limited now than they’ve been in my “prior life,” but to be fair, I amassed a goodly amount of fabric then, and had to sell some of it to make money to move, and because of my current space constraints. Now, I go to the fabric and yarn stores when I need something for a particular idea or project, and I simply CANNOT go crazy, because $$$$ is limited!
Clara Nartey says
Your experience has just proven the research right. Thanks for sharing.
Jo vdmey says
I answered yes to one and two…. And I would say three on occasion. But generally I don’t go shopping unless I need something and then when I do I sometimes buy something else.
I have been trying to shop my stash.
Buying new supplies can be my compulsion just like learning something new or trying a new technique. This can be a down fall for me. To many things… Not knowing what to work on. If I don’t use the supplies then they have unlimited potential.
I am trying to overcome fear… Fear of failure somewhat but more of fear of my idea not coming out as planned. The plan is always better then the result! Lol
I know now I need to give myself the permission to just do the work without an expectation of some grand result. So I am just trying to show up and do some work each day!
Your posts are just what I need!
Clara Nartey says
You’re absolutely right!!! I like that you used the word “compulsion ” because that’s exactly what it usually is.
When it comes to translating your vision into creation it takes time to get it.
So keep creating so you can get the average work out of the way and then you can get started on making awesome work.
Remember in the beginning quantity is better than quality. Just create more work.!!!!
Glad that my posts are helping. 🙂
Ellen Schwark says
I answered yes to #1 and #2 also, but emphasis on #2 (and it has to be a there’s nothing in the stash pantry moment) since starting to live on a fixed income. Also, I use techniques that call for inexpensive fabrics like tulle and cheesecloth. My real downfall, however, is dyes, paints and similar supplies – just can’t seem to say no to a good dye!
Clara Nartey says
Good for you, Ellen. Your control over how you buy fabric is great.
You need to find a way to do the same for dyes too.
I know it’s hard but you want to be creative with the little dye supplies you’ve got.
I think this article is correct. I have amassed a collection of craft materials and fabrics. I have started to rein in my buying tendencies but find the lure of new ideas and materials hard to resist. I have come across the concept of less is more several times lately and see that it has great merit for me to consider. Internet makes it very easy to buy as there are not quilt or yarn shops in my area. Buying on sale is a trap as well. Making goals and priorities is helping me to curb my enthusiasm and fostering more creativity.
Clara Nartey says
Way to go Donna!!! Keep working on those goals and priorities It’s the way to make good progress.
Kristin McNamara Freeman says
My answers to the questions have drastically changed since I retired 6 years ago. Prior to that my answers would all be a yes, some more yes than others. Always with the idea that if I had “enough” fabric I would never be limited in what I could make when my retirement income was a reality. The big reality for me was looking at what I had amassed and saying “If I lived to be 125 I could never stitch up all of that fabric”. So, I have sold some, I have given much away to refugee population here and now I am getting closer to a manageable, usable, healthy collection of fabrics for making clothing and for my artwork.
Clara Nartey says
Going on retirement and being on a fixed income may appear to be a constraint.
But as you’ve just illustrated, being on a fixed income is a good constraint to have. It helps you use your resources more creatively.
And that’s exactly what we all want to do. Be more creative.
Thanks for sharing.
Liz Ozselcuk says
This is probably the story of my life! I spent years working and bringing up two kids as a single mom, with no left over energy or time to do much extra. So I would buy stash as a way of rewarding myself with deferred pleasure. Now I’m retired and still buying stash. I don’t want to stop entirely, I have to admit, because collecting things, like craft books, is a pleasure in its own right. But there is a psychological difference when we shop, for anything not just fabric, and we have a list of things we need for current projects, versus things we want for undefined future projects. I have gotten quite good at getting novels for free from the local recycling center. I tend to read them and not hoard them. And when I am done, I keep a few (well, perhaps a few too many) and walk around my neighborhood and redistribute the rest in the free book roadside libraries that are now everywhere. I just need to start treating the creative stuff like a job, with goals and measurable results and occasional public display, and I’ll be better off and less prone to impulse buying.
Clara Nartey says
You make an important point when you say “I just need to start treating the creative stuff like a job, with goals and measurable results and occasional public display, and I’ll be better off and less prone to impulse buying.”
Love it. – treat it like a job and you’ll be less prone to impulse buying..