Contrary to popular belief, constraints are great for advancing our creativity. I’ve written about that fact quite a bit or maybe … quite a lot. Constraints help us work in a series and create a cohesive body of work.
But the question is: are constraints always great for us? Not quite!!! The obvious reservations about limitations are not totally unfounded. There’s some truth to them.
“When everything in the world was a possibility, I only tried three or four things over and over …once I decided I was going to have relatively severe limitations, everything opened up” ~ Chuck Close
I’ve been sketching a lot for a series that I’m planning on creating next year. I’m really surprised how easy it’s been to generate ideas and new designs for this series. I’ve been so surprised that I’ve started wondering if I’ll ever be able to create artworks from all the designs I’ve already sketched and the many more sketches to come.
But why the ease of designing this particular set of sketches? They, just like most of my designs, are part of a series which is constrained by a set of rules. So, what’s different with this series?
What I noticed is that for this series, the set of rules I’d set out to work with is one of the least restrictive rules I’ve ever created.
Here’s my Series Rule:
Use a knot in every sketch.
Let the elements loop through at least one other element.
Don’t use more than 3 elements in a sketch. PERIOD!!!
That’s it. I have no idea how the design is going to flesh out. I have no restrictions on how it’s going to be implemented in reality.
It’s no coincidence that the “loose rules” of this series have resulted in more designs. It turns out that too many restrictions actually hinder your ability to be creative.
Although working in a series is great, if the rules are too restrictive, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. You’ll have a hard time creating interesting work for any sustained period of time in the series.
Research shows there’s a sweet spot between how much constraints and flexibility work in your favor as a creative person. Each of us has a different sweet spot – a “just the right amount” spot where we thrive best.
You may be able to do well with fewer restrictions than I will or vice versa. The sweet spot is also known to vary per project. That is to say, although your tolerance level for restrictions could be high for one project, it may not be so for the next project.
The principle at work here is called the Goldilocks Principle. This principle refers to an infant’s preference to attend to things which are neither too simple nor too complex.
So How Does the Knowledge about Sweet Spot Serve us Creatives?
- Extremely hard challenges stifle your creativity. Something a little bit beyond your capabilities is the right amount of challenge
- A lack of structure or limitations makes you less creative.
- Your “sweet spot” is not set in stone. You’ve got to constantly work at finding out what it is.
In conclusion, to find your sweet spot, don’t overestimate your capabilities. You’ll be frustrated. And don’t underestimate your creative capabilities either. Because you’ll end up bored.
If you find your sweet spot, you’ll create effortlessly.
How often do you find your sweet spot on the projects you work on?