Part of being creative is knowing what works, what doesn’t work, and what we need to do to break the things we feel are in the way of us succeeding. Too often when I’m talking to creative people, I hear about how the constraints of their situation are keeping them from being their best and creating art they love. Most of the time the constraints sound the same:
• Not enough resources (people, money, tools)
• No permission
• Bosses who “don’t get it”
• _________ (Fill in the blank)
But the truth is what if these same constraints are actually the best thing that could happen to us? In 2006, Businessweek quoted Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer saying: “Constraints shape and focus problems, and provide clear challenges to overcome as well as inspiration. Creativity loves constraints, but they must be balanced with a healthy disregard for the impossible.” Mayer is right. We have to shift our thinking from being against constraints to embracing them. They’re not going anywhere, so what are we doing to make them work for us?
Constraints provide us with clear boundaries. When we know where the boundaries are, we can stay on the canvas. We actually need boundaries to make our best stuff. Constraints give us clarity, even when we don’t like what they represent.
So what do we do with constraints? How do we leverage them to make us better?
• Look for the opportunity, not the opposition. What does this constraint do to help you?
• Start saying “Yes and…” It’s the first rule of improv. “Yes and” creates opportunity.
• How can we use creativity to work around this issue? It’s the core of creativity in the first place to be a tool for problem solving.
• Ask how this constraint can help clarify the end goal.
So today as an artist, are you allowing your constraints to make you better and more creative or are you allowing constraints to define what you can do?