Whether you’re an artist, designer, photographer, or any create professional, sometimes knowing where to start on a project can be difficult if you don’t have any guidelines or foundation. It seems sort of counterintuitive, right? We tend to assume that with infinite possibility comes infinite ease, because we can choose anything.
But this isn’t always true. In fact, it can actually hinder the creative process. But why?
It’s simple, really – it’s the choice factor. Imagine going to buy an ice cream cone and you have 20 flavors to choose from. Unless you’ve been there before and already know your favorite, it’s very likely that you’ll stand around for at least five minutes trying to decide what you want, if not longer. But if you approach a simple ice cream cart with only three choices – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, the choice is easy.
Now, we definitely don’t want to eliminate the wonderful plethora of choice out there. This is one of the delicious parts of creating that makes it so fun. Life would be boring if there were only ever three flavors of ice cream. However, knowing which limitations and restrictions to place on a creative project can dramatically enhance your creative abilities, because it limits the choices.
Why is that? It is those very restrictions that force us to think more creatively. Ideas that would never have occurred to us otherwise will appear suddenly in our mind, and we’ll think, “what a great concept!” This is the secret of those “outside the box” thinkers. They know that without having a box to begin with, they can’t break free from it.
If you are a painter, grab a blank canvas and choose just five colors. Then grab a tool besides a paint brush – it can be a sponge, a palette knife, your fingers, a fork, a toothpick, anything. Now paint an entire painting using only those paints and that tool. I guarantee you will learn something new, because you are taking it to the edge of its possibility. You are going to ask yourself, “how can I do this in a way I haven’t thought of before?” You may even discover that you have a knack for creating a completely new style that no one else has done before.
If you are a photographer, limit yourself to one light in a dark room. Or only one piece of special equipment. Ask yourself how you could take a good landscape photo without a tripod, and don’t give up until you’ve done it. Take photos in what most photographers consider the worst conditions – high noon lighting, a dark room, an overly-windy day. In doing so, you will likely find ways of getting around the problem and being able to take advantage of the circumstances and create photos that look unusual and unique to you.
There is so much that you can do to set limitations that cause you to be come creative; just use your imagination. And most of all – have fun with this!