Choose Constraint

I've long struggled with writing. I've tried various schedules or setting loose deadlines for myself to ensure that I'd write. Often as quickly as I made those faux promises to myself I would break them because I wanted to write something that mattered, something that would change someone's life, possible for the better. I tried to convince myself to begin writing as a discipline, but then it just became a chore, or a hobby I wished I had but knew I may never get better at. However, when the life changing things didn't come, I didn't write anything. I didn't write anything because I felt like I didn't have anything to write, but because I could write anything, I didn't write anything. (I'll know give you a paragraph break so you can read that last sentence over again before moving on.)

I need constraints. I need limitations, guidelines, a category, a topic, something. Because I could write anything, I didn't write anything. How lame. Writing has become a way for me to thinking linearly. I think sometimes in my mind I think that creative thoughts should just appear out of thing air, but the reality I'm realizing is that creativity is part of a continuing process of refining out what doesn't work, and then assembling what does work into some sort of new idea or expression.

I realize that if show someone something I created, they can only appreciate it for what it is, but unlike me they can't appreciate it for what it's not. I can look at it and go back over in my mind the process I went through of discovering what wouldn't work. What typefaces didn't match, what color schemes sucked, what textures didn't match, what subtle details weren't there, but they don't see any of that. You just see what I chose out of the slew of possibilities. Nick Vegas said "If you can break down what you're doing step by step for someone else to replicate, what you're doing isn't very creative." At first I disagreed, but now I get it.

There are things about creative thinking and problem solving that are just inexplicable. I often can't articulate what got me from "that creative brief" to "this solution" other than to say that I know what wouldn't work, and I'm constantly searching for more things to bring together that will work better than what I would have chosen yesterday. If you ever feel like you've learned everything there is to know, congratulations you are now irrelevant. But in all this focus is key.

Constraints help weed out what is automatically irrelevant to a potential solution. It doesn't mean it's not valuable, just not relevant. If no restraints exist, then I create my own restraints to either weed out or to challenge myself. Things like "I'm only going to use one color, or just this typeface, or only circles and paper texture. But in the limitation, it gives you a limit to push. How much can you do with just one typeface, paper texture, circle shapes, and one color? You'd be surprised if you tried I'm sure.

All this to say, that constraints help me focus, not just in my graphics work, but in all areas of my life. Writing being one of them. I could write about anything, but now I just choose to write about what I learn, feel, create, or do. Not all at once, but just one.

Ironically, constraints bring me freedom.