Limitations – block or inspiration?

How do you deal with limitations? They can become a real block! This week a friend saw a post on FB. One of his friends asked to share bad jokes with him, but the jokes had to be political correct, not racist, not sexist. My friend is a good joke teller and usually has a good pile of jokes in his mind. I think that all his jokes are political correct, not racist, not sexist. But he blanked and couldn’t think of a single joke. He asked me if I know a jokes.

This will happen too if you try to write a hit-song. You blank! With so much pressure you can’t be creative. For creativity you need an open mind. Success or failure should not matter when you are creative. That’s something for later.

Limitations can also enhance your creativity. I worked a while as lighting designer for theater companies. The first lighting design I made, was for a children play about a boy searching for friends. It started with a lonely boy. One of the scenes was in a jungle, another scene was with witches, plus some scenes with playful sporting friends. I had only 12 (!) lights available in a time that you couldn’t change the color during the play. I still think that this lighting plan was the best one I’ve ever made! I used all 12 lights and created five different atmospheres, with putting the focus on different areas of the small stage. The limitations made me more creative!

What is it with limitations? When are they a block and when can you use them as inspiration? I think it’s all depending on how you deal with them. Limitations build walls in your mind. If you perceive the walls and yourself as solid, you can’t look behind the walls, they will block your thoughts. It’s up to you to make your thoughts liquid, so you can flow around the walls and look at them from different angles.

I’m a very bad joke teller and usually don’t remember jokes at all. Though I could help my friend by trying to remember the jokes he always tells, without thinking of any limitations. Once I reminded him of one joke, the block was gone and he could access his whole pile of jokes again, to see if they meet the limitations.

When being creative it’s similar. First you have to create, working from an emotion, as Bj√∂rk puts it so nicely in an interview. That’s the start. Than you start to think on how to work it out. If it will become a hit or not, that’s something for even later steps, something you can’t control anyway.

How do you overcome being blocked by limitations?

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