Can limitations and obstructions push us forward in our creative work?
Some — if not all — forms of creative expression have built-in restrictions, walls beyond which we’re not supposed to tread. Whether it’s the fixed number of lines (14) that make up a sonnet, the rules of tonal harmony, or the need for some light source in order to take a photo, we often think of these as obstacles to creativity.
Of course, we also have to deal with more prosaic obstacles every day: the bad internet connection that prevents us from drafting a new blog post. The lack of funds to invest in a new musical instrument or camera. The hectic schedule that leaves us with too little time to explore the work of new writers and artists.
But obstacles also force us to focus and prioritize. Sometimes, they help us discover in ourselves talents and abilities we hadn’t known we possessed. Drew Dernavich, a prolific cartoonist who publishes regularly at The New Yorker, recently made this very point in his Discover interview:
I always feel like limitations or restrictions, even if they’re self-imposed, are a satisfying challenge for an artist, any artist, even if you’re a writer or a musician. I like the idea of saying you can’t use color, or you can’t go out of this box, or you can’t use a certain word or image. I like that creative tension.
For this week’s challenge, tell us about a time when you had to deal with an obstacle in your creative process, whether it was a bad case of writer’s block, some rigid rules you had to work around, or some other limitation — financial, technical, mental — that set you back (bonus points if you share or link to the work in question!). Did you manage to transcend the obstacle, or was it too much to deal with at the time? More important: what did you learn about yourself and your creativity in the process?
I look forward to your responses!