Creativity: When the Limit Does Exist

Every year, instead of setting a New Years’ Resolution, I set a sankalpa (you can read about why I set Sankalpas here). In short, rather than setting a goal that I am doomed to fail at, setting a sankalpa allows me to explore a concept or an intention–to understand how it impacts my world, to see connections and relationships, to discover new trends and versions. This year, my sankalpa is creativity.

Throughout exploring this sankalpa this year, I’ve asked myself: how can I make myself more creative? If I play the Creative Boost playlist on Spotify, stare at some colored pencils, and scroll through some Pinterest boards, will I become more creative? If I sip some tea (or some wine), watch some YouTube drawing tutorials, and buy really expensive charcoal pencils, will I become more creative? If I…hire a famous artist, decorator, musician to make something for me, and then post a picture of it on my InstaGram with my logo on it, does that make me more creative?

From what I’ve observed thus far, none of those things will make me more creative. Doing Tiger King coloring pages does not seem to make my color pallet selections any more interesting. Buying the recommended items on the Pinterest board does not appear to make my interior designer bone “more contemporary” or “more modern” or “more farmhouse-y”. And, anyone can click through a few random filters on InstaGram and produce a post that looks exquisite.

When we look at creativity, I think we first have to (creatively) open the boundaries of what could be considered a ‘creative product’. In our culture, we under-categorize creativity. We think that creativity applies to only those who can do art well–who can mix colors and patterns, can design spaces and Bullet Journals, can create lavish and appealing pictures and paintings. However, I do think these ideology is limiting and that creativity can encompass more than just what we may traditionally perceive as ‘art’–I certainly cannot draw anything identifiable (past a stick figure), I don’t interior design for a living, and the paintings I produce at Canvas & Cocktails often require meditation from the instructor, but I would consider myself a mildly creative person. But, I think creativity, while definitely present in these visual representations, can also include (but is certainly not limited to): problem solving techniques, ways to utilize language,  conception and implementation of ideas.

In essence, perhaps we can define creativity as anytime we push a boundary to create something new–perhaps creativity boosts when we set limits for ourselves, and it is within these limits that we find inventive solutions, imaginative products, and innovative processes that, when open to the original confinements, we never even thought would exist. We have a limitation, we have to find a way to get around that limitation, and that is when creativity, though perhaps forced, reveals itself. When limitations do exist, creativity flourishes.

I remember a few years ago in the dance world, a major limitation came down when music copyright laws began to be enforced. Studios and teams could no longer mix their own music at home or alter original music to fit their dance styles (or, risk a major lawsuit that no one could afford to pay). At first, there was a big uproar–how would we EVER mix the music that is so essential to dance in the same way we’ve always done it–but eventually, this people found ways to override this limitation–they began creating their own music, reaching out to smaller artists, finding ways to bend the rules–and, as it turned out, the music solutions dance studios and teams came up with were actually better than the music these performances used prior to the restriction.

We see this same trend of creativity existing outside of the limitations occurring in many different venues: when interior designers, such as Chip & Joanna Gaines, must stick within a budget to design a new space, when newspaper columnists must adhere to so many words for the article to fit on the center fold spread, when clothing designers must carry a pattern and a color scheme throughout a collection, when movies must capture a specific audience–as it turns out, creativity is never really a free-for-fall, but rather materializes when resource, time, expectations, money, etc. restrictions are placed upon us.

In the time of COVID-19, I see this existing–and flourishing–as well. The limitation that was put down was Stay at Home orders, and rather than acquiescing to complete submission, people used these limitations to find creative solutions. In this, we saw the virtual world explode, social and happy hour games created, curbside retail and business practices started that we never would have imagined had we not been forced to exist outside of the limits and will follow us into the Post-COVID 19 era (who ever thought InstaGram LIVE yoga classes would be such a hit?!) What you see on the featured image is my new way of constructing a grocery list. In the times of COVID 19, I wanted to find a way shop more efficiently (and spend less time in the store), so I began organizing my shopping list based on areas of the store I would find the items in. Had the limitation of wearing a mask in public not be put upon me, I probably never would have thought to do this, but as I move forward, I will probably always shop like this.

So, if you are in the market to boost your own creativity, perhaps one way you could accomplish this is to set a limitation for yourself, and then notice how you, as the creative genius, supersede that limitation. Perhaps that limitation is resource oriented–you want to decorate your entire house with only the Christmas wrapping paper in your basement. Perhaps the limitation is time honored–you want to spend 75 minutes a day, rearranging your sentence patterns to be more interesting. Perhaps the limitation is expectation centered–you want to figure out how to construct an ad that appeals to both young and older shoppers. Perhaps the limitation is money related–you want to spend only $10 creating your outdoor garden. 

Because, perhaps it is on this very edge of limitations that creativity does exist.

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