The Creativity in Restrictions

By Sam Ottinger

Getting into the arts can be a challenging quest, whether it’s getting the ideas or actually putting said ideas into the world. In this time of confusion, I believe that having a rubric of restrictions can be the support that lifts creativity to its highest form. Having a set of rules to follow can help ideas flow, it can be a more relieving position, and help the artist try new things.

Many can agree that one of the most difficult parts of the arts is creating the idea, yet when you have to work your way around certain things, then it can be an easier way to find the path that will lead you to a fall of ideas. Restrictions put in the building blocks, then the artist can complete the designed task, and after they are able to push certain aspects (that aren’t restricted) to make the piece their own. It can also help cut down on decisions that are put in the artist’s hands, so they don’t get overwhelmed and burned out as quickly by the overflow of creative ideas. As stated by Thomas Oppong in his article about creativity, on Inc., “With constraints, you dedicate your mental energy to acting more resourcefully. When challenged, you figure out new ways to be better.” Having a specific direction for where your energy can go can help you get more ideas and thus the artist goes through a slower decline in their rate of ideas.

Instead of having total freedom and being surrounded by stress from blankness in the creative department, you are able to get a new point of view which can help you get a better understanding of different techniques for a new set of tools. Some may say that with restrictions, it can be difficult to fully shine because of the choices being so limited, and they aren’t entirely wrong. When creative rubrics are too restricting, it can lead to the same amount of problems that having too much freedom contains, extra stress to stay in the lines and lack of related ideas. It’s just like everything else, too much of anything is bad. Yet when these placements are done right, it can be extraordinarily beneficial for the artist. As said by Jason Bell, an Associate Professor of Marketing at Saïd Business School, “When well placed, constraints can force us to step out of our mental comfort zone and connect a schema to something new. This can very often lead to innovative ideas”.

Unclear directions and the fear of experimentation can hold many people back, including the need for near perfection is a craving that many artists, whether new or old, chase after for years. When using restrictions in your craft, it will give you clearer directions, help you be forced to try something new, and it can push you to slowly become ok with not reaching the status of perfect perfection. A batch of restraints can not only force you to try something new, it can also help you focus and create better ideas then you would have before. An article published by the official Harvard Business Review helps to support this claim by stating, “Constraints, in contrast, provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes”.

With all these reasons, it is clear that adding in restrictions can be extremely beneficial. From how it helps increase idea flow, how it leads to less pressure, and finally how it can help artists try new ideas that the artist normally wouldn’t try otherwise. So if you are ever stuck, try adding in some restrictions, and don’t be afraid to try something new.