3 Reasons Why Having Too Many Materials And Options Stunts Your Creativity

fabric scraps
image: jek in the box

Among the common arsenal of excuses of many of us who would like to create more but don’t, is that we don’t have all the right materials we need.

Sometimes this is a genuine problem. If you wish to paint but don’t have a brush, then it’s going to hinder you. If you want to write a new guitar ballad, but don’t own a guitar, that could be a sticking point.

Or is it? Maybe you need a whole lot less than you need to be creative? Maybe you have too many materials already?

Here are three crucial points we usually overlook when we bemoan not having enough stuff to create with, and why fewer materials equals greater creativity:

1. We could always have more.

If you had pens in 39 different colours, would it help you draw better than if you just had one pencil? If you had 1039 pens would it make any difference? It’s likely in fact that this would have a detrimental effect, and instead of drawing, you would spend hours choosing the “perfect” shade of aquamarine or fuchsia.

We can always have more. However much we have, there is always more to be had. The trick is to be content with what you have. How can you make the most of the materials you do have if you’re constantly hankering after new ones? How can you possibly focus your creativity fully on what you’re making if you distracted by what you think is missing? Simple answer is you can’t.

2. Limits make us more creative.

There comes a tipping point where having more materials actually has an adverse impact on your creativity. If you were given a piano, locked in a room for a day and asked to write a song, most likely you’d be able to come up with something interesting. Maybe you’d come up with an album’s worth of songs. If instead you were given access to a huge state of the art studio and 17 different instruments, it’s likely the completely overwhelm would result in nothing being created at all.

When we impose a few boundaries, our creativity really gets to work. Whatever your favourite creative media, you can find ways to trim down and set limits. For example writing a story that has to be fifty words, or taking photos with an instant polaroid camera. The limitations actually inspire your creativity to get busy and conjure up ideas and art you couldn’t have done if you were swamped in too many options.

3. All you really need to be creative is between your ears.

The root of all your creativity is your creative mind. Yes that seems like stating the obvious, but sometimes we forget that all we need to create – the only materials and cutting edge technology – is our very own brain.

Stop for a second and think of a story. As a starting point, imagine there’s a elephant, a trampoline and a mouth organ. You’ll find images and possible stories forming in your mind already. You’re being creative. What materials did you use? Nothing but your own creative mind. Imagination needs no materials at all.

Saying that you can’t create because you don’t have the right materials is more often than not a convenient excuse to avoid creating altogether.

Whatever and however you create, there are simple, minimal ways you could inspire your creativity that cost next to nothing.

Whatever form it comes out in, your creativity comes from the same place. Feed it, nurture it, spoil it with simplicity.

Unburdened from all that choice and all those materials, you may well give your creativity a whole new sense of lightness and freedom.

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6 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Having Too Many Materials And Options Stunts Your Creativity”

  1. I totally agree.

    Sometimes I come across people who are still deciding what software to use so they can start their novel. Start with good ol’ pen and paper, and you’ll soon discover the simpler the better. Otherwise you spend all your time learning the features of your software and not nearly enough on the actual story.


  2. Absolutely. I must admit that’s something I have been caught up with in the past, procrastinating and trying different software.

    I now write all my articles in the beautifully minimal OmmWriter and keep my ideas lists in TextEdit which comes free installed on all Macs. Simple, distraction free…

    Thanks for your input Jessica.


  3. Dan,
    You mentioned having too many supplies being a hindrance to creativity-you must have been watching me! I am obsessed with buying more and more art supplies, and now I go through a process where I keep wanting to jump from media to media in the middle of projects, when what I need to do is finish what I have started! I can “get started” creatively, but “finishing” seems to be my big problem. Can you address that? I need real help with that. Thanks!


    1. It’s a common issue Laura! Try these three articles as a starting point:

      How To Create Beautiful, Life Changing Artwork, One Project At A Time

      The Endless Delicious Dangerous Allure Of The New

      How To Pick One Thing And Create Your Heart Out

      In short, the answer is pick one project you’re really passionate about, something exciting, but manageable and relatively small, remove all distractions and just get creating. It’s important to experience and practice every part of your unique creative process from having the initial idea to creating, to sending it out into the world. Start this with smaller projects first and build. The process is often more important than any end “product”. Get to know your own creative process intimately.

      Also remember that you will never have enough materials. There will always be other stuff you can buy, it’s never ending. Once you remember that, it’s easier to make use of what you have, make the best use of it, rather than looking at what you don’t have or what you could have, looking for that perfect tool or piece of material.

      Hope this helps you, let us know?

      Thanks for stopping by,



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