As creative artists we need to have an almost infinite number of possibilities and opportunities open to us, to allow our creativity to fully flourish. Right?
Maybe not. In fact, although it feels like we need a certain degree of freedom to follow whichever backwoods pathways our creative inspiration may take us, too much choice can be crippling.
Let me share a personal story and an unexpected revelation.
A few weeks back, after days of torrential rain, a tiny droplet of water formed on my ceiling. Which then became a drip. And another drip. Then before too long a much more regular drip, and then – following a little professional advice and some creative plaster sculpting with a screwdriver – a steady downpour. Into a very large bucket.
All of this was at night and in the dark, as I was afraid to turn the lights on because they were so perilously near to the hole and steadily spreading damp patch on the ceiling.
Eventually, weeks later, I had to move out for a few days while the entire ceiling was repaired, replastered and painted.
What’s this got to do with choice, focus and maximal creativity?
Bear with the story, I’m getting there.
I don’t have a huge wardrobe by any means, but I took only a fraction of it with me. Two pairs of jeans, about five t-shirts and two hoodies, plus a pair of trainers and underwear. That made up my entire casual look for the next five days.
My temporary “wardrobe” was simply a small area on a shelf in my friend’s airing cupboard, where my clothes stood neatly in a single stack.
But rather than feel bereft or deprived, I loved the simplified choice and freedom.
My choice of top for example was either the blue zip up hoodie or the grey pullover hoodie. One or the other. My choice could be made in approximately 7 seconds at most.
But then I had five t-shirts, so my possible combinations for my top half was 10. Two hoodies times five t-shirts. Combine with the two pairs of jeans, a total of 20 outfits.
Now imagine I had taken just one more pair of trousers. This adds another 10 possible outfit combinations.
Add another hoodie and the total would be three trousers times five t-shirts times three hoodies, a total of 45 outfits.
One could spend literally hours considering all these possible combinations, if so inclined.
The point is, the more items and options we add – to our wardrobes, to our creative materials, to our possible creative projects, to our possible creative media – the more difficult the choice becomes.
As the number of options goes up, so does the time it takes us to make a decision.
So the less time we have to actually be creating.
But maybe worse than that, the as the number of options goes up, the less satisfied we are with the decision we DO make.
That is if we make a decision at all, instead of spending the rest of our lives darting from one thing to another and never really committing our full passion, creativity and energy to ANY of them.
What that leaking ceiling and shrinking wardrobe taught me was the freedom that comes from minimising our choices. Sometimes radically.
What if, for example, for your next painting you limited your colour palette to only shades of blue?
What if for your next story you limited yourself to 500 words? Or 50? Or six?
What if for your next collage you limit the size to just two and a half by three and half inches?
Despite what we might instinctively think at first, such limitations – this minimising of choice – actual gives our creativity the chance to show us what it can REALLY do.
It minimises that time endlessly deliberating over every last option, and encourages us to get our teeth (and hands, and heart) into creating.
It allows us stop being so scattered and distracted, get focused, and get down to creating what matters.
And that’s something we all need to do more of.
If getting focused is something you struggle with in your creative life, you might like to check out my forthcoming ebook – How To Get Focused And Create What Matters – A Practical Guide for Choosing Your Best Ideas and Bringing Them To Completion.
It does pretty much what it says on the cover.
I’d like to invite you to join the Priority List list now to get access before it’s released publicly.
And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with others you think would too.
Thanks for reading. : )