If I were to tell you to write anything you want in any style you want and get it to me whenever you want, when do you think that would happen?
Now, if I were to tell you to find an interesting parallel between Pinterest and flea markets, and I were to want it by Noon tomorrow, what would happen then?
We are most creative when we are bound by limits.
Restriction creates tension. And tension creates art.
Great stories are built on tension.
Great songs are built on tension.
Great relationships are built on tension.
No limits, no tension. No tension, no drive to be free. No drive for freedom, no need for creativity.
As a writer, I could write whatever I wanted, then try to find publications in which to publish my work. But this gives me nothing real with which to work. It offers nothing to push toward or against.
Instead, I first find publications I admire, then write for them. This gives me a box in which I can freely work.
Likewise, I can spend my time trying to find readers for my words. But, again, that won’t propel my work as I’m doing it.
Instead, I spend my time trying to find words for readers. This too offers a box in which I can freely work.
Creativity is the ability to find freedom in structure. That’s why much of the world’s greatest art, literature, journalism, music, organizations and leaders rose out of tough times.
So box yourself in today—or embrace the box in which you find yourself—and watch how creative you can be trying to free yourself.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on August 8, 2012.