Join Stefan Mumaw for an in-depth discussion in this video Reviewing The Middle exercise: Understanding creative restrictions, part of Creativity Bootcamp.
- I want to hear one of the stories. I heard bits and pieces of your story, so will you read your story? - Sure. - Okay, read the full story. Read that part and then your three sentences. - A man woke up in the center median of a busy highway, unable to remember how he got there. He was holding an authentic 18th Century Spanish sword in one hand, and an empty bottle of fabric softener in the other. Having just come from the future picking up fabric softener for his wife he sees a chicken crossing the road. He darts into the street dodging horses and carts because their only chicken has just run loose.
While doing this he accidentally impales the chicken on his sword. Dazed, he picks up the chicken, apologized to the young woman and rode away. - Very nice, very good. My guess is that everyone of your stories are drastically different than that story, right? And isn't that the best part about creativity? I could give you the same problem, with the same restrictions, and all of you could generate vastly different things. As a matter of fact, let's look at the restrictions that you had to work with. You had to work with a man, the center median of a busy highway, amnesia, the sword, the fabric softener, something he would be dazed for, a chicken, something he has to apologize for, a woman, something he is riding away on, three sentences, five minutes.
12 restrictions you just overcame in the story that you wrote, and that's why when we hear someone read that story we smile and we clap and we go "that was really good." You know what that is? It's empathy. We're like "I know exactly what you just overcame "in order to do that," right. When we can feel someone's creativity. When we know exactly what it took to get there. You have an appreciation for it when you go, "Man, I have no idea how he solved that problem." But what's interesting is the question becomes how many of you were able to actually overcome all 12 of those restrictions in your story? Because in order for it to make sense you really don't need to.
You can forget almost everything in that first line. The only thing you really need to pay attention to is the man. You have to deal with the man. You can just ignore everything else, and just deal with a reason for him to be dazed, and a young woman and a chicken, something to ride away on, and the story will make sense. But how many of you were like, "No, I'm getting it all in. "I'm going to have a reason "for everything that I create," right. That's novelty, that's creativity knocking going "no." You're going to come up with a solution that uses all of this, and if we have to we'll give up one or two things, but, no, we're going to try to solve it all, right.
That's creativity, that's inside of you going "No, we're going to solve all of this problem." Because you secretly want the restrictions that are there. And isn't that an interesting turn of events when we think about what we do creatively. All right, number two: Create a bootcamp command is that we have to want the box. Everyone talks about thinking outside the box, right. What does that usually mean? I'll come up with solutions that aren't normal. Well all solutions are normal. They solve the problem relevantly. What they're really asking for is novelty, and in order for us to be creative, most of the time we think we need freedom.
I need less restrictions, I need more budget, I need more time, I need more assets. That's how I can be more creative, but the reality is it's the restrictions that are making you creative. The more restrictive the environment, the more creative the opportunity. You overcame 12 things in that problem, and that's why we look at it and go, "That was wonderful. "I know exactly what you overcame in that." It's because of those restrictions. So here is the hard part. The hard part is if you want to be more creative you have to actually insert more restriction, not take more restriction away.
And that's something we're just not tuned to do. Here's the thing. If you're given two weeks to accomplish a project. Someone says, "I give you this project. "The deadline is in two weeks." And you really know you only need three days. When do you start? Three days before. Some of you two days before. You start three days before, why? because you secretly and inherently need the restriction of time. It's the greatest restriction we have because we don't control any of it. So we don't have any access to it. So when we're looking to be more creative we need to insert more restriction, not take more away, because it's the restrictions that are making us creative.
Interested in learning more about the creative process? Check out Stefan's other courses on lynda.com.