Limitations & Creativity

One of the best books I read this year (well, 2014) was Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways—Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live.

Yes, my book photo had to have a birdhouse in the background...the book is about being creative, I had to raise the bar....

Yes, my book photo had to have a birdhouse in the background…the book is about being creative, I had to raise the bar….

I’ll try to write more about the book as a whole but wanted to share a small portion that really struck me. She shared how she was working with a videographer to create a video and he shared with her about how the fun part is when he’s reviewed all he’s captured and discovers something that’s missing which means he has to get creative at making it work.  That seemed to surprise Emily until she thought about it more.

Here’s what she continued to write:

“My sister stands in front of her fireplace, whispers under her breath the things she dislikes about the angle, the mantel, the odd shape of the room, & placement of the windows. But she isn’t discouraged by it. In fact, she seems motivated by it.

Much of the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium. –Henri Matisse” (Freeman, 132)

I loved this because I had never thought of it before.  One thing I enjoyed about being a counselor was figuring out how to make treatment material fun and interesting for the kids I worked with, on a budget.  And these were tough customers as most did not want to be in counseling and had already done a lot of treatment and had heard a lot of the concepts before.  I had never thought about how the limitations, the lack of, the difficulty was part of the creative process.  And it was the very element that spurred me on to truly be creative….

And then I reflected on the art I have been creating lately.  One item I have toyed around with making lately are book page wreaths.  As I pondered, I realized two of them were created out of limitation.

This first one, I decided to do something new in the center because I was running out of paper!  I knew I would not have enough pages to complete the wreath but I had some small pieces I had cut off the book pages I could use.  It took a little trial and error but eventually I settled into making a striped type texture around the center.  And I think that addition to the wreath made it look even better than if the texture had remained the same throughout.  This wreath, something I could have tossed out when I got stuck, sold with the window frame and now adorns someone else’s home.  Someone else saw the beauty in my oopsy wreath!  I’m glad I didn’t stop when I encountered the obstacle.  It changed everything!

My oopsy wreath now hangs in a stranger's home...   : )

My oopsy wreath now hangs in a stranger’s home… : )

This second one is made from black and white phone book pages.  I thought I had a whole phone book full of white pages and as I neared the end of creating the wreath, I realized that that rest of the pages I had were yellow.  URGH!  I felt silly that I hadn’t more thoroughly checked out the phone book before I set out to make the wreath.

It took me a bit to figure out what to do.  We always have phone books dropped on our front steps but I had tossed all the others in our recycling container.  And now that I needed another, no more phone books appeared!  I knew it’d be really hard to match the color of these pages to something other than another phone book.  I felt stuck.  Eventually, I searched the creative odds and ends I had to see what else I could use to finish this project and found a grey egg carton.  And then I got inspired.  Soon the wreath had funky flowers on them, made from cut up egg cartons and a little paint.  I think if I had finished with more phone book pages, the wreath would not have been near as beautiful, at least to me.

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I love how Emily took something like limitations and pointed out that instead of seeing it as an obstacle, we can embrace it as an opportunity to use our creativity!  In fact, sometimes the most beauty comes out of what we do when we get stuck.

Seriously, run out and pick up this book.  It’s amazing!

P.S. And for those in the creative realm, Emily’s sister is Myguillyn Smith–the blogger and author of The Nesting Place….talk about a creative family!

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