Fight Perfectionism with Creative Constraints

Limits, Pt. 2

In this recent post on voluntarily embracing limits as a way of increasing creative output, I talk about the limits I used to record a live looping version of Traffic’s Dear Mr. Fantasy.

I also made a video – mainly because I know some of my readers prefer to listen to music on YouTube. The video took me about two hours to make. (Obviously, I have no ambitions of being the next Stanley Kubrick.)  I limited myself to using:

  • a picture I took of giant mushrooms growing near the sidewalk at the end of our street
  • a stand of tiger lilies on my daily walking route
  • a drawing of “me” made a few years ago by my artist friend Kyle (part of the cover art for the recent Stand & Deliver album Ten Year Bender)
  • video clips I took of the holiday light show at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens last December

Creative Constraints Can Be Arbitrary

I didn’t set out with these four elements in mind. I just wanted to make a video quickly that wasn’t totally boring, using imagery that was (a) free and (b) close at hand. By the time I’d assembled these elements and color treated them to fit the mood of the song, I was running out of time allotted.  Believe me, I wanted to add more and more and more! But that way lies my personal rabbit hole of fear of rejection masquerading as perfectionism.

I think I just uncovered another positive about this “using creative constraints” philosophy. I really like this video. I realize it’s limited. But maybe that’s precisely why I’m able to enjoy it. Because I made it working under certain constraints, it’s a lot easier not to get caught up in pointless and exhausting ruminations over whether it’s good enough, and how people are going to judge it, and how I probably shouldn’t have ever shared it in the first place, and on and on and on…

P.S. My limit for this blog piece was three paragraphs. I count the bullet points as part of paragraph 2. So I ran one paragraph over. (I don’t count postscripts…)

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