My apologies for the long gap between episodes. We’re back today and hopefully, the weekly episodes will be on time – every Wednesday.
Today we’re on Episode 3 of the A to Z of Creativity Series. The letter C. Create Arbitrary Rules.
Your creativity is endless…it is like an ocean.. and that is amazing. But you can also drown in the ocean. You can get so lost in constantly thinking of new things and creating them in your head, that you don’t actually create anything. Each of us has to learn to make certain arbitrary rules that will help us to actually create.
Consider these three statements:
- You can create anything you want
- You can create anything you want with this box of crayons and that piece of paper.
- You can create anything you want with this box of crayons and that piece of paper for the next 20 minutes.
While the first one gives the idea of a lot more freedom and limitless options, the second one might have you actually moving towards creating something and the third might leave you a finished product!
We know that there are creative constraints that already exist. There are things like cost, materials available, unbreakable laws of physics or rules like pre-existing formats or forms. For example, you can create a new sonnet but it must follow the rules – be 14 lines in length, have a certain number of syllables etc. Or you can’t write a report in the style of an informal letter.
There are pre-existing rules you have to follow. It’s best not to get frustrated about these, instead see them as time-savers that might actually make your task easier. You can also be very creative within the constraints. I’ve seen people writing the most creative stories using a drabble – that is precisely 100 words in length, no more, no less!
Today, however, we’re talking about arbitrary rules that we can create for ourselves. When you are struggling to get started, create a couple of arbitrary rules. These can be something as simple as giving yourself a deadline to finish a creative piece, when you don’t actually have a deadline. Or putting a timer – telling yourself I’m going to write for precisely 15 minutes , or I’m going to completely cover this piece of paper with paint in 20 minutes flat.
Creating arbitrary rules helps you to understand your own patterns, tendencies and cycles better and calculate probabilities. You become more at home with the rules of randomness and this helps you to kick-start the creative process.
Some of the great creators had idiosyncratic rules that they adopted as their trademark. For example, Alfred Hitchcock always made a cameo appearance in the movies he made. As a viewer it was always exciting to find him in some random scene. As a director, he had to get more and creative about where he would place himself!
When you are struggling to get started, having a creative challenge, create a couple of arbitrary rules. Once the creativity is flowing, you remove those constraints. If that doesn’t work, create a few more rules until the creativity starts to flow.
- Make a list of ‘words you cannot’ use. Pick simple, everyday words and then write for 15 minutes making sure you don’t use the words.
- Paint something allowing yourself to use only two or three colours.
- Write a paragraph – it could be the start of a story or a piece of non-fiction. The arbitrary rule? Every 20th word should be the word ‘sign’.