The Power of Artificial Constraints

Two short stories and a lesson.

Story One. I like to drink coffee in the morning, and I like it hot, hotter than the coffee maker makes it. So, I put my mug in the microwave for an additional 20 second blast and then I race to grab as much silverware as I can out of the dish drain and try to put it all away before the buzzer goes off. If I’m not holding it when I hear the sound I win and if I am still holding it, I lose. Despite the absence of stakes, I feel a little upset if I don’t get it done in time. Functional!

Story Two. Sometime before 3rd grade I lived in a very hilly neighborhood with winding roads. I liked to tell myself I could only use the breaks on my bike two times while coming home. This ultimately resulted in a total wipe out that ruined my bike and left me bloody and limping. Commitment!

Lesson. Create artificial restraints in your art practice. Make some rules. The thing about rules is they have to be clear as day and non-negotiable. They do not have to make sense or be good. Even if they make no sense they will work. The other thing about rules is they have to be fun. Fun to YOU! Not a rule you wanted or hoped would be fun. No, that’s Monopoly, a long and stupid game that you don’t want to play. The rules absolutely, positively have to be FUN! Make a piece of art, you win.

If you make up weird little rules for yourself, please share. I would love to know I am not the only weirdo.

Sidewalk Face 784

12 thoughts on “The Power of Artificial Constraints

      1. It did its job – it was a period when I had limited time and yes, I got some lovely, immediate pictures of children out of it. The idea came from another blogger – Kerfe at Memadtwo if I remember correctly. I think I added the 20 mins rule. I did them on the floor, but that wasn’t a rule!

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      2. I like your non-rule best! I made some important break through art while sitting on the floor of my balcony. It was just some abstracts in a journel, but somehow I got free-ed up and really started going for it. I think being in an usual location helped. I forgot about that until just now so thanks for the reminder. I think I could use a little of that in some of the things I am currently working on.

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      3. Oh! Those are delightful! Thank you so much for finding and sharing the link. That also let me go to Memadtwo original post. I think it’s so important to have some quick and low stakes art practices. Often the best stuff comes from there. I really like the 2nd portrait.

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  1. Haha, I love your two separate-yet-connected stories. You’re not weird for having rules- it’s a sign of creativity. My funky little writing “rule” (which was honestly kinda subconscious until I pondered your post just now) is to eventually have blog titles beginning with every letter of the alphabet. so in my drafts I have a bunch of Q and Z word titles languishing in wait for an idea or story to pair with them.

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