To “Think Outside the Box”, You Need a Box


Hi. This is the fourth in what is proving to be a very popular series of posts on creativity and art. If you missed the last three, check them out via these links: Redefining Art, The Not-So-Secret Key to Creativity and The Question of Your Life!

Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.
G. K. Chesterton

One of the worst misconceptions about creativity is the idea that you could be more creative if you had fewer constraints. It’s worse because it actually sounds like it makes sense.

Which is why it’s one of the most common excuses you hear.

“No-one listens around here.”

“If only I had more authority.”

“I don’t have enough money (or equipment, or people support) to do this.”

“There isn’t enough time.”

Blah, blah, blah.

Here’s a different thought: creativity is figuring out how to make it happen in spite of the constraints.

They don’t listen? Figure out how to get their attention. Or go ahead anyway.

You don’t have authority? Find a way to earn it. Or just take it.

Money problems? How can you raise some? Or better still, how can you do it cheaper, without skimping on quality? (And don’t say you can’t when you haven’t really thought it through.)

Not enough time? Faster, then? Or drop some things? Or figure out how to make less last more?

You get the idea.

But if you’re still in doubt, consider that probably everyone you consider a hero matters to you that much because of what they accomplished despite the odds against them. Indeed, the greater the odds, the greater the respect.

Of course, constraints are an inconvenience. But without constraints, what would be the incentive to look for a better way? Only constraints force you to ask the hard questions.

To think outside the box, you need to have a box to think outside of. To have no box (as some advocate, perhaps because it sounds so pleasantly provocative) is, quite plainly, to be mad. And there’s a world of difference between mad genius and mad, period.

What’s standing in your way, and what are you going to do about it?

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2 thoughts on “To “Think Outside the Box”, You Need a Box

    • What can I say? I’m on a creative roll, I guess! Really, though, I’m just sharing things I’ve learnt, sometimes the hard way, and it’s thrilling to see how much it’s all resonating. Thanks!

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