Limitations: Brian Eno On Ways To Get More Creative


The enemy of art is the absence of limitations – Orson Welles

We all have limitations in our creative abilities. You might think that’s a bad thing. It’s not. It’s in learning how to deal with our limitations that we truly learn to become creative.

I’ve been writing music since I was a teenager. I wasn’t blessed with the greatest singing voice. I had to learn how to become a stylist within my vocal range. It’s a challenge, but it makes the creative journey all the more exciting.

What if I told you that I purposely set limitations in many of my creative projects? I do. It forces me to stretch my imagination and my abilities.

Setting Limitations Makes Us Better Creators

According to the site, the well-known musician and record producer, Brian Eno suggests the following five strategies for getting more creative.

  1. Freeform capture: This involves having the tools to capture ideas at any given moment. An example would be carrying an audio recording device or a journal with you at all times. When an idea comes, you capture it.
  2. Blank state: The idea here is that you start with nothing. You create limitations. You have no preconceived ideas or goals. You just start playing the guitar or doodling on the page.
  3. Deliberate limitations: Eno suggests that we set limitations before we begin creative projects. I often start a music project by deciding in advance to only use certain instruments. For my music recoding, The Leviticus Project, I purposely limited the amount of tracks I used to twelve. Limiting yourself forces you to get creative. Try a painting with only three colors or taking photographs that are close-up only.
  4. Opposing forces: Try putting unrelated ideas together. What if we mixed chant music with house music? What if we mixed purple with orange? We get something unique.
  5. Creative prompts: Write stuff down. Brainstorm. Create lists of ideas. Use photos as idea prompts. Let other works of art speak to you. Anything can be a creative prompt if you think outside of the norm.

If you study Eno’s list, you’ll discover that limitations are a common denominator among several of his points. When we set limits on our creative projects, we force ourselves to think differently. Ask yourself:

  • How can you make a great album using only a ukulele, a distorted organ, and a tambourine?
  • How can you create a great collection of photographs while limiting yourself to 100 square feet in the middle of the desert?
  • How can you write a great novel using only 1000 words? Dr. Suess limited the amount of words to 50 in his classic children’s book, Green Eggs And Ham.

I’d like to share more of Brian Eno’s thoughts on the creative process with you.

Here’s Brian Eno, live and direct from the Red Bull Music Academy 2013 in New York. In this intimate setting he talks about the difference between sympathetic and parasympathetic music, how DJs are essential lubricants for the dissemination of new music and much more.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and the video. I encourage you to start your next creative project with a specific set of limitations. You might be surprised with what you produce.

If you’d like to develop your creativity, I’d like to help. You can start by signing up for my free, monthly newsletter.  You’ll get tips and motivations for getting your creativity flowing.

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