Less is more applies to many unexpected fields. One of them is creativity. Jeffrey Thelin is a young artist and has unleashed the full potential of its creativity not by endless freedom. But by applying limitations. Learn how limiting yourself can help you live in a world, where everything seems possible.
In minimalist lifestyle groups it’s common to hear a lot about the benefits of pairing down our material belongings. Placing our focus on our experiences over our possessions. But, perhaps getting rid of our possessions is just the first step to leading a more minimal and meaningful life.
The real challenge lays not in the curtailment of our possessions, but our minds and in our daily processes. In creative fields, especially, it’s nice to think of our minds as these wide-open, free, and infinite places filled creative possibility. But in my experience minds are actually quite cluttered and it can be hard to consistently pull quality creative ideas from it.
This is why I have started to set limits to my mind’s freedom.
Accelerate the creative process by limiting yourself
I’m a digital artist under the name “teyleen,” and in the digital art the ability to create is limitless. It’s like magic. The technology and software has gotten to a place where truly anything is possible. If you can see it in your mind’s eye, it can be created one way or another, with relative ease. But early on in my career, I realized that the challenge of Art never lies in the creating, but in the imagining. So what truly helps you to imagine, think new ideas, and really create something meaningful?
Constraints allow for a sharper focus
For me, and many others, applying limitations to the creative process has lead me to be able to create a focused and productive framework that my best work has come from. It’s sort of counterintuitive to popular thoughts on creativity, though. Isn’t creativity all about freedom and being able to wander and wonder in our creative processes?
In my experience constraints allow you to fully realize what you can do instead of being transfixed at the infinite possibilities of what you could do. I make all of my art using just my iPhone. Certainly the iPhone doesn’t have the most capable software and power to create art. The tools available to me on my iPhone compared to some of the latest desktop apps are striking in difference.
Embrace limitations instead of fighting them
At first I started creating art on my phone not because I thought it was where I could be most creative, but because it’s what I had. Being able to have my art studio with me at all times and never having to wait to make something was truly inspiring. I downloaded dozens and dozens of apps trying to replicate everything I was able to do on my computer with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. But, as my art progressed, the natural simplicity and lack of capabilities of creating art on a phone led to my best work. I stopped trying to turn my phone into a computer and embraced my limited work environment. Instead of seeing it as something that held me back, I used it as a framework to be as creative as possible.
Limitations have lead me to my best ideas
The limitations, once I accepted them, allowed me to become laser-focused on exploring what I could do and I am nowhere near exhausting all of the possibilities of what I can create. I am open to changing my framework, but not until I feel like I’ve mastered it. I’ve been making a new piece everyday for almost a year now and I’m planning on continuing until I get to 1,000 consecutive days of creation. There are infinite possibilities in art and creative thinking. I truly believe adding limitations to the process doesn’t stifle the creative mind, but rather gives it a clearer view to see what the best ideas might be.
Limiting yourself in your everyday life
These ideas are not only applicable to Art. I believe they can be applied to really any of our daily processes. Many successful people, from Barack Obama to Mark Zuckerberg, wear a nearly identical outfit every day of the year. By eliminating unimportant decisions in our lives, we can create the space in our minds to fully focus on our passions. Limiting yourself or placing frameworks around our goals can also help us create actionable and attainable goals.
Frameworks help you to achieve more
Another key benefit to creating this structure is so you can easily keep track of your progress. It may feel daunting to say I want to learn to cook or to become more fit, but if we are able to place a framework around those goals that focuses them, they become much easier to achieve. Instead of deciding you want to become a better cook maybe decide to focus on one aspect of cooking such as baking every day for a month using just a few specific ingredients. Or choosing to focus on understanding cardio and the five most effective stretches for your legs. It may be tempting to jump outside of these boundaries, but if you really want to master something focusing in is key.
Finding the right framework is the first step to reach your goal
Finding the correct framework for your goals can be tricky, but it is a lesson in self-awareness worth pursuing. Allow yourself time to explore your topic broadly and create a focused framework that is meaningful to you, and then maybe even plan future frameworks as well for next year or next month.
Placing a framework on my art process has allowed me to focus and become the artist I always knew I could be. What simple or complex processes can you simplify in your mind and life?
Freeing up mental space by limiting yourself allows to see your goals and your potential more clearly.
What limits have helped you in your life?
Copyrigths: All pictures by Jeffrey Thelin