Creative gumbo

I loved New Orleans pre Katrina. A few years back i walked down Bourbon street revelling in the myriad of experiences available. The Mardi Gras was in full battle cry, a heady combination of jazz, sex, soul food and some seriously powerful Mojo which enlivened me in deep ways. I stumbled through the throng, sitting with strangers on street corners drinking neat bourbon having intense discussions, eating gumbos with thick white bread, watching madness sweep through the gathering leaving no one untouched. I felt so alive that I wrote feverishly for days, possessed by a creative spirit which left me spent like a manic lover. Once the fever had passed I awoke and examined my ink stained fingers through swollen lids, i discovered that some of the ideas I had had were good, but most were not nearly as inspiring in the cold light of day. As I returned to Cape Town, I ached for the intensity of the experience. The unbridled creative expression of Self. I can still connect with a dim feeling sense of that intensity and use it as a beacon as I search for ways to reignite my creativity.

The problem with activating creativity is that in this age of information abundance and overload, nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying. In searching for ways to release my creative constipation (yes I know I mention constipation often), I stumbled upon this…

“The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom. Write a poem on your lunch break. Paint a painting with only one color. Start a business without any start-up capital. Shoot a movie with your iPhone and a few of your friends. Build a machine out of spare parts. Don’t make excuses for not working — make things with the time, space, and materials you have, right now.”

It appears that the right constraints can lead to your very best work. My favorite example? Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat with only 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn’t write a book with only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss came back and won the bet with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.

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