Constrain Yourself: Creativity in Practice

One of the fascinating things I’ve discovered in the practice of master musicians from many genres of music is the role creativity plays in their practice. I’m convinced creativity is an essential component of practice, whether it’s inventing an exercise to work out some technique, or using songwriting to inspire you to do something over and over and over again, it’s the creative component that keeps you totally engaged in your practice. If you’re just running scales, or some other similarly mindless task, try injecting some creativity into the process. It’s a lot more fun.

Writers, musicians, visual artists, or any other person who relies on creativity for their well-being–whether spiritual, mental, or monetary–knows that ideas like

Jack White
Jack White

inspiration, talent, or some other idea that makes us believe that things should be “easy,” are often more hindrance than help. It’s work. And that’s not a bad thing.

What’s great about hearing Jack White speak about his own process is learning about the constraints he puts on himself. There is also this gem about why constraints are so important, and how surfeit can suck the juice out of creativity:

Deadlines and things make you creative. But opportunity, and telling yourself, “Oh, you’ve got all the time in the world, all the money in the world, you’ve got all the colors in the palette you want; anything you want…. That just kills creativity.

If you’re overwhelmed by being “creative,” come up with severe constraints. If improvising is daunting, use only 3 notes. Heck, use just one note and focus on the rhythm. If there’s too much to practice, forget about everything, and focus on just one thing. One thing. Practice that. Tomorrow, choose another. Or choose the same thing and make it better still. ||:lather, rinse, repeat:||

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