Creative Freedom Is Overrated

Many myths surround the creative process. One of these is the notion of creative freedom. It seems obvious that having a free rein could only be beneficial. So prevalent is the attitude that many contemporary creators will refuse to tackle a project that has restrictions. They turn up their noses and stalk haughtily away proclaiming that they could not possibly compromise their artistic vision and personal integrity by acquiescing to anything as philistine as limitations.

H. G. Wells

Where anything is possible, nothing is interesting. — H. G. Wells (Photo: public domain)

I am going to argue the counter-intuitive idea that restrictions are actually an asset. You may be surprised to learn that many famous creators share the point of view.

H. G. Wells expressed a related sentiment when he said, “Where anything is possible, nothing is interesting.” He was referring to stories, of course. He believed that a hero who could do anything or a situation where anything was possible meant there were no challenges to overcome, no obstacles to surmount, and no dangers to survive. Where is the interest in such a scenario? Who wants to read a story where there are no limits on what a hero can accomplish? Where is the suspense in a story based on the assumption that at any moment some miraculous turn of events will save the day? Only a story where the hero faces the possibility of humiliation, failure, or even death can engage the reader’s concern.

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Guides to Understanding Creativity

If you are at all serious about being a writer, you need to know something about what it means to be a creative person. Few successful writers reach the heights without at least a rudimentary philosophical take on what they are doing. Luckily, creativity has spawned an entire writing genre with many fine books on the topic.

The Dynamics of Creation Cover

Anthony Storr is unsurpassed when it comes to writing about creative people and the mysteries of the creative process.

My Favourite Creativity Author

When it comes to books about creativity, my favourite author has to be Anthony Storr. No one does a better job of choosing the revealing anecdotes from creators’ lives. Being a psychiatrist himself, he is unsurpassed when discussing the motivation and attitudes behind the activities of creative individuals. He skilfully weaves anecdote and psychology into a lively, fascinating, and enlightening view of what creative people are like. His strong emphasis on creativity’s rewards is inspiring. All of Storr’s books are jargon-free and a pleasure to read. Here are three of his titles with a comment or two about each one.

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