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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