Necessity is the mother of invention.
In other words, when you absolutely require an idea or a solution, you’ll work with what you have to come up with what you need.
You likely face limits with your work, maybe even several times per day: a small budget, older technology, an inexperienced team, not nearly enough time.
But the good news is that embracing those negatives can lead you down a creative path you may not have considered and, possibly, to better, more interesting results.
During my teen years, I was a skilled letterer. I could draw block letters by hand, properly kerned, straight across the page, all within the allotted horizontal space. But, as I got older, I was no longer satisfied with my level of precision. I couldn’t make the letters “perfect enough.” So, I started drawing them inconsistently on purpose, in different sizes, each with their own twists. The work became much less predictable and far more interesting. I still use that freeform style today.
I used to run a website and Facebook page for a local antique store. I shot all the pictures that I posted. But there wasn't a lot of elbow room in the shop, and sunshine didn’t fall into every corner. So, I adapted my photo style to accommodate the tight spaces and lower light. In the shop, I was forced to stay closer to each piece I was shooting, and often needed to present it at a 45-degree angle or from above. But, that proximity let me capture the object’s subtle features, the texture and patina, even a sense of its age - details I might not have communicated if I weren’t forced into that different shooting style.
In both cases, I harnessed negatives - whether it was my own limitation or how my environment limited me. And, in both cases, I believe the work was better because of those adaptations.
Ironically, too many options or too much freedom can be crippling, while working with fewer resources can kickstart your creativity by forcing you to think in different ways.
So, the next time you don’t have all the elements you think you need, use the fact that something is missing to take your work in a new direction. Or, when you DO have all the pieces but there’s still no magic happening, start taking pieces away to encourage yourself to think differently.
In his TED Talk called "Embrace the Shake," artist Phil Hansen presents many examples of why you should “seize the limitations." It’ll be the most inspiring 10 minutes of your day. Check it out below.