Friday, August 04, 2006

Creativity and Rules

I've been thinking a little bit about creativity. It's interesting that some people emphasize the necessity of "complete freedom" and "creative environments" to foster creativity. All of which is well and good. But for some reason the role of rules in creative expression is somewhat marginalized.

I'm an outside-fo-the-box sort of guy. I'm not particularly fond of "the box". But you just can't think outside of the box if there's no box to begin with.

Check this out. Which of the following commands are more likely to produce quality creative expression?

"Write something."

"Write a story."

"Write a story about an ashtray."

"Write a story about an ashtray in less than 500 words."

It seems to me that as the rules pile up (i.e. the story must have an ashtray, must be a certain length or point of view) the more likely it is that the creative work will do something interesting.

Granted, some artists seem to work without rules. But I think they often give themselves a challenge, sort of self-inflicted rules (i.e. I don't like the photo-realistic paintings, I am going to try to do something different).

In fact, the Renaissance was an amazing explosion of quality art, and most of the artists were shackeled to an enormous number of rules. Their patrons often demanded a certain subject matter (Biblical scenes, portraits of the Medici family) in a certain medium, in a certain place (how about on this ceiling).

Anyway, maybe this is common knowledge. Chris, I'm guessing you studied this and have a more intelligent, well-thought-out opinion. But I thought it was strange looking around on the web and seeing so many people talking about needing freedom to create art.