Befriending The Wolf

Can you turn your creativity on and off like a switch?

If you can, then you are blessed beyond belief.

For the rest of us, creativity feels like a wild thing. 

It’s not a dog to be called when we need it. It’s rather more like befriending a wolf. Elusive in nature. Fickle in affections. 

If your work is creativity based, then this can be all the more maddening.

What do you do when your creativity dries up?

Shake your fists? Pull out your hair? Bargain with the heathen gods?

Stop, my friend. Put your clothes back on, drop the knife, and release the goat. Instead, allow me to tell you about the nature of wolves.

All wolves love a den. 

Four cozy walls. A safe place to lay down. Contrary to what you’d expect, it’s the constraint that calls the wolf home. 

What does this have to do with creativity?

I’ll speak plainly. 

Creativity thrives under constraint. It is the unusual circumstances that breed the most creative solutions.

But what if you don’t have constraints? Nothing standing in your way. Just a blank sheet of paper and the directive, “Be creative.” What then?

In those situations, it’s best to adopt artificial constraints. Creative handcuffs. Arbitrary rules by which to play.

These can come in many forms. Here are just a few examples:

  • Style limits – color, shape, texture
  • Time limits – due dates, stopwatches, maximum time on a step 
  • Dollar limits – spend less, hit an exact budget, spend more 
  • Personnel limits – less people, more people, exact number of people
  • Location limits – do it local, do it global, do it in two locations concurrent

Another thing I know of wolves. They love to play keep away. The harder you chase the more gleeful their evasion. 

Don’t chase your creativity. 

Call it home with a cozy den of constraints.

– Zac Smith, VC