Don’t you just love being limited? Being told, ‘No, you can’t go there.’ ‘No, you can’t do that.’ I don’t think many of us like being told that that there are things we can’t do. But let’s look at our limitations creatively.
The thing that makes a Haiku special is the limitations placed on the lines. Like this one, which is so widely known now that I don’t know who to give credit to:
Five syllables here
Seven more syllables here
Are you happy now?
It’s not just Haiku, other poems have different rules. Have you listened to some of the older hymns? The scansion is perfect and the rhyming schemes are interesting and beautiful. They are written creatively using restrictions to make them better.
Austin Kleon used the restriction of copyright to create a novel class of poetry. He creates poetry from newspaper articles, blacking out words on the newspaper page until only one or two are left. The method is consistent with copyright rules and restricted by fair use. And the resulting poems are both beautiful and meaningful.
I was working with a friend on her academic paper. She’d written the abstract – a short description of the paper and about 330 words long. However, the journal had a 250-word limit on the abstract so many words just had to go. We cut and cut and cut. A word from a sentence here, a change of tense there so that we could turn two words into one. The abstract became a thing of beauty as we worked creatively to meet the constraints.
When Matisse could no longer use oil paints due to ill health and hardship, he created a whole new art form by covering large sheets of paper with a colourful gouache paint and then cutting the paper into shapes with scissors. These incredibly vibrant artworks adorn walls at modern art museums such as Tate Modern and MoMA.
My friend Angie posted on Instagram, ‘When your garden gives you fennel, you cook Otolenghi roast chicken.’ She had used the limitation of what was in her garden to make her dinner much more creative. I find that I enjoy dinner decisions more when I’m working from the constraints of what’s in my pantry and fridge, rather than the wide open options of the supermarket.
I think we can look at the constraints and limitations thrown at us by life and use them as prods for our creativity, rather than handcuffs on our freedom. And maybe we can place constraints on our own lives to increase our quality of life, rather than just going with a free-for-all.
We can limit:
- Our work hours to 9-5 and use evenings for rest and rejuvenation
- Our work days to just Monday to Friday; no bringing work home for the weekend
- Checking email to only three times a day
- Special treats – what if ice cream was only for birthdays? That would make birthdays so special!
- Screen time to just a couple of hours in the evenings so that we go to bed at a reasonable time
- Meals – Michael Moseley suggests we cut back to three meals a day rather than eating all day long
- Buying for ourselves. Then our friends can actually give us meaningful and useful gifts
- Our activities so that they fit in the time we have available to us
These are just some ideas. What other limits can you think of that might add to quality of life? Let me know. Email email@example.com, find me on Facebook at Ruth Amos Author, or tweet me @aquietlifeblog.