This weekend I read an interesting article about a young girl, with a disease that leaves her unable to feel pain. Unfortunately, this is not the same as being unable to be hurt...quite the opposite in fact. It turns out that the ability to feel pain plays an enormous part in our survival. It's ironic that we spend our lives trying to avoid pain and it turns out that it's an essential component of staying alive. Pain lets us know when we are damaging the container we live in. The article got me wondering if there's a creative equivalent to this idea.
By that I mean something that has this interesting duality - where the thing we avoid is really the path of our salvation. The only creative equivalent I could think of is the idea of limitation. We often think that we'd be so much more creative if only we had more... (fill in the blank). Yet is it through the use of boundaries that we find we can truly focus our energies in a way that allows us to go beyond what we might do with unlimited resources.
Our limitations often sharpen the edge of our reality - they force us to look at that which we want to avoid - in a way limitations allow us to really triumph - because, if used correctly, they narrow our field of possibilities and that allows us to really look at what's left. In a way, we do better with the compromises we make when faced with our limitations. In reducing the possibilities, we are often able to make more use of the material that's left. To see it without all of the external visual noise.
Exercise: Focus through Limitation
Here's a way to make this idea literal... cut a small window in a black piece of paper and hold it up to the world as a "viewer." Make sure that the paper is big enough so that there's at least 3-4 inches on each side of the window...we want to make sure that it's really isolating the view. Now try using this to reduce your "world view" in multiple situations - everything from landscapes to portraits.