Add a box to be more creative.

Posted by on Apr 4, 2014 in Get Fresh Minds | 0 comments

Creativity is typically thought of as breaking free.  It’s about challenging assumptions, throwing the rules out the window and walking away from the “way things are done”.

Many people believe the best way to be creative is to empower thinkers to run with whatever pops into their head.  That’s why so many people insist that creativity is all about “breaking out of the box”.

But what if that’s not the right approach?  What if people come up with creative ideas not by escaping from restrictions… but from adding them?

Consider the art form of poetry. Virtually everyone would argue that poets are creative – yet many forms of poetry are full of rules.

The Japanese haiku is a short poem with three lines containing up to 17 syllables total! Shouldn’t that limitation intimidate poets and destroy their ability/desire to create? How much creativity is possible in only 17 syllables?

Except the haiku is so popular that now people write them in Japanese and English.  There are actually 5 day conferences put on by the Haiku Society of North America where haiku enthusiasts meet haiku celebrities, attend workshops, listen to panels on the haiku form and enter contests.  Pretty amazing how much creative energy is inspired by 17 syllables.

The sonnet, if anything, is even more confining for poets than the haiku.  A sonnet must:

  • contain exactly 14 lines
  • be written in iambic pentameter
  • follow an a-b-a-b/c-d-c-d/e-f-e-f/g-g rhyme scheme
  • present a conflict in the opening stanzas
  • offer a resolution in the closing ones.

That’s quite a box, isn’t it?!!! Yet Shakespeare alone wrote 154 unique sonnects.  Other major poets such as William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings and W. B. Yeats (among others) also wrote hundreds of poems using the sonnet form.

Adding parameters to creative thinking is not a death sentence.  In fact, rather than thwarting creativity, the “boxes” of poetic forms challenge poets to push their creativity to its limits.

There’s no reason that that ingenuity can’t transfer over to real life as well.


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