Creativity Is Borne Of Structure

If I tell you, “Quick, draw something funny!” chances are you’ll have a hard time coming up with something. But if I tell you, “Quick, draw something funny about your boss!” you’ll be able to invent something much faster. As Jon Stewart once told NPR, “Creativity comes from limits, not freedom. Freedom, I think you don’t know what to do with yourself. But when you have a structure, then you can improvise off it.”

Matthew Inman, the artist behind the viral comic sensation TheOatmeal.com, carries Moleskine notebooks wherever he goes, and when he notices an interesting fact of life, he scribbles it down. “I type it into a giant file, called like Oatmeal’s Massive Comic File, and kind of type an outline of it,” I read. And then, like a screenplay, he creates text outlines of the jokes before turning to his graphics program to illustrate.

Of course, this leaves plenty of room for experimentation, which is essential. But it’s the constraints of what he will and won’t do that lead to the creative breakthroughs. This is the case with any kind of innovation, not just comedy.

It’s easier to stay motivated enough to build a backlog of material while nobody’s paying attention, to spend extra time on the details that make a huge difference, when you’re passionate about your work. Take time to create a structure, a space where this is possible and see your innovation, your creativity soar!

Meiko SeymourComment