Fruitful Constraints in creativity & the wall of “I don’t know this”

I wrote an article about Fruitful Constraints & Creativity in 2017. Here it is :

It’s an old tool many artists know : many constraints are fruitful. Mainly because a constraint is a problem calling for a solution, therefore you have to move, to be creative.

All jobs and activities have constraints : budget, environment, other people, time, space, your skills, your tools.

If it’s too loose, though, you feel a freedom, which can be messy. You can not catch anything. Stuck. You maybe need to tight something up, to find “your” freedom within a new frame.

Brian Eno invented the Oblique Strategies (mainly for musicians) as a card game. You pick a card and you have to obey (sometimes it’s terrible!). Some directors are well known to tell the actors to follow precisely something (the dialogs, or the places they have to move on the set, etc) before shooting. Some digital artists sometimes go out in a park with a pencil and a notebook. A photographer can go outside with the limit of 20 pictures taken, not much. And G. Perec wrote an entire book without the letter “e”.

Constraints are fruitful. You probably have many disposable levers for these. A poet can obey : write something in alexandrine; without any letter “p”, in less than 5 minutes. You may have to present a project in ONE minute only, and… with no words. What are your levers?

You can pull a lever to Zero, it’s the Total Constraint. For example, you’re a photographer and you go out without any camera. Just your eye. You’ll feel the need, you’ll feel your brain simmering. As you can only watch and… think, you’ll maybe have bursts of ideas (instead of taking pictures). Take notes!

Of course it’s an example of “Amor Fati”, being content with what happens to you, even if it seems bad. Embracing fate : every constraint, if you can’t avoid it, should (and will have to) be danced with.


Today I’d like to extend this. If “constraints in Arts” is a well known concept, what about life, or culture?

Obviously, it’s linked to the idea of “Comfort Zone”. Let’s take movies, or music…

If one listens to the music they love, good to them. But how do we discover other musics, in fields we’re not used to dig? We have to think, make efforts, find a way and a place, informations. Then we begin, and our brain is surrounded with constraints : we don’t necessarily feel pleasure, there are things we don’t get, and our lazy head pushes us to stop.

It’s the same for painters we don’t like, movies we usually avoid, etc.

Out of our comfort zone, we have to make efforts, we must use an amount of curiosity, we must find or draw maps. In fact, we build, we extend, we grow.

The wall of “I don’t know this” can be an obstacle. Do we skip over, making efforts and feeling the fecund constraints of the undiscovered, or do we go back to the mellowness of what we already love?

Is the real new fruitful for us? How?

If exploring is sometimes unpleasant, is it worthy to fight the unpleasantness (OK : displeasure) and why? You have to invent new tools to think? You could find pearls and emeralds and gold?

What haven’t I explored until now?


Thanks for reading!


Trent Parke


When you’re French, you always hear about one quality which could be the core of Frenchness (of Frenchiness, who knows…) : “La mesure”, measure, which is weaved with moderation, elegance, analysis and a certain casualness.

Of course it’s always compared to Italy (more sun), Belgium (freer/crazier) or Germany (order, discipline) or America (power, efficiency)

It’s just in the cultural air, I never heard about this :

  1. In music, it’s Debussy : it never cuts or scream like Prokofiev, it’s not German (Wagner, Brückner). It’s Boulez, the orchestra director, who is the contrary of Bernstein : analysis and precision… creates beauty (certainly not “trance”).
  2. In poetry it’s Baudelaire, like a tamed complex clever romantic – there’s a critic in the poet’s head, controlling and judging the… rushes.
  3. I always heard about the French elegance about cars design. Ferrari is Italian and can not be French. Google “French elegance classic car design”.
  4. And tell me about La Parisienne, the French women who have “this” irritating fashion gift to be casually elegant with anything, pffff.
  5. Cuisine?

So what? La French touch? I asked around me and I got a few more words : subtlety, freedom, a way to refuse vulgarity (Ferrari not French). And a pinch of arrogance, I know…

Chanel, Stendhal, Ravel, I don’t know… I steal ideas in Valéry, and maybe find that what I’m looking for is maybe paradoxical, maybe a free, casual way to play with both sides of life.

It’s abstract, but it can be fiery (if we want, so there!). It’s drier, lighter (Satie). It’s… contained, but lyrical – but contained (Baudelaire). It’s elegant (but casually). Lines. Tone. Formulas and arrows. It wants quick ways, fast spirits. Maybe a little insolent. Seeking to be ageless, probably. Very personal, and disconcerting like a game. Sending out rules and dogmatism.

Of course I claim to be like that! 🙂

One figure here : Serge Gainsbourg. This composer/singer was casual (and never shaved) and so subtle and romantic. He was a great thief (of genres or classical music themes, from Brahms to Chopin). No dogma : easy listening, reggae, rock, he tried everything. Arrogant, for sure… and so subtle. Heavy, but harmonically very sensitive, etc.

You’ve never finished, with the French!

Traits are interesting. I exactly know what I like in Italy, in the USA, in the British culture (Beatles, Bowie). I smiled each time I am amazed by a musician from Northern Europa, Norway or Sweden. They have something (which is : extreme care of harmonic forms : Loney Dear, Abba, Royksopp).

What about yours, your… countriness?

Thanks for reading!


Fecundity of Limits

If you’re a creative person, you encountered the “Fecundity of Limits” concept, obviously. Fruition. I’d distinguish :

  1. the limits you choose yourself
  2. the limits given to you by someone in charge
  3. the limits you encounter while you’re building your stuff.

Choosing your own limits is such… a pleasure. It’s about preparing your work. Paint something with 3 colors only. Write a book in a month. Travel, but no more than 5 miles a day.

Limits coming as instructions can be a relief. Many actors talk about the freedom you have while you have to obey strict orders. It’s about unfolding inside a frame : perfect for certain personalities.

The limits you encounter are parts of the building process. Your technical shortfalls is a good example. You then move forward “within” your capacities – trying maybe to push them back. The budget can be a limit. You’ll discover the others while you work : It’s a stream, a current!

Tool : Choose, change them, ask someone for limits (as seeds), think about them while your create, and then… forget your feedback : you’re in the flow, a good one!

Thanks for reading! Work well! Travaillez bien !


Arthur Rimbaud & Glenn Gould : The “Big Less” Temptation

Rimbaud was a French poet who had a huge influence on Arts and Literature, but stopped writing at 21. He became a merchant, mostly in Africa (in coffee trading, for example!), and died at 37.

Gould was a Canadian pianist who stopped giving concerts at the age of 31 and became an eccentric hermit in recording studios.

Different destinies, but a similar pattern : at one moment, they stopped completely something they succeeding in, they closed a door.

Rimbaud stopped writing. Many wondered why : The artist had said everything? He wanted to explore another face of his personality? He had a secret wound? Dead wordsourcespring?
Gould didn’t stop making music, but never came back playing in concert, and he explained himself about that.

I write this because I wonder if sometimes we should consider a similar flip. A combination of levers & dials, studying what’s good in our life, considering that insisting (even in different ways) could be, from now, a failure : it’s maybe time for a closure?…


The Big Less is about considering to close a part of you which… works. Why would you do that, like “I park it”? Why would you stop what works? You feel you miss something? It’s too easy? You reached a plateau? I works but the wrong way? You lost a goal? You need to experiment to enrich? Fresh air? You need to get smaller to go faster? A fresh start to go elsewhere? You’re afraid of some ticking-over routine? Is it a bad idea? Why?

And who knows what will happen after some years? Maybe you’ll realize you needed the big disturbance of it? Maybe a bigger room will open? A secret path will appear? Maybe you’ll make good Bach records, or trade coffee?

Have a nice day!