I feel much has been left unexplored on the subject of creativity with little. Let’s survey the ways in which we can enforce constraints to stimulate creativity.
Make your own adventure
I often roam the landscape with no phone - the lifestyle of the majority of human existence. It feels perfectly natural. More so, I extract a greater sense of adventure in having to rely on own wit for basic world interaction. We took this for granted in the 1990s.
However, being a protagonist of your own interactive adventure need not mean that you can’t place a phone call, even at an age of an increasingly fewer payphones and more gluten-free products. You need merely ask for a phone. Capitalize on the fact that hardly anyone you encounter will prove as adventuresome. This is easily handled at a point of transaction, and a bit less naturally out there on the streets. Strike a conversation.
Write in confined space and time
I’ve slowly gravitated towards capturing notes, brainstorming, and composing outlines on small index cards. The benefits are at least three-fold:
- The confined space incites you to stay on point and emphasize the important.
- The isolated interaction factor. You can review and manipulate the index card separately from your denser paper notebook, computer or phone, sources of probable distractions.
- You can afford greater mobility with the index cards, without sacrificing the analog interaction. Carry them in the back pocket. Pace the room with them. Drop them. Soil them with caffeinated (or fermented) beverages. Any damage is usually localized to one such card.
- If you carry a moderate stack joined by a binder clip, you need not even seek another writing surface for support.
- Lastly, the confined space encourages compact script.
I’ll elaborate on that last point. Index cards enforce spacial constraints. Sometimes, we even face time constraints. Be it during conferences, workshops, or lectures, we need to quickly capture the minimum information to later make use of. Encoding your script to some shorthand variant serves to great effect. It saves time and space. Just be sure to resort to a maximally lossless cypher. Unless your writing is indeed ephemeral and serves the mere purpose of supplementing your memory, you probably desire to later revise and extract something close to the original meaning. I’ve continuously been revising my shorthand and intend to provide a more detailed status update on this project at some point.
Use mnemonics, memory journeys, encodings and other queues to attain unbelievable memory feats. See https://artofmemory.com/ or http://www.ludism.org/mentat for ideas. I’ll briefly say that the above techniques demand notable creativity to leverage to effective and long-term use.
See my recent post for an example of how one can manage to squeeze mostly all belongings into just a backpack. The benefits of lightweight, no-hassle movement are clear. Use creativity to mitigate the pitfalls. That is, select the fewest items of greatest, multi-purpose utility. Summon the occasional missing components. You need not always purchase them to fulfill one-time use. Hint: socialize.
Forget the internet
It’s entirely up to you, but I don’t endorse internet access anxiety. I speak of entering a cafe, new lodgings, or a new AirBnB, and immediately feel the wireless password itch. And heavens forbid you don’t obtain these credentials in a timely manner!
My preference lies with offline or even analog tools; with structuring your workload to minimize the internet dependency. See my posts on work abstraction layers and simple solutions where I further explore ways to decouple work from internet access. Cloud tools represent a complete anti-thesis that I avoid at all cost. But to restructure a heavily cloud-dependent workflow requires certain creativity in the initial stages. However, the creativity shall pay dividends once you start to feel the increased autonomy in a more disconnected life.
Limited screen real-estate
This is one of my favorites to address. I once relied on a 19-21 inch monitor for most work. Thankfully I never ventured to a multi-monitor setup that I’ve seen many office minions swear by. It looks fashionable for a Matrix operator, Network specialist or a daily trader, but otherwise creates too much dependence. At a later point I felt at perfect ease working within the confines of a 11-12 inch small laptop display. And now I operate on a 7 inch diameter tablet screen. The display facilitates nearly 100% of my needs. The remainder may call for a slightly unnatural viewing.
It did require some creativity to adapt the environment to such small screen real estate. Among the strategies, I employed the following:
- Linux console text-based (CLI) applications for everything possible. Email, calendaring, file management, etc.
- W3M text-based web browser for most informational site viewing.
- All text editing offline in VIM. Nearly always restricted to the VIM-native buffer mode with relevant macro shortcuts to expedite their navigation. Forget tabs or windows, which sabotage screen real estate with additional bars.
- VIM for all offline text editing: nearly always restricted to the VIM-native buffer mode with relevant macro shortcuts to expedite their navigation. Forget tabs or windows, which sabotage screen real estate with additional bars.
- Handy shortcuts to quickly navigate through different Tmux windows and sessions, not relying on panes.
- Eliminate the Android navigation and status bars while within the Termux (Linux) environment. Those bars only rob valuable screen real estate.
- As long as the display facilitates the viewing of 78-80 terminal characters wide at a comfortable font size, which a 7' display already manages, I can work within the constraints, leveraging the above strategies.
- As a bonus, implementing the above strategies you drastically reduce your computational demands, enabling usage of much older hardware.
- As a double bonus, if you write code, having that ~80 character constraint enforces certain compactness to your style. At least that’s the case with me.
This concerns creativity with your outlook. Be skeptical of your comfort. When travelling or lodging at a ranging set of arrangements, you may not always find the desired bed or comfort level. And even if you do, opt for something exotic from time to time. Sleep on the floor. The human frame generally requires less cushioning for healthy sleep than you imagine, once transcended the initial psychological shock. Yours truly does this on occasion.
Take solace in the knowledge that mounds of populations do this; physically solid populations of healthy bones. Don’t get confined to the ‘modern civilization’ mentality. Don’t be so gentle with yourself. Become resilient to physical uncertainty.
Resilience to discomfort and uncertainty
The mentality of scheduled discomfort borrows from the Stoic school of thought. Beyond that, I take certain pride in being able to sleep like most of the Animal Kingdom. It also liberates anxiety from anticipating comfort during travels. Along with the concepts of backpack-only travel and minimized internet dependency, adapting these strategies molds you into a more dynamic element of nature.
Bonus #1: If arriving from a night of poor sleep (or no sleep), or a night of heavy alcohol, don’t make yourself a victim. Don’t seek caffeinated beverages or medications. Exercise, head to the gym, run, stretch, or whatever be your preference. Say ‘fuck you’ to your comfort from time to time.
Bonus #2: Embrace cold showers. It may require a slow journey before you find yourself seamlessly entering an ice-cold shower with a completely arrogant sense of impunity. Granted, I slightly exaggerate. These days, especially in warm climates, though it doesn’t demand of me much anxiety to enter an ice-cold stream for a few minutes, the procedure is not precisely one of ecstasy. Now in a Winter climate, though I’ve lowered the shower temperature down to lukewarm, I’ve yet to venture into the extreme.
But we’re not shopping for comfort. We’re shopping to enforce constraints that ultimately liberate constraints. That’s correct. Imagine becoming impervious to the stressors of water temperature, sleeping arrangements, stable internet access, and your diva luggage necessities. Imagine domesticating that entire kit of traditional comforts. Does that not sound exhilarating?
Questions, comments? Connect.