Why What You Want,May Not Be What You Need.

The feeling of limitations can be frustrating. I know as someone who would really like to call himself a creative, that the combination of boundless dreams and a complete lack of resources to reach them can seem diametrically opposed.  I have spent a lot of time mapping out my dreams and the steps it would take to achieve them, but in an honest moment feeling as though I don’t really have the resources. This idea would never prevent me from trying and I don’t seem to quit, willing to wander in a goal without progress just waiting patiently for a change in circumstance that will propel me to next step. These dreams run on a belief that it will work out. I don’t think that last part is not a problem, but in fact it probably is a necessity that I believe is shared with most people who travel down a nontraditional path. The problem is how I, and how we who identify as creative’s, view the relationship between what we don’t have, and how we get to where we want to be. When we decided to create Setlist, the initial idea and what it looks like now are completely different. The plan was to create a network that musicians of the indie and folk scene could call home. It would be a place where other genres weren’t competing and a style like folk music that doesn’t beg for attention wouldn’t be drowned out. While this is still something we’re working to create, we quickly realized that going from something to nothing wasn’t going to happen overnight.

So here we are, like most of us at the starting line, with no real direction but a big picture in our mind to guide what we did. While this is the greatest time in the history of man to create a business, we could not get enough between the three of us to pay for what we thought it would require making what we thought we needed. So we did the only thing we could think to do and that is start a social media page and post relevant information to this audience we hoped to bring together. Those posts started out messy and again after time the feeling of not knowing how to go from where we are, to where we want to be weighed on our shoulders. This may have created a little more wiggle room but all of the barriers that were there in the beginning remained. After something like six months of a plateau in progress and no end in sight the feelings of these restrictions created by having no capital, little time and frankly our general lack of knowhow, became hard to surmount. The feeling that this isn’t working out, was getting heavy.

I’ve spent so much of my life feeling this way, even though I am working hard, the resources I believed would really help me get to the next step were just out of reach. I think most of us can relate to this, and I’ve come across many people who have chosen to depart from what they want, when the amount of time, money, or even talent felt to limiting to overcome.

That’s how I was feeling, and then between a quote from Jack White and a brief chapter in Austin Kleon’s book Steal like an Artist I had a big change in perspective.  Jack White said “Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want-that just kills creativity.”  Austin Kleon dove a little deeper saying “The way to get over creative block is to put some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom.”

After living by this for the past six months or so I’ve found it incredibly freeing.  I think Austin Kleon has a good point when he talks about creating constraints and boundaries. I’m sure many of you like me always talk about wanting more time and if we could get it so much more would get done. Then we have a day off and think, holy shit this is going to most productive day of my life. Then the morning comes and because you don’t have work there is no rush to wake up. Then its well I have all day so I don’t need to start right now I’ll just ease into it. An entire box of cereal and a season of House of Cards later the sun is setting and you didn’t do anything. It takes so much discipline to be productive when you have no deadline.

Fortunately for most of us we’ve got a million things pulling us in two million different directions. So while there are cases where I think it is a useful tool adding limits to what you’re doing or what you’re doing a project with, I think for the bigger challenges we are facing we just need to embrace the lack of resources we have naturally. That’s how this blog I’m writing for now came to be, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve made.

As soon as we stop viewing the things we don’t have as roadblocks to get around and start viewing them as challenges to work inside of, your creativity will find its way out.

Thanks for reading,

-Jake