There is such a thing as too much creativity or, perhaps it would be better said, too little constraint for creativity. Yes, good readers, it’s true! Unconstrained, rampant creativity can lead to the exact opposite of creativity’s intention (to create), leading to a perpetual state of whirling ideas and useless pontification. Worse, sometimes unconstrained creativity leads to a giant mess of a creation, so wrapped up in its wild, disparate parts that it scarce resembles anything cohesive.
I suppose I’ve always known this, but I received a lesson on this yesterday. I am an avid pen-and-paper gamer, good old school roleplayer for decades now (a subject that will come up sometime soon, be assured!), and I was tasked with coming up with a new character for a small Pathfinder game.
“Okay,” I told the gamemaster (the person referring the game and telling the story for the uninitiated), “what are my parameters?”
“Whatever you’d like to play, as long as it works with the other player,” he replied.
“Wow, cool, this is a great chance to try out some of the more unusual things out there! Thanks!”
So I went out into the world with a blank check. Couple that with a fellow player with few quibbles with what I wanted to play and I could do almost anything. Any kind of character could be my creation. Therein lied the problem.
Unconstrained, my creative mind ran wild. I had hundreds of ideas, intriguing notions I had stored up from years of gaming, and they all flooded in at once. That led to hours of consternation, trying to sort so many rapidly evolving ideas and notions, half-baked character concepts all tangling up into a messy ball of unrecognizable dough. I was being tripped up by my own creativity, having set no bounds for myself or having none set for me.
You can see this same effect in other creative ventures. A writer with no editors or beta readers can spit out lurching masses of pages, tangled up with too many characters, subplots, and half-baked ideas to form a solid narrative. A renowned filmmaker, in much the same way, might be let go creatively with no studio or editorial oversight and steer a beloved cinematic universe down an erratic and incomprehensible path (NO I’M NOT STILL MAD ABOUT PHANTOM MENACE, THANK YOU FOR ASKING!). All creative people need filters, be they self-imposed or, better yet, imposed by others outside of the direct creative process, lest our imaginations all run off the rails.
Until next time, good luck, good reading, and good writing!