“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
~ Charles Mingus
Do you ever feel like life is just too complex?
There’s too much going on at once, too much we have to get done, too many things to worry about, people to please, decisions to make. And there’s not enough time to fit it all in.
Everyone feels like this from time to time.
And when it comes to art and creativity, we are faced with even more complications. What medium should we use? What subject should we paint? How can we make best use of the Internet to promote ourselves? Which project should we work on first? What if we do it wrong? It’s overwhelming, to say the least.
What if we could eliminate the complexity, the decisions, the distractions and the worries that cause so much overwhelm and stifle our creativity?
One thing that has really helped me to simplify my life in the last few months is embracing the concept of minimalism.
What is Minimalism?
You may have read a bit about minimalism, and you may think, as a lot of people do, that it involves selling all of your possessions, wearing the same clothes every day, and living out of a rucksack.
While some of these things can be part of a minimalist lifestyle, they are not requirements by any means. For more advice on what minimalism is not, Alejandro Reyes wrote a great article in which he debunks five common myths about minimalism.
So what is it?
According to Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists), minimalism is a tool to help you achieve freedom. They say that minimalism is about stripping away the unnecessary things in your life so that you can focus on what’s important.
Colin Wright describes minimalism as a reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.
For me, minimalism is essentially about simplifying. Simplifying your life by eliminating any unnecessary distractions and concentrating on the things that really matter to you.
The reason that doing things like selling your possessions is quite common among minimalists is that once you start to really think about what really matters, you realise that most of your possessions don’t really add value to your life, and that buying expensive clothes and gadgets won’t really make you happy.
Minimalism is about making the complicated simple, and this can be incorporated into all aspects of your life, including your creative practice.
For example, a good painting should use as few brush strokes as possible in order to achieve the desired effect. Instead of trying to reproduce the complexity of real life, we aim to capture its essence by simplifying. If you keep layering on too much paint, you will end up with a busy-looking painting, which loses much of its beauty.
Likewise, the key to a good drawing is to simplify wherever possible. We are taught to squint our eyes in order to simplify shapes so that it’s easier to see the form.
And I’ve written before about how we can potentially increase sales by reducing choice, essentially simplifying the buying process for our customers.
Minimalism and Creativity
I’d like to share a couple of my articles by two of my favourite minimalists, which will really help you if you’re struggling with the complexity of being creative.
I’ve always battled with perfectionism, which is a direct cause of procrastination, and the enemy of creativity. In his essay Imperfect is the New Perfect, Joshua Fields Millburn discusses his own perfectionism around his fiction writing, and how we can deal with imperfection, saying that life should be about growth and contribution, not perfection.
And finally, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits shares 11 ways that simplicity can help creativity, eliminating many of the complications and distractions that cause so much of our overwhelm when it comes to being creative.
Hopefully after reading this you have learned something about what minimalism is and isn’t, and how it can be applied to your creative practice, as well as your life in general.
If you’ve embraced a minimalistic lifestyle, I’d love to hear about how it has helped you focus on what really matters to you. Leave a comment below and share your story.