Creativity Through Constraints

I’ve been a huge fan of the concept of “creativity through constraints” since I first heard it a few months after my PhD.

I would beat myself up all the time for not coming up with ideas, or for finding it tricky to start projects. “Being creative” sometimes feels like you have to be wholly original, or think of something really big. Creativity through constraints forces ideas out by adding parameters or barriers:

  • You have a page to tell your story. What do you write?
  • You only have £10 to spend on a present. What could you get?
  • You have a hard deadline to be finished by, no exceptions! What do you do?

Constraints are limits, but they don’t have to be limiting. In preparation for the viva, consider how you could use constraints to your advantage.

  • You have a page to summarise your thesis. What do you write?
  • You have a limit – because of work and other obligations – of how much time you can invest on prep each day. What do you prioritise?
  • Your supervisor can only meet you one or two times before your viva. What do you ask of them?

Constraints can encourage you to think creatively. Pressures can be stressful, but they can also steer you into focussing – or find interesting solutions to things that seem like problems at first. What constraints do you find on you at the moment? And what constraints might actually be useful for your viva preparation?