This past weekend my family and I went to a local performance of Antony and Cleopatra. I won’t lie, I was bored. It’s not that I don’t like Shakespeare. I actually do. I couldn’t hear the words and the outdoor setting proved to be too much for my ADHD. So it wasn’t long before I was thinking about why was I even there? Why did I feel any desire at all to go see the play in the first place.

What is fascinating to me is not really Shakespeare itself. It’s what creative people do with the context. Baz Luhrmann is a great example. Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorites to this day. The constraint of trying to work with script that was essentially 400 years old creates some amazing opportunities for creativity. Baz Luhrmann’s’ version is fascinating in it’s approach. He uses the language in the script as a contrast to the setting. So, to me, it’s interesting from the start. Wait, the actors aren’t in period dress and wearing swords!

I love constraints. So much so that I will add them to a project if it doesn’t have one. When I was younger I imagined the awesome client that said money and time are no object. Do what you want. Then, as a young artist, was commissioned to do some paintings. “Do whatever you want”. I was stumped. I had no idea what to do. It was one of the worst projects I have ever worked on.

So by having constraints, we have boundaries that we can react to, limits we must embrace. The constraints can be time, metaphor, functionality or budget. Each provides a unique twist on the creative process. If the constraint is that you must build the application in a week, you can decide on how to execute immediately. If the constraint is to build a product with only one material, you already know that you must learn as much as possible about the material.

See, constraints will guide us, not limit us. They give us the terms of the deal, the way that we can act. So having constraints is freeing. It shows us where to start.

No money, no time? There is still a solution. It just has to fit in those constraints.

So why is Shakespeare still important? For me, it serves as a constraint that helps creative people come up with solutions. So I enjoy Shakespeare in the original language not because I like English Renaissance or poofy costumes. I enjoy it cause I like to see how creative people react to the constraint.

What if the local performance used the audience as the armies of Anthony and Caesar? That one change and I would have been much less bored.

What constraints do you have that will help you produce a creative solution? Two that I will put on myself are color or time. If the deadline is really far away, I’ll create deadlines for myself. And there are times when I will limit the number of colors as well. Each constraint is unique in how it helps me focus and develop creative solutions.

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