Long, rambling, boring entry. You’ve been warned.
Frosh year in high school we had a poetry unit that was pretty interesting. The teacher said something that I’ve pondered ever since. She was talking about the different forms of poetry, and why people would want to do that, intentionally limit themselves to a form instead of all using free verse or whatever. And she said something about how there’s power in working within a limitation, how working within those boundaries can sometimes bring out even more creativity than unbridled structural freedom.
I bought it. I dunno, just for me, I appreciated a good poem with regular meter and rhyme more than the more free ones. Just, seeing how they’re able to accomplish things within the structure made it more powerful. Again, just to me.
Anyway, this whole video game thing has gotten me to thinking about it, and I think there’s a lot of truth to this life wise. I think a lot of times, limitations spark more creativity. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe those limitations force us to think in more lateral ways? No clue. But yeah, with video games, we’re currently in an age of incredible technical freedom, but it amazes me how unoriginal games are now. Not unfun. Just unoriginal. It’s nothing compared to the games they had for Nintendo, or the arcade games of old. I don’t think it applies in the extreme, like the Atari 2600 was probably a little too technically inhibiting, but even with that, the creativity is amazing. Like, can you believe how many games they made that used the paddle? It moves in 2 directions and has 1 button. That’s amazing.
It’s not just video games, it’s lots of things. Like, Calvin and Hobbes. I dunno, remember when the guy made a big hullabaloo about the Sunday version and he changed the format from being the traditional panels to a more free form thing? I dunno, personally, I didn’t like it. He was the master of the limited panel form, I thought. When he moved to the less limiting structure, it was more visually interesting, but nowhere near as funny. Something about the freedom hurt him, I think.
Same with music. The amount of control you can have over sound in the studio nowadays is amazing. But almost all music types bemoan the lack of creativity and the cookie cutter nature of music today. It’s odd. But yeah, something about the limitations of the past sparked more creativity, I think. I dunno, you have to read about the Beatles and how creative they were using 8 track recording, or how the flange sound was developed. It’s really interesting. There were so many limits in recording they employed really creative ways of getting new sounds.
So yeah, sometimes I think freedom is stifling and limitations sparks more creativity. I’m not exactly sure how that works, just something I’m thinking about.
Anyway, I think this applies to our generation. Just, our parents sacrificed a lot to give us opportunities, but I dunno, I don’t think we’re using it particularly creatively. In my mind at least it seems we’re all doing the same thing. So our parents didn’t earn us freedom. They earned us… money? I dunno, something like that. The opportunity to earn more money. And that seems kind of boring to me.
Stanford came out with this class book for the Class of ’98’s 5th Reunion. They had everyone fill out a sheet about what they’ve done and are doing and made a big book out of it. I didn’t fill one out but they sent me a book anyway. At any rate, I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but I thought it was mindnumblingly boring. It just gets incredibly repetitious. I’m in residency now. Working for a law firm. Going to business school. Snore. Not that these are bad things. Or that I’m any more creative. I’m an engineer. How hip and fresh. I’m just saying, seems like everyone’s doing the same thing.
(My favorite entry was this girl I knew who wrote that she has not stood in any Stanford weddings, has not received any fellowships, and has not traveled extensively abroad. That killed me. Just harping on what the alumni notes frequently seem to be about. My least favorite entries were the ones where they had pictures with their significant other who – in between the page submit date and now – they’ve since broken up with. Comfortable.)
What’s my point. I dunno. It just seems like our generation has a lot of freedom, but we’re not utilizing our freedom in particularly creative ways, and I find that a bit odd. I dunno, maybe it’s unreasonable to expect that. It’s just, it seems like there are few people our generation who, even though we have more freedom to do it, are really pursuing something they’re passionate about. So when I see someone who’s doing that it’s inspiring.
My problem is, aside from God (or more accurately, church, which is a problem I think but won’t get into) and Jieun, I’m not really sure what I’m passionate about. The things I do get passionate about tend to be fleeting and/or impractical (e.g. Texas Hold ‘Em and retro video games. Not much of a career path there).
Anyway, yeah, the relationship between freedom and creativity is really interesting to me. Just, to a certain extent, it seems like more freedom doesn’t spark more creativity, and that’s odd.