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THE SJSU MA DIARIES

  • Jessica Te

Keep It Simple

Creativity through simplicity.


“Nothing is more terrifying than the idea of limitless possibilities.”


How many times have you had an entirely free day and made little to no progress on writing a paper? When you’re not limited by time or materials, it gets more and more difficult to accomplish things that you want to do. (The fact that I could write about anything for this article was paralyzing in itself and it led me to 2-3 weeks of writer’s block.)


The amount of ideas and sensory information that we take in are distractions that inhibit our ability to focus and be creative. I find that a bit of simplicity and an open mind can do wonders on your stress levels and focus. I’m no expert on creativity or minimalism, but these are some tips I use to simplify things in my own life.


  1. Choose what to leave out.

Concentrate on what’s important to you. Setting priorities is key to living a simpler, focused life and gets rid of unnecessary stress or distractions.I like to make bulleted lists of my most important tasks, which helps visualize what’s most important at that moment.


2. Place constraints on yourself.

If you have unlimited time and materials to make things, it becomes an excuse to procrastinate. Saying “I can just do it tomorrow” ends up becoming a daily habit. Limit yourself. Work on your assignment for 10 minutes. Draw using only 2 colors. Limit the number of ideas you’ll incorporate in your blog. Placing constraints on yourself helps your ability to focus and work with what you have.


3. Great ideas come while doing the most menial tasks.

Some surprising ideas come while you’re doing the most basic tasks, like doing the dishes or folding the laundry. These tasks don’t require active thinking and your mind tends to drift. Stare at the wall. Go for a long walk. Give your mind time to just be bored and wander. You never know where it’ll take you.


4. You’re already ready.

Rather than worry about not knowing enough or not being good enough, just start making stuff. Whatever your creative outlet or passion is, start it. This lines up with the best advice I’d ever been given: "Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.” If we all sat around waiting to “figure ourselves out,” then, well, we’d still be sitting around instead of actually making things. Figure yourself out as you create and make things. After all, creativity is a long process of growth and development.


These tips are from a novel about cultivating creativity by Austin Kleon called Steal Like An Artist. Kleon immediately became one of my favorite authors and I bought his sequels as well. His books are easy-reads and I highly recommend them for anyone searching for inspiration in their own life.


Focus on simplicity in your own life and allow yourself to create.


All images from Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.