5 REASONS TO TAKE A MINIMALIST APPROACH TO CREATIVITY
"Less, but better." Dieter Rams
Last week, I wrote about spring cleaning your career, and the ways in which the new season can be a good time to refresh and review your goals, routine, and workspace for the months ahead.
This week, I’ve been doing some actual spring cleaning. Inspired by a decluttering manual by a Japanese organisation expert named Marie Kondo, I've thrown out about ten bags of clothes, paperwork, and miscellaneous crap - and I didn’t even have that much stuff to begin with. I’m a big believer in regularly culling the possessions and goals that no longer serve you, which is the basis of Marie Kondo’s philosophy: She advises that we hold onto the things that bring us joy, and let go of everything else. Implementing her advice this week left me feeling inspired and refreshed - which in turn got me thinking about how the same principle could be applied to creative work. A few ideas:
LESS STUFF = MORE TIME
Stuff takes up time. The process of acquisition is, in and of itself, time-consuming: you have to go to the physical or online store, browse and research your options, purchase whatever it is you’ve decided that you need, and then maybe even return it when it breaks.
When you acquire and own less stuff, you automatically slash the amount of time you have to spend getting and maintaining that stuff. Which leaves you more time for work, creativity, and just about everything else. Equally, this philosophy applies to the 'stuff' that clutters up your daily routine. Fewer items on the list = more time for the important things.
SIMPLICITY IS THE ULTIMATE SOPHISTICATION
Pretty much any successful artist, designer, or writer will tell you they strive for simplicity in their art ("Good design is as little design as possible", as Dieter Rams famously put it.) Decluttering isn’t just about cleaning out your physical space, but also about refining your creative life and boiling it down to its truest elements. By deciding to create less, you give yourself the space to focus on creating the best.
Some people find it impossible to focus on just a few things - and if that’s truly your creative nature then by all means, embrace it - while others cultivate ten projects as an avoidance strategy for doing just one thing really well. Make sure you’re conscious of which side of the fence you’re on.
THE ART OF MONO-TASKING
Even if you do decide to keep up with your 15 projects, you should never try to do them all at once. Multitasking is a myth of the modern age. I believe that we’re much more effective when we focus our efforts on one task at a time, and avoid the urge to flit between a number of unrelated to-dos.
Be aware of what type of work you do best at any given time in the day, and be sure to carve out time in your routine to get it done. For example, I know that I’m at my most focused and clear-headed between 8am-11am, so I try to reserve that time for writing and strategising. Emails and admin can wait until later in the day.
SIMPLICITY REQUIRES CLARITY
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Blaine Pascal.
Taking a minimalist approach to your work requires absolute clarity of thought, which is obviously not easy to achieve. But it's worth the effort: in attempting to distill your creative process, aspirations, and technique, you’ll likely identify a few glaring inconsistencies between the work you want to do, and the work you're actually doing.
Kondo recommends a slightly wacky technique of holding each physical object you own to gauge whether it brings you joy. Anything that doesn't illicit a positive response has to go. I think a similar approach can be applied to creative work. Write a list of all the ways in which you currently spend your time, and ask yourself how each pursuit makes you feel. Obviously we all have to do stuff we don’t love (girl’s gotta pay her bills) but in general, it’s worth cutting out all the ‘extras’ that don’t make you feel at your creative, inspired best.
A BLANK CANVAS (OR PAGE) IS INSPIRING
Yes, a blank page can also be the most daunting thing in the world - but when you strip back the superfluous to-do’s and boil down the essence of what you actually want to achieve and create, you’ll find yourself feeling super-inspired. Over the next few weeks, consider carving out time to declutter your physical space, spring clean your career, and simplify your creative working life. See where you can go from there.