Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Be Thankful for Your Limitations

First, a bit of good news re: my last post. I have been stretching my writing muscles, writing a new bit of creative writing every day. Right now it only amounts to exercises of about 250 words, but just as you can't run a marathon without training...well, let's just say I'm dusting off some cobwebs through this practice, getting ready for longer sessions. Still, even this feels so good.

Which brings me to today's thoughts on limitations. One of the ways I'm getting back to writing is through predetermined prompts, not of my own making. For example, tonight's exercise was this: "Describe a landscape as seen by a bird. Do not mention the bird."

Most of the time, we think of limitations as obstacles. As in, "If only I didn't have to go to work, I'd get this done," or, "If I had X amount of dollars, I'd be able to accomplish X." (I think that most people's major limitation gripes have to do with time or money, but of course, it could be something like, "If I had a smaller nose, more men would like me," or some such thing.)

While it's true that limitations narrow the range of possibilities for certain things in your life, it would by no means be utopia to have no limitations whatsoever. If you had endless time, you could get a lot done, but would you be motivated to? If you had a mountain of cash, you could buy whatever you wanted, but once you did, then what? Where would value come from?

We are accustomed to looking at our world in a very dichotomous way: black or white, love or hate, good or evil, rich or poor. We are, for the most part, always thinking in opposition, looking at one aspect or the other, but not able to hold the possibility for greater complexity in our minds.

But I submit that you could take even the most terrible seeming limitation and wring something out of it that you could argue is an opportunity. If you have an hour to yourself, and that's it, the opportunity to make that hour really count appears. If you don't have a lot of money, but want to achieve something, you must apply creativity to figure out how to do it anyway.

Will limitations make life less convenient for you? Probably. Might there be additional frustration? Likely so. But if struggle and frustration and limitation were the end of the line, would so many be attracted to life in New York City, or to art careers or to parenthood?

I believe we each have an inherent knowing (not always acknowledged) that we can thrive under limitation, and that in fact, we may even thrive because of limitation. My writing exercises impose limits, but they also get me to be more creative than I might be just staring at a blank page and asking, "Now what?" I am forced to find a good work-around to get started and keep going.

What I'd like you to do today is list your limitations. All the ones you can think of. Then, next to that list, I want you to list how each of those limitations could present an opportunity for greater creativity, motivation or achievement.

Hold the possibility in your mind that your limitations--whatever they may be--may in fact be your greatest assets in your quest to live a fuller, more blissful life.


Anonymous said...

I used to think that if I didn't have to work a full time job, I would get SO MUCH writing done. Then I got laid off, had a couple of months of paid severance and spent the time ... not writing. That is how I learned the somewhat paradoxical lesson that I do more writing when I have a the security and structure of a schedule. Too much time has a paralytic effect: I think I have forever to get started then time passes and I panic because I haven't started. And who can write when they're panicked? Not me! It turns out that some of my best work is done between 5 and 7 in the morning, mostly because I know I have only those two precious hours, and I better make them count. The 'limitation' of my job is really my path to creativity.

I'm glad to hear you're limbering up your writing muscles! After four years of writing & taking workshops, I'm finally starting to submit works for publication. I guess we're both overcoming the biggest obstacle of all: our own self-doubt.


Anonymous said...

Also, we'll just count my response here as writing, because technically I'm not supposed to be allowing myself on the internet between 5 & 7 AM!