The Limitations of Unlimited

Some of the best records ever made were recorded over the space of a few days.  There are masterpieces of the painter’s art that were knocked out in just a few hours, out in the open.  When you stop to think about it, there are numerous instances of deadlines being a good thing for forcing the artist to complete a work.

Interestingly, some of those same artists, when suddenly able to afford their own studio, atelier, workshop, or creative environment, produce next to nothing.  It’s as if having unlimited studio time kills their creativity stone dead.  They never finish another thing.

When I was younger, time in a recording studio, or in a film or television editing suite, in front of a digital image processing application, or on a CAD system was extremely expensive and hence precious.  You came prepared and you didn’t waste time.  If the end of your time was approaching, you found a way to complete the work somehow, or it may never see the light of day.  We learned to create around the fact that our access to the tools was so limited.

Now that almost anybody can find a way to own a recording studio, editing suite, Photoshop or a CAD system of their own, running as an application on their laptop or tablet, access to their tools now seems to be unlimited.  Except that it isn’t.

New limitations arise.  Firstly, having unlimited studio time doesn’t mean you can skip the preparation and rehearsal.  There is no substitute for careful pre-production.  So, instead of the limiting factor being the time you have access to the tools, the limitation shifts to finding the time to do the pre-production.  Having unlimited studio time actually tempts you to skip preparation altogether and waste time in the studio dithering around instead.  Make your preparation time your preparation time.  Don’t pollute it by introducing the temptations of a fully tooled up environment.  Minimal tools are best, when preparing.

Secondly, the unlimited time you have bought for yourself in front of your tools is rapidly eroded, to nothing ,by indecision and distraction.  Because you think the studio time is already bought and paid for and each additional hour is effectively free, you tend toward procrastination or gold plating your work.  When it’s free, it seems like the time in studio can be wasted.  It doesn’t matter.  There is no bill to pay.  In fact, it can’t.  It can’t because your life is finite.  That’s the new limitation.  There will only be so many hours, in your life, available for creating.  These hours are not to be wasted frivolously in the mistaken belief that you can catch up later.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone and you can never get them back.  Better to finish something with every creative hour you can carve out from your busy life.

Finally, finding the time to be in that unlimited studio is still difficult and maybe even harder, due to the fact that it no longer needs to be a special date, booked weeks in advance, placed in your diary and planned around.  If you can go into the studio any time, then any time becomes sometime in the indefinite future.  You just never show up.  Any excuse to not be in the studio is all right because, hey, you can go into the studio any time you want.

Home studios and amazing creative tools that you can own and have all to yourself are a mixed blessing.  They don’t grant you unlimited creative potential.  In fact, they make creating a little bit more difficult to achieve.

It’s better to respect the time you have in front of your tools as valuable.  Maybe you should count those hours and send yourself a made up bill anyway, just to show what the cost of those hours would have been, a generation ago.  You should definitely put studio time in your diary and you should definitely also set aside preparation time, separate to time reserved for using your tools, so that when you are in your home studio, the time is spent purposefully and productively.

Limit the unlimited.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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