It’s only when we live without, we realize we have so much.
I’m sure there are a few Pinterest quotes out there on the subject. So true, isn’t it? Whether it be gourmet foods, designer clothing, photography props, or any number of first world desires, living without has a way of making us better. Many artists past and present believe that restricting oneself to a limited palette or few materialsA. Even so, we often find ourselves lamenting what we do not have with a sullen, childlike pout, giving way to a whine.
I actually felt kind of silly when I caught myself whining about not having fresh flowers to photograph. “Really Karen, you are going to whine about that!” After all, I wasn’t surviving on 3 for a dollar packs of English muffins or losing my apartment and having to move in with my in-laws. Flowers are desired yes, essential no. It is winter and we live in the out in the sticks.
Ingenuity kicked in at the grocery store in the produce section. Displayed in a very mundane way was a selection of fruits from far away lands, some as far away as Florida, others Mexico, still others Chile. I excitedly gathered up whatever caught my eye, staying within a particular color palette.
The resulting photo shoot amazed me. I was able to put together a collection that rivaled a summer harvest. Citrus, nuts (including coconut) and dried grasses, that’s all it took to create stills with the feel of an abundant gathering. Again, it was a reminder that I really do have so much, even when I think I don’t. After all, I have access to fruits from half a world away!
I have lived with little in my lifetime, some years I had much. Looking back, it was the years with little that I did my best work. In his book, The Courage to Create (one of my all time favorite creativity books), Rolly May describes it this way, under the heading ‘Form as a limitation in creativity;’
“… it is an aid to finding new meaning, a stimulus to condensing your meaning, to simplifying and purifying it, and to discovering on a more universal dimension the essence you wish to express.”
Simply put, limitation in creative work helps us zero in on our goal.
I believe it is generally true in life as well. The less we have the more we know what we really need.
In case you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, the documentary ‘Minimalism‘ is now trending on Netflix. A must see.