Coloring Inside the Lines, and Other Tips to Enhance Creativity

  1. This first tip for enhancing creativity will feel counter-intuitive: color inside the lines.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” – Orson Welles

It may be artistic heresy to say it, but you’ll find your creativity enhanced when limits are placed on you. Limits will force you to think and respond creatively. Study art or artists who function within restrictions. Film director Orson Welles said, “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” Peter Gabriel’s insistence that no cymbals be used on one of his albums helped lead to the pioneering use of the gated drum effect.* Check out the drums on “Intruder,” the first track of this album. After he recorded it, Gabriel said, “Artists given complete freedom die a horrible death. So, when you tell them what they can’t do, they get creative and say, ‘Oh yes I can,’ which is why I banned cymbals.”

2) Another concept which (at first) feels restrictive is structure, or discipline. Knowing where and when you will create will help you focus and reduce procrastination. But here’s a surprising benefit: discipline and structure set an inviting table for inspiration. 

What have other artists done for you lately?

3) One of the more powerful ways to enhance creativity is to experience art in as many ways as possible. Go to a movie, museum, or the woods. See a concert, read a book at a cafe, dance. It will replenish your creative well, give you a different perspective, and inspire you. To paraphrase Janet Jackson, what have other artists done for you lately?

4) Changing your artistic pattern is a nice little hack to enhance creativity. Try a different tuning for the strings on your guitar, paint with your off hand, photograph black and white if you’re used to working in color. Creating this way uses different parts of your brain and expands your artistic palette. Although this hack strays a bit beyond the lines, it tethers you to enough structure to enhance creativity.

Ye Olde Chapman Stick

Here’s an example: when I sat down to write the music for an album back in 1822, I challenged myself to write it all using an instrument called a Chapman Stick, which I had just bought and wanted to learn fast. So, even though playing it at first felt like standing on my head, this instrument helped me think of new ideas. Up to that time I had only played guitar and bass. The stick sounds like a guitar and bass together, but in theory it’s more like playing a piano, so it challenged me.

That feeling an introvert gets when he/she realizes that since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit flourish in community, we’re meant to also.

5) The most powerful enhancement to your creativity is to interact with other creatives. We are fundamentally social beings. Social connection always provides the potential to open things up for us.

Widening your perspective – seeing with others’ eyes – enables us to test and sharpen our creative ideas, and to learn tricks of the trade from others.

And here’s a bonus tip: Identify a specific future day in which you say, “I am a creative.” Celebrate this day as you self-identify that you are a painter, or musician, or author, etc. It’s kind of like a birthday, so celebrate it!


*As cited in Wikipedia – 
Gabriel’s ex-bandmate Phil Collins, who succeeded him as Genesis’ lead vocalist, played drums on several of the album’s tracks. Intruder has been cited as the first use of Collins’ “gated drum” sound. This effect, as created by Steve Lillywhite, Collins and Hugh Padgham, was featured on Collins’ and Genesis’ recordings throughout the 1980s. The distinctive sound was identified via experiments by Lillywhite, Collins and Padgham, in response to Gabriel’s request that Collins and Jerry Marotta not use cymbals on the album’s sessions.

Here are a few questions you can use for self-coaching. Share your thoughts in the comments section or contact me directly.

  • What limit might you place on an upcoming project to enhance your creativity?
  • Whose art will you experience in the next two weeks?
  • If you haven’t already, what day will you celebrate your self-identity as an artist?

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