Limitations are your friend

So you’ll make a stool.
As ordered, sure.
And you’re only allowed to use these steel pipes and piece of wood for the seat. You up to that?

But of course. Now let’s sit down and discuss what kind of piece it will be.
No need to, just make the best you can while avoiding anything that’s done before and do something unique. Tootles!
And the customer storms off…

Limitations are a godsend gift to mankind. Without limitations everything would be goalless and lacking in quality. Quality control is the most important limitation we have, as everything else can be traced back to it. The example above is a way how to get yourself in trouble; you have no clear goals or aims, and the end result will end up messy because of this.

A stool made of pipes and piece of wood can look pretty much anything you want it to look. The question always is how to do it. With pipe there’s a lot options; you can cut open the pipe and have curved squares pieces; you can bend it into shape; you can stack them together and so on. The question of course is why you should do it this way. It takes more time to cut the pipe this way rather than cut the pieces from pre-banded metal sheet, for example. The shapes wanted might be much easier to do with any other way with different materials. This is why the right kind of limitations are important; rather than limiting materials or tools, limiting the aims and goals should be the way to go.

Limiting materials is usually way to test how well a person can use his wits and creativity. However, because if this the test is flawed from the very beginning, as creativity isn’t what a craftsman should aim for. For an artist this kind of test would be OK, it’s their bread and butter after all.

Now, imagine the customer coming back and checks the finished stool. Sure, it looks rather unique and certainly there’s no other like it in the world. However, because of the limited material and my own imagination it is not what the customer wanted. There was no quality control, only control of resources, and lousy resources at that.

Lack of resources is not necessarily a bad thing, as too much resources is just as negative as lack of them. When you’re offered too vast resources one becomes blind and can’t really see the trees from the forest. Golden middle road is the best option, as always, with some leeway to either add or deduct needed said resources.

In writing the most important limitation by far is a good editor. You can see from the quality of my writing that I have none, thou one of my friend has said that he would be willing to check these posts if needed. I haven’t really taken on his offer yet. Still, behind every successful and good writer is equally good editor. In most cases even better. You don’t get proper books if you don’t have an editor who is able to weed out all the rot from the living text. Your friend may be able to tell what’s the strongest and the weakest parts of your text, but he can’t really tell you what is needed to make the text stronger and more appealing. That comes with experience as an editor. An experiences editor can make the worst text into a shining example of literature, as well as force the writer grow as a craftsman.

However, writing also requires absolutely insane amounts of work and knowledge outside writing and your own field. It’s never just dependant on the editor.

In music the instruments are naturally one of the limitations. Add too many instruments and you’ll have nothing but cacophony. A kind of editor here is needed as well, who would weed out the bad from the good. Lyrics especially need someone to check through. Usually experienced composers themselves are able to say whether or not their pieces work. They still need to know a lot outside their own field of expertise, just like everyone else.

Every project needs schedules, resources and goals. Without these projects are doomed to fail; they’ll never get finished if there’s no schedule, too much resources cause shifts and changes in their use and the end product will suffer because of this, whereas the lack of resources might make the product far too miniscule in comparison; and goals which are not just the important part but the one that has to be set from the very beginning. A goal is like a shotgun shell, that has multiple goals inside of it. Shoot it at good distance and the pellets will hit the target. Shoot it too far away and the pellets will be spread too thin. Shoot it too close and pellets are far too tight. The project manager has a huge responsibility to keep the goals realistic and within grasp in any project of any scale.

In making the stool there was no goals. There was schedule and there was limited resources. Ok, there was a goal, but the goal and everything else in the project was at odds with each other. Only a crafty project manager would be able to make proper sense of it all and make a stool worth giving away to a customer.

Limiting yourself just the right amount in your daily life is a good idea as well. Going 100% every day isn’t recommended.

What happened to the stool? If you’re interested, I’ll return to that point in six months time.

But have some jazz for now.

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