Revealing Your Creativity: Cut, Discard, Reject

The sculptor starts with a mountain of stone. He chisels away and discards much of the rock to reveal the statue within the stone. He must cut and abandon parts of the stone first.

The editor starts with a manuscript. She slashes words from the novel to focus the reader on the essentials of the story. She must release words to make other words more potent.

The clothing designer starts with multiple yards of fabric. He reduces the fabric to smaller shapes and patterns to uncover clothing worthy of a runway. He must reject parts of the fabric to create stunning and original design.

nishat nguyen via Compfight

Creativity is revealed.

Art is found within the medium.

Ideas are released during the process.

Revealing Your Creativity

My friend Jeremy recently passed this G. K. Chesterton essay on to me titled “The Toy Theater.” I know you’ll enjoy it.

“I mean the fact that art consists of limitation; the fact that art is limitation. Art does not consist in expanding things. Art consists of cutting things down…”

“The most artistic thing about the theatrical art is the fact that the spectator looks at the whole thing through a window. This is true even of theatres inferior to my own; even at the Court Theatre or His Majesty’s you are looking through a window; an unusually large window. But the advantage of the small theatre exactly is that you are looking through a small window. Has not every one noticed how sweet and startling any landscape looks when seen through an arch? This strong, square shape, this shutting off of everything else is not only an assistance to beauty; it is the essential of beauty. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”

Powerful to think that, as Chesterton says, “art consists of limitation.” We tend to think art and creativity are about freedom and boundlessness. Not necessarily true.

The freedom of art is found within a framework.

What a powerful concept: your creativity reframes and focuses someone to see and experience something that they wouldn’t have experienced had it not been for your work. Powerful.

Question: What is your process? How do you cut, discard and reject to reveal the gems of your work?

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Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • I am reminded of an interview of Jack White (of the White Stripes) a few years back. I think he is a very interesting musical artist, and has some wise thoughts on creativity. You can see the interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDVduMCo01o. At about the 4:40 mark, he talks about creativity within a limited scope. It goes right along with what you and Mr. Chesterton are saying.
    Plus, watching the interview gives you a chance to here some White Stripes, which is always a joy.

    • Jeremy, EVERY interview with Jack White is an inspiration on creativitiy! I remember this one, it was really good. I think Meg actually even talked a little during this!
      Check out this video (also has a killer concert following the interview between Jack White and Gary Oldman on his creative process on his new album):

      The interview is about 5 minutes in, after the first song.
      The man is a creative genius. He keep challenging himself so he doesn’t get bored! No limitations, as you said, Andrew.

  • i write… then read… then go through to find any superfluous words or if there is any possible better way to say what i’m saying. for a script. for a song. i want to be the best steward of the idea, and that means hunting down the best words and not settling for a less than.

    • Guest

      “the best steward of the idea”–I LOVE that phrase Robyn!

    • “The best steward of the idea.” I LOVE that phrase Robyn!

  • I force myself to start with what Anne Lamott refers to as a sh**y first draft, where I literally spill as much superfluous content onto the blank page and then (as you said) carve away the excess. It’s hard because I feel attachment to every word, but it makes the left over words that much more meaningful and valuable to the story itself. Fantastic post, Andrew!

    • Bring on the sh***yness! 😉

      For real–we we get beyond the junk, we find the gems!

  • Beautiful.
    It’s that way for me in writing, creating a worship service, and recording music. About the biggest question is “what needs to be chopped to make this thing work?”

    • That’s a good question to ask during that process! It’s humbling as well to not get attached to any one concept or idea, but ultimately it makes the work stronger if we let the weak stuff go.

      Thanks Stephen!

  • andy black

    Intriguing thought about art being revealed through subtraction. The sculpter, writer, fashion designer. Nice analogies. Taking away is an essential part of creating and one of the hardest things to do. It is much easier to overwork something.

    • I find that in my sales training job as well. Some salespeople think by talking more, they’ll sell more. In actuality, it’s the opposite. By being succinct and specific, we connect better. That way our listener/viewer/customer doesn’t have to wade through superfluous material to hear our message.