03. Identify the essentials. Eliminate the rest.

by outofthesea

“Creativity is subtraction.”

The thing that comes to mind when I read this is the story, (I don’t know its authenticity,) of Michelangelo and his sculpture. The point of the story was that he started with a giant shapeless block of marble, and by chipping and carving away at this mass, subtracting what was unnecessary- the negative space, he would reach his ultimate piece. All that was left: the positive shape of a figure or an object.

Creativity lies in knowing what is irrelevant. What is essential to the subject at hand. Identifying the line between these two and carefully shedding the unnecessary. There is beauty in simplicity. The essential is what moves you. Everything else is distraction. Noise. 

It is a mistake (I have no authority to say this, outside of my own idea) if someone thinks that creating something is the addition of parts to make a whole. The fact is that the creators, from the noise of the world, carve away the nonessentials. They make sense of the chaos around them and interpret what it is that matters. What matters, of course, is subjective, to the creator and to the viewer, but it is the creativity and the act of creating that allows “what matters” to happen and to be perceived. 

As a creator, (anyone is, if they have created anything), I would say that we start with a whorl of an idea or few or a hundred. It is a cloud of something. We squint and look. Tilt our heads and lean forwards. We search. From that something, we strip away and mine for the truth that we hear singing to us. There, that truth, what remains through the process of subtraction afterwards, is what we have created, it’s what stirs something within us and moves us as a way of life. A message, an emotion, a song, a vision, a direction. 

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