The first rule of book club, is that sometimes we watch films.

Well, last night we did anyway. And it got me thinking about putting restrictions on the creative process.

The film we watched was totally alien to me, not the kind of thing I would ever dream of watching... But I'm super glad that I did.

The Five Obstructions

Ok, this one sounds pretty esoteric, and like the word itself, it really is... But in a very accessible way (if that makes any sense?)

I'll not over-explain the concept, but basically, it's about one Danish film director challenging another Danish film director to remake a film five times, but with different 'obstructions' or challenges each time.

Sounds confusing, right?

Well, it's not as odd as it initially sounds, even taking into account that it's subtitled.

The first 're-make' is by far my favourite.

The obstructions placed on that film were:

- It had to be set in Cuba
- Each scene could only be 12 frames long (literally 0.5 seconds)
- Every question from the Original film must be answered
- It must contain a Cuban cigar

These literally came about organically while the two directors were discussing the project.

On paper, the biggest challenge appeared to be the 12 frame-long scenes... This is a ridiculous restriction to put on a film-maker, but after watching the final work, they both agreed that this obstruction was 'a gift'.

This got me thinking about my creative process and how I could use this idea myself.

Today I've been drawing owls for a new branding project... I'd already got three finished that I was happy with, but needed at least two more by the end of the day.

With the film in mind, I set about putting some restrictions on my work.

One of the logos I drew could only be made up from circles and squares... No custom shapes. Just circles and squares either being fused together or cut apart from each other.

The other had to contain a strong arrow (as this was related to the concept) and I also chose to work in monochrome.

You can do this with your work too. It's a great way to challenge yourself to work in new ways and see unintended results.

If you're a designer, you could restrict yourself to one colour... Or even force yourself to use ten!

Rules are there to be broken... If you want new solutions, it helps to change the way you approach the problem.

Another thing you can try is to restrict the tools that you use.

If you're painting something, for example, restrict yourself to a certain type of brush, or maybe use the WRONG END of the brush.

See what unique marks you can create and how these can be used in a unique way.

This film really got me thinking and this is something I'll be exploring a lot more with my work.

We all have our own restrictions that we place on ourselves, becoming aware of them can help us to get out of creative ruts or blocks.

So, your challenge... The next time you need to come up with ideas or create something new, restrict the tools at your disposal, or make some rules to obey.

Even better... Get someone else to set you some rules. Then see how you can use these restrictions as gifts, and turn them to your advantage.