When a creative product is really successful, be it a painting, a musical composition or a new communications technology, it always appears to be so simple as to be inevitable, as to be obvious.
Simplicity is the key to creative success. Then why don’t we see it more often?
For one, it requires a tremendous amount of focus and commitment on the part of the creator. He needs to know exactly what he wants, and what he doesn’t.
All extraneous ideas or features, no matter how valuable in themselves, must be discarded for the sake of the one single simple idea that’s holding the work together.
As legendary abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann put it:
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
To be that clear as to what we really want, to be able to throw out everything that is not necessary to the task at hand, is challenging, both intellectually and emotionally.
After all, it’s hard to know what you want. And even if you do, it’s hard not to be distracted and grasp for the things you don’t want. We might appreciate simplicity, but we might not be wired to create it.
What I’m getting at here is greed.
Perhaps humans are just greedy by nature, or our modern culture makes us so. In any event, we tend to think more is better. Sure, we pay lip service to “less is more,” but we don’t really believe it. We say we want simplicity, but we don’t quite trust it.
We feel more secure when we have more, even if more is unnecessary, confusing or even harmful. Surrounding ourselves with more enables us to avoid commitment, to get around making those choices that really enable us to find out who we really are and what we really want from our lives and from the things we create.
But I would suggest that we all try to live more simply and to create more simply.
In short, trust simplicity.
It’s not easy. And only the greatest among artists and innovators really achieve it.
But if you choose to be successful in your work and you’re life, it’s the only way to go.