In the 8th grade, my football coach phrased it thusly:
“Excuses are like a**holes. Everyone has one, and they stink.”
Fourteen years later, though I have little interest in football or alpha-male coaches, I still agree with his point.
It’s really easy to come up with excuses for any aspect of your life in which you’re frustrated. At the moment, I can’t wait to record an electric guitar line into a song I’m working on, but my guitar’s in the shop. I could chose to throw up my hands and say, “Welp, can’t work on it today!”, or I could use that limitation to my advantage, which brings us to the flip side of this coin:
Limitations Are Your Friends
Instead of giving up, I can use my guitarlessness as an opportunity to rerecord my vocals, or really polish the drum track.
The value of limitations is particularly relevant to the digital musician who can add an unlimited tracks to her song, and has thousands and thousands of digital instruments from which to choose.
In high school, when I was learning to make music with Reason, I got to a point where I was obsessed with finding new, cool sound banks, and saving up for a super-fancy computer so I could make even more music. My musical output ground to a halt, because instead of accepting my limitations and working within those constraints, I was making excuses.
“Telling yourelf you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want—that just kills creativity.”
Hat tip to Austin Kleon for the quote, from his wonderful book Steal Like an Artist.
Here’s some further reading and a TED Talk on unlimited choices.