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The Art of Subtractive Creativity



Laura, a devoted professional, found herself immersed in a sea of 'noise.' Her days were filled with work-related obligations that left her depleted, with scant energy left to fuel her cherished creative ambitions. This vicious cycle continued for years, with her dreams quietly buried under a mountain of responsibilities. Our collaboration set out with the aim to unearth these dreams from their enforced dormancy.


Our exploratory journey began with reframing our understanding of creativity. We realized it wasn't merely the act of manifesting something new - be it a painting, a business or a sandcastle. Creativity also embodied the power of subtraction, the art of judiciously removing elements from life to create space for new possibilities.


We reflected on the examples of Michelangelo, who sculpted masterpieces by chipping away at blocks of marble, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who advocated for focused creativity through the process of pruning away the superfluous. Drawing from my own experiences as a rally champion, I shared how I shaped my journey by deliberately editing out distractions, even at the cost of personal relationships. These narratives served as an illuminating mirror for Laura, revealing the potency and beauty of subtractive creativity.


Laura began asking herself - What was she tolerating? This probing question unmasked the clutter that was stifling her creative spirit, both in her physical workspace and her internal mental landscape. We embarked together on a process of pruning, excising these unwanted elements to let her creative spirit breathe and flourish.


Throughout this transformation I persistently reminded Laura that the power of subtractive creativity isn't confined to celebrated individuals like Michelangelo or Emerson. It is a universal capacity, accessible to anyone willing to harness it. "Laura," I told her, "Don't view this as drudgery. This is an act of creativity, a form of personal emancipation. Seek joy in it just as you would in birthing something new."


Laura began to appreciate this subtractive form of creativity. She started to perceive the value in the work of those who remove clutter and create order, such as cleaners and waste collectors. They were no longer mere 'service providers,' but artists in their own right, creating beauty through subtraction.


With this newfound perspective, Laura embarked on her journey of subtraction. She pruned away the noise, the distractions, the clutter, making room for her long-suppressed dreams to resurface. I witnessed her transformation, her reconnection with her creative spirit. Through the tranquility she cultivated, her dreams found their voice and began to focus.


The story of Laura serves as a compelling testament to the transformative power of subtractive creativity. It underscores the need to widen our perception of creativity, recognizing it not just as the act of creating new things, but also as the transformative process of judicious removal. Just as a gardener prunes a tree to facilitate its growth, we too can prune our lives, eliminating noise and distractions to allow our dreams to take root and thrive.




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