“Style is a Product of Your Limitations”

That’s Loretta Lynn, speaking with Tavis Smiley last fall.  It’s a brilliant, clear insight, and true to my experience.

I’m afraid to diminish the impact of the quote with too much commentary, but briefly, I think the process unfolds as follows.  As we create – write, sing, record, film, whatever – we naturally discover our limitations; some may be easily overcome with practice or learning new techniques, others are more deep-seated.  We strive to realize our vision in the face of these limitations, and in working creatively with them, maybe by learning something that lets us dissolve them, or avoiding them, or approaching them from a fresh angle, style (or what I sometimes have called “aesthetic voice”) emerges.

I like limitations.  They don’t need to be simply accepted; I like them because, in discovering and working creatively with them, they provide direction, which is simultaneously productive and a buffer against the paralysis and terror of aesthetic freedom.