Creativity is fueled by constraints. The challenge is finding the right amount of information to get you started but not so much that you have no room to explore.
Here's the example I use with my students:
- imagine sitting down with a client who's commissioned you do do a painting but they don't know what they want. First of all, send up some red flags. You either need to start asking questions or prepare for heavy revisions and budget accordingly. They are not okay with you doing anything - they just didn’t know what they wanted until they had something to react to.
- Next imagine that same client specifying they want a painting of a duck. Ah, your life just became easier. You have subject matter, a host of questions you can ask them (Why a duck? Male or female? Just one?) and a clear path for collecting reference material.
- Finally, what if the client asks for a blue duck. Awesome. You have all the same questions from above plus - why blue? What does blue represent?
Learn how to interview clients, and yourself, to establish the right amount of enabling constraints. Too many and you'll find yourself boxed in by all the conditions. Example: the client wants a beautiful painting, in the style of Cy Twombly, of a blue duck walking east to west across the street she grew up on, while a group of children are playing kick-the-can next to a large fir tree that represents age and the bittersweet loss of memory as it relates to past relationships, specifically this one person from college who the client thought was the 'one' but the person ended up joining a monastery after knocking up the client's best friend.
You'll either want to walk away from that project or have a long conversation with the client about their priorities. It'll save you time down the road.