wait just start

Stepping back

Creative endeavors are tough. Creating a  song, book, play, script, film, (insert your project here), is daunting. You've decided that you are going to dedicate an unknown amount of time creating something that doesn't exist. It may turn out great, it may fall short of expectations. You have a vision for how it should be, you just need to muster up the effort to create it.

Two of my biggest challenges are starting, and knowing when I'm done. I'm trying to get better at both. We all have a project that is constantly being deprioritized as life gets in the way. I've found two words help with this problem: just start. It's how I came up with the name for this blog. Wait, why are you hesitating? Just start. With my approach I allocate time, visualize myself spending that time working on the project, minimize distractions (phone is silent and hidden), and when I'm about to begin, I just start. If I sense an urge to pull away, I recognize it, and push through it. The urge tends to go away.

Finishing is an interesting challenge, especially on anything I spend 6+ hours working on. In the back of my mind hesitation surfaces. Did I work hard enough? Was this the best I could do? Could I make it better? What if XYZ person was creating this, how much better would their version be? It's a slippery slope.

Stephen King has a great method for dealing with this challenge. After completing the first manuscript for a new book, he will put it away and not look at it for six weeks. During those six weeks he may take a couple days off from writing, and start new projects. But he does not look at the new manuscript during this time frame, for any reason. After the elapsed time he will take it out, read through and mark it up with various edits. A fresh perspective on the material exposes it in a way he would not have seen had he reviewed it right after finishing it.

I realize not all of us can wait six weeks after finishing something before we return to it. But even a couple days may help. The creative process is a turbulent wave of emotions. The initial excitement of the idea, the dread of the work, the motivation to "just do it", writers-block, flow, getting sick of it, relief of the finish line, editing, shipping. Investing the time to step away does wonders. A fresh perspective helps me recognize the deltas between my original idea, and what I created. Stepping back helps me find closure.