Moving Ideas Forward
June 23, 2017
When working on a long term creative project, no matter how excited you are about that project overall, you’ll go through periods where your interest waxes and wanes. When your interest is high, you’ll usually make a lot of progress in a short time. When your interest lessens, progress becomes harder because you’re more easily distracted and less focused on what you’re doing. The important thing is to not let your interest wane to the point where your project curls up and dies completely.
An acquaintance of mine was working on a writing project recently where his interest had dropped to critical levels. From my own experience I was able to offer up the following tips to help him keep moving.
Remember the Origins
In the beginning all you have is an idea with nothing else to have taken you from that idea to its execution. And yet, there was something about that idea that really excited you to the point where you made the decision to put time and effort into realizing the idea. When you find your interest waning, take a step back and remind yourself what it was about the project that really got you excited in the first place.
Make Working a Habit
Even if it’s only for fifteen minutes, force yourself to work on your project every day. If possible, try to work on your project at the same time every day. This helps to make your work habitual. After a week or two of working on your project every day you should get into the groove again and it should get easier to keep going and possibly to expand the amount of time you spend.
Even if you don’t find your interest growing again right away you’ll still be making progress. Eventually you’ll get to the point where your interest does begin to grow again and you’ll be glad you made yourself keep working through the lull.
You may find your interest in your project has been dropping because you’ve been working on some aspect of the project that you just don’t enjoy. There are very few creative projects that consist of just doing the same thing over and over again. Try to find a different aspect of the project that you are interested in and work on that for a while instead.
If you take writing, for example, you maybe be trying to force out your first draft of a story and have just gotten stuck on a given scene. If that scene’s getting you down then skip over it. Move on to a scene that you’re more interested in. There’s no rule that says you have to move through a manuscript page by page from beginning to end. Hop around the story to the parts that you find most interesting.
Review Your Work
Take the time to look back through everything you’ve already done on the project. It’s a pretty safe bet that from your initial enthusiasm for the idea you’ll have produced a fair amount of work on it already. It’s important when looking back to turn off your internal editor. Don’t look at all the bits that you know you have to fix or improve, instead look at how much you’ve accomplished already. Remember that at the point of the initial idea you had nothing else. Take a look at all you’ve already achieved.
Is there some small luxury that you’d like to treat yourself to? Maybe there’s a movie you’ve been planning on seeing, or a computer game you’ve been wanting to play, or a small trip you’ve wanted to go on. Make the deal with yourself that you will treat yourself to that luxury once you’ve accomplished a certain goal or goals on your project. Maybe you have to write two chapters of your story. Maybe you have to finish five animations for your computer game. Whatever the case, make the goal quantifiable. Make it have a very clear distinction between “yes, it’s done” and “no, there’s still work to do”.
The best kinds of bribes for yourself are those treats that you ordinarily wouldn’t allow yourself whether the project was in the picture or not. Maybe there’s a reward that you’d ordinarily think is a bit on the pricey side. Make that your reward. If you reach your project goal and it’s a serious goal then you’ve made a serious accomplishment and deserve a little self-pampering.
Don’t Take a Break
When your interest in a project gets low it can be tempting to say you’ll just take a small break from it for a day or two or three. I’d advise against it unless you’re 100% sure you can be disciplined enough to come back to your project after the break. Remember that you’re contemplating taking a break because your interest in the project is low. Do you have something in mind for your break that will help you regain enthusiasm in your project? If you don’t, you might find it hard to come back to the project after the break.
Making something creative of any size takes a lot of energy and determination. Your ideas are absolutely worth it. Don’t let a temporary lack of interest kill your ideas off. You owe it to your ideas and to yourself to keep moving forward. I have confidence in you. Good luck, creator.