Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Put Off Your Project To Get Off Your Ass

While some of you out there may be struggling to get inspired to create, there are some artists out there who struggle with an overflow of ideas.  While at first glance, this might seem like an awesome thing, but it can be paralyzing to have hundreds of different ideas in your head that you want to express, yet you don't know where to start.

Maybe you have a story for a graphic novel or three, as well as some character designs you'd like to do, and an idea for a film, and a photography project you'd like, as well as some t-shirt designs and ideas for your wedding invitation design, etc. etc. etc.  The list goes on, and you maybe are just overflowing with stuff you want to do, but there's never enough time to do all of it (especially if you're also doing a day job, juggling obligations to friends and family, and you know, living life.)

If you don't suffer from this dilemma, one might not understand how potentially crippling this is.  You might say "Yeah, but at least you got ideas," but the truth is it is sort of like being given your choice of being able to eat one single dish of anything you'd like in the world.  You start thinking "I really like this..but what about..this?"  You don't want to waste this awesome opportunity, so you start weighing your options.  You really want the seared swordfish with the mango salsa, but then you've never tried the sauteed water spinach with 17 different herbs and marinated tofu.  But you don't even know if you like tofu or if you'll get sick of it, because there's also that weird thing that you've never eaten because it's $200 a pound, but what if you don't like know nothing about it, so you start to google everything, and then it becomes one big massive information overload and the clock is ticking and you're not even eating anything but you're starting to salivate thinking about all this awesome food and it sucks that you only get to choose one thing, but what do you choose since everything looks so good and while you might want something familiar are you really going to blow this chance to try ANYTHING over a simple bowl of mac and cheese?

Yep, that's sort of what idea-overload is like.

If you do suffer from idea-overload, you'll probably be familiar with the overwhelming sense of confusion over what to do right now.  Sure, you know that you want to do all of these things, but where do you start?  It's so daunting to have five bazillion long-term projects that you want to do.  What project do you prioritize?  You don't want to lose steam or forget an idea, what do you do?

The answer is simple, friends, what you need to do is put it off.  Whaa?  Yes, well, sort of.  The first thing you need to do is voice memo, or write, or somehow record all of your ideas and projects, however you work best. Just make sure it's someplace you can find later.  Monkey personally likes sketchbooks and google docs, but that's just him (he also makes it a point to revisit old sketchbooks every 6 months or so to find old inspiration).  So get all the ideas down out of your head.

Now, go take a break.  Walk around the block, or meditate, or watch some crap TV, or read some fiction, or otherwise take your mind off creating something.  Focus on something else.  Now, revisit your list, looking at everything at once, and whatever project tugs at your heartstrings the most, do that one, and put all your other projects away.  If you need to be more analytical about this, prior to the break you can make charts and pros and cons and how-long-will-this-take evaluations and comparisons, and all of that stuff, but I say go with your gut in this case.

Know that you'll have more time later to devote to your other projects, but not only will you be able to start, but you'll also be able to handle the project that you want to do most.  This is important, as if you try to do a little work on everything at once, you'll easily get bogged down with the lack of momentum on any one project, and you'll end up not getting anything done.  Multitasking is a myth, as we've talked about before, and every time you switch gears, you lose momentum.

At Spectrum Live, concept art hero Ian McCaig talked about how he's been working on a story for 25 years(!).  He knows the importance of working when the time is right, and not forcing a project when it's not ready.  This is the other benefit of choosing what to work on from a pure-inside-your-heart way of thinking.  Forcing your creativity when you're working on a commercial project is one thing, but if you're doing something for yourself, then really go with your internal flow and don't rush things.  Feel free to put things down and restart them.

So put off the huge bunch of stuff, and deal with one (or two) things at a time, but realize that you can always stop and start something else up.  The point is to not do that too frequently, and to not rush yourself to work on a project that isn't ready.  So let your projects simmer if they need to, and that'll get you off and going.