I want to help you get your project started. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one you’ve had in the back of your mind that you can’t stop thinking about.
It might be writing a book. Starting a blog. Or planning the trip of a lifetime.
You want to do it. You just don’t know how or where to begin.
The first thing is to give yourself permission to not do it. That’s right, let it go. You don’t have to do it. You can let someone else do it, you can keep it on your “someday” list, or you can let the opportunity pass and suffer the consequences. You will survive.
Too often we become attached to things we think we want to do, or believe we have to do, and our attachment gets in our way. It clouds our judgment, our sense of priority, and basically, messes us up. We begin projects when our heart isn’t in it and we do a poor job or we give up. It may have been a great idea, but if the timing wasn’t right, we haven’t done ourselves any good.
Let go of the idea. Let it ruminate in your subconscious. If you’re meant to do it, you will. When the time is right and you are ready.
I’ve got hundreds of creative projects that will never get done. They will remain “someday” for me and that’s just fine.
The creative projects I move forward with let me know I need to do them. I wake up thinking about them. I see something online and I am drawn to it. The idea nags at me and inspires me and excites me. When it won’t let go of me, that’s the project I do.
But there’s a process I go through between “idea” and “do”.
When I have an idea, the first thing I do is write it down. I use Evernote, but you can use anything you want: a text file, Word document, spiral notebook, whatever, but get it out of your head and onto paper (virtual or otherwise).
Guess what? It will still be in your head. Writing it down simply helps you to see what the idea looks like from a different perspective.
Once the idea is recorded, I add notes. I may write a bunch of bullet points, tasks, and ideas for categories or steps, or I might free write–letting my thoughts flow as I talk to myself about the project. I may record audio, talking about the idea, why I want to do it, issues I may have to resolve.
Next is research. Nothing formal, just reading and collecting snippets of information, blog posts, quotes, web clips, and anything else that catches my attention. I might collect a large volume of information in a short period of time or I might do a little here and there, over a period of months. You can’t force creativity. At least I can’t.
With Evernote, I have a tag for the project, so everything I collect is tied to the project. If I have other notes on the subject or documents I’ve saved from other projects, I’ll add the project tag or “note links” in Evernote.
And then I put the idea aside to let it germinate and continue working on whatever I’m already committed to completing. But I still think about the project and record notes and ideas. I may re-write my original idea and see if it still looks good, but always, I give it time to take root and grow.
At some point, either my interest in the project will have waned and I will again put it aside (or kill it), or my interest will have grown. If I still want to do the project, the next step is to make a list of tasks.
Sometimes I put all those tasks into one continuous list. Sometimes I set up separate notes for each task. Of course some tasks are themselves projects (i.e., having more than one step), but I’m not really fussy about how I list what I need to do. I just make sure everything is tagged and/or linked.
Some of the project’s tasks I begin right away. Others, I schedule (or delegate). And some, I need to do further research before I know what to do.
There is a logical progression to most projects, but it can also be a messy process. Many projects are mundane. Beginning, middle, end. But big projects, especially ones that invoke creativity, are a journey of discovery. You may have a general idea of where you want to go but no idea how you will get there. Sometimes you wind up in a place you never expected.
With everyday projects, you’re the boss. With creative projects, you are merely the scribe.