One of my favorite things to discuss with others is the personal projects they're working on outside of their job or school. I try my best to encourage my friends to continue with their ideas and make something new. In this post, I've collected some of my favorite suggestions that can turn an idea into reality.
Keep in mind that all of these suggestions are geared towards personal work!
It doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to exist.
"I'm not ready yet" is even MORE dangerous.
If "readiness" is stopping you from moving forward, then it's a notion worth leaving behind.
People appreciate output more than ideas, and you will too.
Make it exist somewhere besides your head.
Imagine a painting you want to create. It's the most beautiful, Renaissance-era painting full of intricate foliage and skin tones and expressive, captivating eyes. Now think about painting it, and having it come out exactly how you imagined. Exciting, right? But, if I imagine actually making it, my mind begins to list off the things I'll have to narrow down or learn. What kind of flowers? What is the subject like? Can I really paint drapery in clothing? What if I mess up their expression? I'd really have to plan and draft to even get it close, and even then, it might not be good enough. There's no way it'll be what I want it to be.
The solution is make it anyway. Make it anyway if it makes you excited, and fully expect it to be less than your wildest dreams. I HAVE to be this way when I draw animals at the zoo. Animals move around a lot, they have unfamiliar forms from what I usually draw, and I can't count on having a good view. It's very easy to feel like a crummy artist at the zoo. So, I take it in stride and try to make myself laugh. Bad drawing? Give it cartoon eyes. Not sure how to do the legs? Give that tiger human feet. It's far from perfect, but I'm still drawing and I'm still learning. And any silly drawing on that page is still more valuable to my learning than the ideal Joe Weatherley sketch in my head.
Go for good enough.
Good enough for what?
Good enough to move on, feel accomplished, and work on something else.
Make the project that captures your mind so a new one can take its place after, don't table it because you don't think you're ready or you may not "do it justice." Finished exported work also shows commitment and confidence, even if you have to fake it. This is an especially important point for students and visual art students who are trying to build up portfolios. Stock up on ideas. Small tests and little works will help you see what sticks, what makes you excited to create. Then you can refine those ideas and make them bigger and stronger and whatever you want them to be.
Don't be afraid to downsize your project in order to start.
Do you have a dream project, but you're not sure how you'd even start? There's a chance that you may need to break it down. Take that hundred page epic comic, that beefy novel, that giant mural, that home redecoration station, and turn it into:
You don't have to give up on the bigger dream, be it a movie or book or startup or Youtube Channel. Breaking this dream into chunks will make it more achievable!
BONUS BENEFIT: Sometimes the small project will satisfy the itch for your idea. Maybe you thought you'd write a YA series, but one book will do the trick. Maybe you thought you'd start a blog, but one post scratched the itch. By breaking the project up, you had a chance to test it and now you can move on to the next idea!
Identify what might be holding you back.
The problem may be learning a new skill in order to accomplish your goal.
Perhaps you're jumping into an area of media you haven't touched before and going outside your comfort zone. I certainly struggle with this. As a competitive person and a lover of routine, I get unreasonably perturbed at anything I'm not instantly good at.
Don't say: "I'll do this project once I'm good at screenwriting."
Say: "I'll do this project to learn how to screenwrite."
The problem may be finding the time you need to commit to your idea.
Solution: If you have limited free time and tend to fill it up quickly, make a pre-scheduled block of personal time to set aside for this project. This will discourage you from over-booking yourself. It will also take away the urge to only work on it "when you feel like it" or "when the moment strikes."
Don't create in a cave.
It is very tempting to imagine withdrawing from the world, keeping your project a complete secret, and then publishing it to the amazement of your peers. Or at least, I've imagined that before. While being secretive may be an effective tactic for a large-scale movie or game studio to keep their fans (and make sure nothing is spoiled), I think it's important to remember a key difference. Behind the curtain of NDA, collaboration is still happening. However, if you're one person, working in a secret private cave can be discouraging.
Tell your trusted friends about it.
I've heard this is a common tip for people trying to work out more or lose weight. By telling other people in your life, you're holding yourself accountable to others. More importantly, you're opening up the opportunity for a support network that will encourage you with your progress. This is the perfect time to appreciate the most supportive friends or family in your life. Ingest their positivity and their respect for what you do and bolster your own confidence along the way.
For this reason, I really enjoy telling people about my personal projects. Afterward, someone might say, "This sounds really cool! Keep me posted on this!" or even better, "I'd love to help out!" It's a wonderful, encouraging feeling and it helps me remember that my work doesn't have to exist in a vacuum.
Choose how much you share.
Want to keep your work private, but still receive encouragement along the way?
Share your progress with a trusted friend or family member.
Want an impartial but professional third party?
Take a class, join a workshop, or take private lessons!
Want a global location to share project updates on the internet?
Start a blog, dev log, or social media account!
It's all about finding the right balance of privacy and accountability to keep moving forward.
Learning to bake!
Baking and cooking revolve around sharing your creations with others. A wonderful cake is wonderful not only because it's beautiful, but because it tastes good and others can enjoy it. You can't make a wonderful cake without making a few okay ones first. A baker grows their skill by trying different things and sharing them. They can figure out what works, and also what they enjoy doing.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
Imagining an experience is very different from the experience itself. Experience helps you grow, both by failing and succeeding. Go for good enough, break down your work into manageable chunks, and share your progress with others.
Whatever it is, I believe you can make it happen!