How to Start — and Finish! — Your Next Creative Project

All creative people have them: those abandoned projects that make us cringe. We were so excited about them at first, but somewhere along the way, we lost that drive to bring them into the world. This week, writer and creativity blogger Stef Gonzaga has some advice on changing our procrastinating, project-abandoning ways. Stef is part of our DesignGood team, so we’re well acquainted with her productivity superpowers. Those powers extend to her personal projects, too. Just visiting her website will inspire you to get some new creative projects going yourself. And after you read these wise words from Stef, you’ll know how to finish what you start.

As a creative writer, I usually have no trouble coming up with ideas for creative projects or getting started with them.

Completing them, though, used to be a different story. Disappointed by the number of creative projects I had left unfinished, I reflected on my lack of progress and my tendency to procrastinate.

I learned that there were kinks to my creative process — you probably have some, too. And these kinks might be stopping you from finishing what could be your next and best creative project.

I changed the way I worked on my creative projects, and I’m happy to announce that the results have been positive. I’ve managed to rebuild my website, set up my online shop and published two books and two freelancing courses. I’ve become happier, lighter and more determined to keep on making and creating. I share this not to brag, but to show you that by addressing the problems early on, you can start and finish your creative projects successfully.

Here are five strategies that have helped me break through creative blockages and push my projects to the finish line.

1. Identify and commit to your big WHY.

“Why am I doing this creative project? Why is this important to me?”

A clear and solid WHY is the driving force that will push you to work on the project from start to finish. Likewise, the lack of that sense of importance may leave you less motivated to continue.

Asking these questions prompts you to think deeply about the meaning and purpose behind your project. If you’re clear on what that purpose is, commit to it throughout the project. Let it serve as your motivation to see the project to the end.

2. Set clear project parameters.

I collaborated with two creatives on a seven-week writing and art project last November, and one of the big reasons we got it done was that we set clear parameters that directed our efforts.

We made sure to create and share our works every Thursday, and put out a chapter of the book at the end of the week. We then compiled the output from these seven weeks to turn it into a book.

Establishing project parameters from the start gives you the direction you need to begin and end the project, as opposed to creating without a clear end point in mind.

3. Partner with passionate and persistent people.

I worked on a major book project that involved seven other professional writers, all of whom I respect. We all made it clear that we were setting aside precious time and attention for the project, so each of us had to deliver high-quality work on schedule.

Working with seven other people was good pressure that forced me to sit down, focus and work on my contribution, even when the initial enthusiasm began to fade. If you’re working on a project alone, find an equally passionate and persistent accountability partner to hold you to the deadlines you’ve set for yourself.

4. Establish a working system as the foundation for your project.

Every creative tackles a project differently. Some prefer to jump in and immerse themselves in the work, while others prefer more planning and organizing first.

Whatever your approach, you should at least have a working system in place as the foundation for every creative endeavor you embark on. This can be something as simple as having a notebook to jot notes down, or something as complex as creating project milestones.

I love using different kinds of tools to get things done. I have a plain Moleskine to capture ideas, words, phrases and lines that could be material for a poem. I then visualize and work on the different aspects of the project using Trello, a visual project management tool perfect for creatives, professionals and anyone else trying to get things done.

5. Ship.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” — Leonardo da Vinci

You’re finally finished with the project, but you have the urge to pull back. “It’s not ready,” you tell yourself. “This chapter of the book doesn’t sound right,” or “I feel I need to redo the third song of my album.”

While self-criticism can raise the standards for our work, you need to decide when it’s time to let go and ship. Doing so releases you from the burden of perfectionism and opens a new door for a brand-new venture.

So the next time you find yourself putting off the big launch, silence the perfectionist inside and ship that project. You’ll soon feel the lightness and excitement that newfound freedom has brought you.

Ready to start a new creative project?

Whether you’re working on a novel or a new album, keep these five important tips in mind as you take your ideas and turn them into amazing work. Creative projects take time, focus and physical and emotional energy, so it’s important to not let your fears clog your creative flow.

Keep up with all of Stef’s creative projects by following her on Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. And check out her products that will help you with your own projects.

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