I also promised to re-visit this idea in the article on the third step of the creative process, Getting the Big Idea. Specifically: The idea that, under certain circumstances, we need to make a conscious choice to move to the next step whether we feel ready or not, especially:
- The conscious choice to “force” the inspiration or insight.
- The conscious choice to begin the hands-on creation work.
- The conscious choice to stop working and call your creation done.
While some may argue that the creative process by its very nature can’t be forced, anyone whose worked as a creative professional knows differently. So does anyone who has ever written a blog, or crafted a tweet. Or, anyone who needs to get dinner on the table by 6pm.
Obviously, there’s nothing that can force the next phase of the creative process faster than a deadline. But moving forward before we are ready, or finishing before we are “done,” is also a way of practicing a very critical aspect of creativity in general – letting go. To be even more specific, letting of perfection.
As imperfect as our creation is; no matter how much better it would have been if we had spent a few more hours, weeks, months or years; or despite the fact that infinite outcomes really are possible from any single inspiration or insight; there is a time to stop.
To paraphrase Julia Cameron creator of The Artist’s Way: No creation will EVER be done – and learning to finish is key to unlocking even greater productivity and, more importantly, greater confidence around our creations.
Below are a few tips for practicing and getting comfortable with the Making It Done aspect of creativity. I see the application of this practice as essential in countless situations and for all types of people. Entrepreneurs are a case in point. It seems so obvious that revenue will not be earned if your product or service is always in progress, and yet so many of us tinker so long, trying to perfect every aspect that we lose the chance to earn a living from our passion. Our competition soars through the finish line with a lesser product, perhaps, but more guts.
To achieve any dream or goal, we have to consciously choose to cross the finish line. If we look hard, we might see that those who have achieved success and fulfillment are those who have been willing to cross imperfectly, eons before feeling ready.
How to Make Sure Your Creative Projects See the Light of Day
The following tips and exercises can support you in practicing making your creations real and getting projects done:
Set a Deadline and Stop at the Time You Set – No Matter What
Deadlines are a fact of life, but they typically don’t apply to our personal projects. Having “forever” to finish is not always helpful when practicing building the Make It Done muscle. By setting a deadline and sticking to it, you can practice accepting that “finished” is subjective and that what’s unfinished in your eyes is very often perfectly finished to other people.
Embrace Imperfection in All Aspects of Your Life
Not just around specific creations, but in everything you do. Practicing allowing imperfection is a great way to become more comfortable with the imperfect and to actually begin to see the perfection in all things, including your own creations.
Notice Imperfection, and Let Go of Judgement around that Imperfection, in Others’ Lives and Creative Works
Judging others less harshly, or even better, not judging at all, has a boomerang affect. If you can be less hard on others, you can learn to be less hard on yourself simply by applying the exact same thought patterns internally – and sometimes it’s easier to begin with non-judgement of others than it is to stop judging ourselves.
Display Your Creations (all your creations from what you wear and what you cook for dinner to art or anything else) without Explanation, Excuses or Apology
Learning how to allow your creations to simply be is one of the most valuable lessons in all of creativity. It helps separate self from work and, over time, saying simply “thank you” or nothing at all builds confidence like nothing else. It is the practice of “acting as if” – acting confident before feeling confident.
Avoid the Second Guessing Game Initiated by Other People Like it were the Plague
Answer remarks from others such as “did you think about …”, “you could have …” and “why didn’t you …” with: “I chose to do this [fill in the blank] this way and I’m quite happy with the result.” And say nothing else. Be silent. You will likely be very surprised by what the person making the statement says after you refuse to play the “it could have been better” game. Usually, it’s something very supportive and celebratory of your creation.
Separate Self from Work
This is an ongoing practice for many creators. The idea that we are our work becomes ingrained in us from an early age (think about the kudos a child receives over a finger painting from a proud parent – or the shame/guilt he or she might feel when told not to draw outside the lines). We are what we create has a seed of truth within it – under certain instances, but we are NOT our physical creations. I work on this concept often – and I’m not always where I want to be (I know because of the pit I sometimes feel in the face of criticism). But I have made huge strides, and the best ways I’ve found to practice are by: 1) using simple mantras, 2) visualizing the separation between myself and my creations, and 3) creating actual physical space between myself and my creations for a period of time.
To finishing already,