10 Tips to Transform Creative Ideas to Finished Projects

Cathy Goodwin

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Creative people tend to keep several projects going at once. You're no different. Your Time Tyrant threatens, “Finish what you start. " You reply, “But I've got too many ideas!"

So how do you go from creative idea to tangible creation while defying the Time Tyrant? Here are 10 tips to get started.

(1) Create a system to store future projects.

It's so frustrating. Your best ideas tend to come when you're already working on a project.

Experienced creatives keep an idea file, either on paper, posted to an “idea board" or on a computer disk. Eventually some ideas take on a life of their own. Others disappear quietly.

(2) Tell a story about what would happen if you finished each project.

"Susan finished all her art projects and. . . " “Jeremy finally revised his resume and sent it out to 3 companies. . . "

Expect to be surprised by the twists and turns of your plot line. One client resisted finishing a book because she dreaded getting a slew of rejections from agents. Another resisted applying for jobs because he dreaded spending eight hours chained to a desk.

(3) Review your motivation for finishing these projects.

Do you need to create projects for money? If you're feeling desperate, fear may be blocking your inspiration.

But if you don't need the work, you may find yourself asking, “Why bother?" Sometimes the best answer is, “Well, maybe I shouldn't. "

(4) List your top 3 goals for the next 6 months.

Does this project help you reach one of these goals? If not, maybe it belongs in the future file.

(5) Describe the audience for each unfinished project.

Will your market value what you create, whether received as a gift or a paid purchase? We're more likely to finish projects when we expect the result to be recognized and even rewarded.

In my experience, the more abstract the reward, the more creatives have difficulty with finishing.

(6) Create a distractions list.

When your creative project is related to a computer, it's easy to begin each day by reading email, checking statistics, browsing news websites, visiting forums. . . and more. Make a simple, non-judgmental list of your distractions. As you become more conscious of distractions, you'll find ways to get back on track.

(7) Develop warm-up exercises.

Warm-ups can be confused with distractions. Posting to your blog can be a distraction - or it can be a “book-to-blog" exercise, where you write in your blog until you've completed a book.

Some creatives begin by reading over drafts of previous work. Others summarize research notes, draw sketches or scribble outlines. Warm-ups come by trial and error. After awhile you'll learn what gets you ready to delve into the project and what becomes a new source of distraction.

(8) Create a strong support system.

As Julia Cameron wrote in The Artist’s Way, the notion of solitary creativity is nothing but a stereotype. Writers, artists, business owners and professionals need opportunities to talk about their progress. They need to feel someone cares about what they’re doing and believes in them.

In my experience, this lack of a support network tends to be the single greatest source of success in any field. In today's busy world, creatives increasingly turn to paid coaches and mentors, just as they take classes and purchase supplies.

(9) Work in small chunks.

Set a timer for 15 minutes a day. Write 300 words and stop.

Chunks don't carry over. You write 600 words today - you still need 300 tomorrow! Don't be surprised if you exceed your goal once you get started. If the project really fits your life, creating a small chunk will feel like eating one potato chip: you'll want to keep going.

(10) Follow your own creative work style: open or closed.

Have you ever cleared the decks for your project: you have a whole day, or even a whole weekend. So you think, “Wow - I've got all this time!" And then somehow it's evening and you haven't accomplished anything.

You've made a discovery. Open work styles don't work for you.

Some people do well when they feel they're all alone on a desert island with no rescue in sight. They like to start early and keep going till they're too exhausted to move. Others (like me) like to feel pressured. If I have a lunch date, I'll work extra hard all morning.

Bottom Line: I find projects get completed when creatives follow their own agenda in their own style. Cookie-cutter time management techniques rarely work for everyone (and some work for no one). Get the time tyrants out of your life and you'll be far more productive than you ever anticipated.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph. D. , is an author, speaker and career consultant, specializing in mid-career transitions, decisions and escapes. She's assembled a goldmine of resources at
Midlife career change Abolish your time tyrants and find freedom to accomplish what's really important: http://www.midlifecareerstrategy.com/timebook.html


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