What Project Should I Work On? / by J. Logan Carey

 
 

Here's the scenario: you know you should be working on your creative stuff, but you are totally perplexed and overwhelmed and can't decide what to focus on. I think about this problem...a LOT. I'm never quite sure what is the most important thing I should be working on. So of course I procrastinate and spend hours on Instagram and Twitter instead of working.

I think this is so tough for us to nail down because the answer is not that simple, it's not just one thing. I mean, the over-arching idea is, in fact, one thing, but that's too general. In my case it is visual art/story-telling. But that's a pretty big bucket, how can we break down the larger idea into something smaller that you can actually take a bite out of?

My idea for this is to take the creative idea you are aiming for and break it down into "The Three P's" or three project buckets that you can pull from whenever you are indecisive about what to do next. The percentages are how much of your time you should be spending working on each of these areas.

They are...

  1. Passion (25%)

  2. Practice (50%)

  3. Product (25%)

 

PASSION is the thing that you are taking out of your soul and putting into the world. For me, it's working on my comics. But what you and thousands of other creatives before you have discovered, it's hard to make a living from a passion. For almost everyone, it just never happens. I don't necessarily think that should be your goal either. Mostly because it's so damned hard for the vast majority of people to obtain and you can lose your inner fire trying to make something that is uniquely you into a money-making thing. I think this is why most musician's first albums are fantastic and then the next ones are never quite as good. The first one was 100% from someone's soul, the follow-ups were made to satisfy recording contracts. They got the recording deals from how truthful those first songs were. That should be your goalpost, make something that is pure you. You should be working on this about a quarter of your time.

PRACTICE is honing our craft. Simply put, it's learning. This means studying the masters in your field and creating for the sake of creating, not to share to the world. It's creative exercise, pure and simple.

Although this ends up being the most important of our project buckets because it leads to mastery in the other two, most people focus on this one the least. That's a mistake. If you don't learn, you don't grow, you don't gain mastery, you never achieve your potential. Any practice is good practice, for the most part. It's easily ignored, however, and it's absence leads to creative stagnation. The proverbial "well has run dry". If you hit a creative plateau, it's almost always a sure sign that you need to become a student again to fill the well back up. You cannot grow towards your ultimate potential without focusing on this part of yourself. It simply won't ever happen. The good news is this can take a lot of different forms. You can squeeze practice into many parts of your life that you haven't even realized. Experiment, try different things, try something you would normally think was silly. You may be surprised how much you can learn and get done in short bursts rather than waiting for huge, uninterrupted lengths of time that are harder and harder to come by pretty much as soon as you are done with grade school.

PRODUCT is something you use your skill to create that is...what's the word...sellable. Something that would be in demand, something that people would love to show off, something that you could sell for money for pete's sake and pay a bill or two. There's nothing wrong or evil or bad about being able to provide for yourself through your creative skill. For many people, that's the dream in itself. But this almost never aligns with what we consider our PASSION that most people spend their lives trying to mash the two together with little to no success. For this project bucket you need to be in tune with the trends, so to speak. This is where social media can actually be useful for once. See what's trending, what are people talking about, and then figure out how you can use your unique skill to add something of value. That's the key, it has to be of value...to someone who isn't you.

That's a hard lesson for most creatives and if you can swallow that bitter pill, you're halfway to the finish line. Spend about a quarter of your project time on this area. It may not be the kind of stuff that sings to your soul, but it could sing to your grocery story and put some Pop-Tarts in your pantry.

Try to rotate each project bucket you are pulling from so you don't get bored and then start putting things off. This should keep things fresh and keep you more engaged in your creative work.

Let me know how this goes for you!