I cannot believe that a whole year is wrapping up. 2017 gradually bows out. At the beginning of the year, when I was going to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life (more on that later), I wondered how I could make it through the year in one piece.
Well, here I am, in one piece… I think. The not so cold winter of 2016 gave in to a refreshing spring. Then my bland job-hunting summer and it’s challenges. Now the leaves are fallen – the penultimate month of 2017 is here. How did I make it here? What have I learnt? What am I looking forward to? I made it here by God’s grace. I’m looking forward to better everyday.
So what have I learnt?
I have learnt that the lofty dreams of my heart will be tackled bit by bit.
Sounds too elemental? Well, I find it difficult to retain.
I used to pride myself (like most creatives do) in the fact that I have a lot of ideas flying about in my head, waiting to be plucked and implemented. My mind is always active and reaching out, imagining and thinking of beautiful things to create and how to make the world a better place, but I realize that this gift can easily lead to frustration that is proportional to the size of my ideas. Each idea quickly seems like a huge task with an endless to-do list that judges me with each passing day of doing nothing.
I have this other gift- perfectionism. I just want to create the perfect work and when I do not get the perfect time, conditions or resources to create this perfect masterpiece, NOTHING gets done. I’d rather not do than to do imperfectly. Sadly, the last time I checked, there’s no such thing as a perfect creative environment. And I think this lofty unrealistic expectation has been my undoing.
I want to know the huge plan of God for my life, as in with the 4K kind of details. I want to have a perfect view of my life and purpose. “Haha,” I can imagine God laughing at me and saying, “don’t you know son, that doing this would defeat the purpose of faith?” God merely gives us manageable glimpses of him and as we grow deeper and mature in faith, we build a capacity to experience more.
Day one of the rest of my life.
So, from now on, I’m tackling life one day at a time. 30 minutes of writing 100 words each night will lead to a short story in a month. Planning a 2 hour routine without starting will lead to – you got it right – nothing! The short story might not win awards or become a bestseller, but you would have finished and added 3000 words to your experience and hopefully, the mastery of your craft. You want to podcast, make YouTube videos, learn photography, speak in public, code computer software, start an NGO, finish a course with an A?
My nifty tip – Finished is what matters at first.
Aim for finished, not perfect. Here’s a very hard to come by wisdom – You can edit finished. You can make “finished” perfect. You cannot edit “nothing.” You cannot perfect nothing!
Get it? So here’s what I suggest you and I begin to do-
De-congest your brilliant mind unto paper.
You probably don’t know how restful your mind will be when you write down those ideas. You get to see it solidify in text blocks (on paper or on the screen) – this is the first step to getting any project done. Your story plot ideas or prototype drawing are safer on paper than in your mind especially when you don’t intend to start off the next minute. It all feels good in your head, but when you write it down, you can cut out the nonsense as you type the recesses of your mind. You will find that your mind may think you have fifty ideas when in fact, writing shows you that you only have five workable ideas. Trust me, you mind doesn’t need more junk.
Categorize your ideas or project into manageable milestones.
Yes, this is where it gets really hard. If you’re like me, you feel that the weight of the world’s problems lies squarely on your shoulders and you have to solve it fast! All at once! Dear friend, this is not usually true. At best, the pressure is called passion welling up within you waiting to be channeled into manageable milestones. Like my example above, a good milestone is 30 minutes or 100 words per day. You can always scale up those days you have much inspiration but keep a basic structure.
In graphic design, I find that telling my clients I need three weeks to work on a design is better than telling them I need a week because I have this wonderful design concept that will fit their purposes in my head. Most time, that idea falls apart as I put it on paper and I find out I need a new one. Three weeks would have worked better. I remember when I did write Donut (you can get a copy here), I had high and lofty dreams for it, but I made a plan. And Yes! It worked. When things became slow at the middle, I was able to adjust and stretch out the financing aspect of the project till we made it through. Bit by bit.
Take one task at a time.
Ideas come in cohorts, and they all seem great and ready to fly, but one action after another results in more doing. Pick one of the three hundred story ideas and start. Finish it before you pick the next one. It’s wiser to have two finished stories at the end of two months (and two hindered and ninety eight written ideas) than to have five hundred disjointed ideas but you’re too overwhelmed to start any.
Do it everyday
The wisdom behind many of the creative challenges like NaNoWriMo, Inktober and Writathon (by my friend, Samuel Osho) is to hope that your intent to finish a novel, master illustration or write consistently will be greatly helped by a daily practice which builds consistency. Do it every day. Nothing can be mastered any other way. And watch this – Even if you don’t (and you don’t have to!) share what you produce with the world daily, still produce daily.
Reward your progress.
Yes, reward that one task you finished. Decide what the reward will be and attach it to completion of a task.
Share the process with fellow creatives.
Yes, we all need accountability and this is one area where I still need a lot of work, so I’d not say so much here. I know that constructive criticism helps a lot!
The next step.
Since I released Donut, Life has happened to me (more on this later). The most important thing is, right now, I am picking up from where I stopped. But I will not take on my ideas all at once. My journal is full and my mind is at peace and focused on a single task ahead. One step at a time, I will gain mastery of one and then the other, until I am able to realize the most. Why not join me?
Do you ever experience times of overwhelming frustration because you have this so many ideas but cannot seem to get things done? Sometimes, you start, but you find it difficult to finish? I’ve been there! Have you? Can we share ideas in the comments below? Thank you!