Updated: Jan 28
One topic that comes up a lot for Artists and Designers is distraction.
We are idea machines! Each new idea creates feelings of joy within us for all the possibilities they hold.
In this blog, I wanted to write a few tips to make your focus on a project paramount without losing your amazing ability to produce wonderful ideas for future projects.
1. Finish what you start
Make this your goal for any outstanding projects before starting on anything else!
No matter what, park any new ideas until the first idea you started working on is complete.
The understanding of what is 'complete' can take many forms. You will have to define what this means to you on a project by project basis. It is totally subjective.
If it's going to be a commercial product with paying customers, your 'complete' status will be when it's ready to go out to customers and sold in stores or online shops.
But if the idea is just something you're playing with, 'complete' will mean when you've finished playing with the idea and come to a reasonable results with whatever it is you are developing. Ideation, prototyping, testing, commercialising. You can complete projects to certain stages.
You don't want to start a new idea and then have to circle back round to an older idea because you lost the creative spark for it, albeit, there's a difference between taking a break so you can come up with new solutions and starting to work on a completely new project.
Let's work on a commercial sense of the word 'complete' for now because there's a caveat here which leads to my next point.
2. Prove your idea is worth working on
Test your ideas at the earliest convenience, this should really be point one but we can get ahead of ourselves and just jump right into producing an idea.
It touches on the point from above that you could be playing with an idea to see if it will work, in this case, it will help you determine if it worth expanding the project further into a minimum viable product.
By proving your idea is worth working on, you'll know if your first idea is a dud. It's an important test to make sure you don't spend the next year working on an idea that won't sell.
Create your prototype as quickly as possible so you can test whether it will work. Usually this means you are working so fast that you don't have time to make anything pretty. You're just testing if it's functional and if it elicits the right feeling from your end consumer.
This is one of the hardest steps for Artists because we want to use our skills to make it look good but you have to weigh up your time on over designing something that might not fly on this point, in which case you could be putting that energy into an idea that will fly later.
That takes extreme amounts of focus not to run ahead to some more exciting parts of the project you may have envisioned in your head. I would say concepting is fine at this point though, if you're just getting placeholders to show its potential, but you don't want to waste hours of your time rendering out perfect images, just for them to change when you finally get round to testing the idea with real people.
It's about demonstrating patience to develop something that will be truly worthwhile creating.
3. Park New Ideas
I know new ideas may be exciting and the possibilities are endless but if you're an Artist/Designer our most common attribute is to keep everything in our head and juggle between ideas, simultaneously creating them.
This is a bad practise for 3 reasons:
Brain switching slows down all of your productivity and it takes longer to get any idea finished or to a quality you would like.
This way of working can breed anxiety as you struggle to get ideas finished when you expected them to be done.
Ideas need space for other people aka your audience to comprehend what is happening. If you work on too many ideas at once and you somehow end up with a bunch of products, you now have the trouble of thinking about what product gets air time over others, so your audience can get just as excited about it as you have been labouring over it... And let's face it, you're just going to get another idea to work on once the others are done and none of the wonderful things you invented will fly as they should have, if you had only focused on one development at a time.
So what is the opportunity cost of working on multiple ideas? Is it really worth it? Tip one on this blog looks a lot more appealing from here.
If you're afraid you'll forget about an idea, you can get yourself an idea journal.
Jot down your amazing ideas and come back to them once one of your fledgling idea is off into the world. (This is literally the only reason I'm writing this blog, because these ideas were whirling around my brain at 5am, so I got up and wrote it all down).
The journal can be physical if you prefer taking notes or a folder on a cloud based service like Google Drive, so you can access your ideas anywhere, any time.
There's enough stress and risk mitigation in one project, let alone managing several at once.
4. Make a project plan
You'll have noticed this theme come up a lot in this blog. This point is to make sure you don't manage every project in your head.
It's a huge point because most people believe they can run multiple projects in their heads, but let me demonstrate why it's not a good strategy to planning, not matter how good your memory is.
On a pretty lengthy project, such a developing a game there are so many twists and turns you can't yet predict.
Have you ever had an idea in your head and you've seen the whole thing working like magic and then you go to write the idea on paper and realised that it doesn't quite work in reality. There's usually more problems you need to solve before you get the results you want or you might figure out that actually, that idea doesn't work.
The same goes with planning! There are things you don't have the ability to see yet, stuff you learn a long the way from mistakes you're going to make and that's far too much information just to store in memory and keep everything accountable.
When we plan, we plan from the end and work our way back to where we are now. We add in all the stuff that needs to happen within that time frame, we ask ourselves questions about potential risks, budget and time management and we work out if we can make this thing happen.
Let's bullet point that out.
Work backwards from your end goal.
Write down all potential risks that could delay or hamper your project.
run a budget on it so you stay on track monetarily and time-wise, especially if you're working alone.
Delegate any tasks that you are unable to complete yourself.
This all helps you to deliver your idea efficiently and to time scales.
5. Have Fun!
The process of creating something from scratch is an entirely unique journey and through the process you will experience a range of emotions; joy, validation, fear, anxiety, stress, failure and successes.
You just don't know what is going to happen when you embark on a project. So enjoy all of it, even the hard times because the experience will sharpen your skills on further projects.
There's a blessing in almost every situation or misfortune. Let it be your guide to innovate on the process and create far more efficiency as you grow as an Artist/Designer.
It's not all going to be easy BUT you're the only one who can drive yourself into action and create.
Surround yourself with great people. Don't stay down for too long, get back up and try again with a different approach or further research.
We all go through similar emotions as we create the ideas we love and bring them into reality. You're never truly alone when things go wrong. But remember, there are also many other things that go incredibly right, especially if you make it through the hurdles.
Keep going, believe in what you're developing and focus on one amazing idea at a time.
I was recently asked what one piece of advice had a major impact on you and it's this quote "Be like the postage stamp, it sticks to one thing until it gets there" - Anonymous.
From the Creative Director,
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