How to complete a creative project: stick with it until you're done. Gee thanks, great advice, I know. But it's true! You can't finish without finishing. Often that requires stubborn sticktoitiveness, especially if you're working on something substantial.
You might need to trick yourself, or do some coaxing. It depends — I don't know what type of person you are. Regardless of your individual quirks, it is essential that you WANT IT ENOUGH. Ain't no substitute for passion.
What you originally thought to create is unlikely to be what actually results from your efforts. Results are basically never exactly what anyone intended; often they're not even close. Get used to it!
Reality can't live up to your perfect dreams, but neither can those dreams live up to reality. The real thing has an inimitable visceral richness, which is why it's able to hurt you so fucking bad. But nothing beats releasing your vision into the world. Nothing, when desire defeats self-doubt.
USE WHAT YOU HAVE. The material and skills that you reach for habitually, there at your fingertips, don't be afraid to act through these existing bodymind integrations with your environment! Everything is an interface, including yourself.
In social engineering/pen testing, people see social norms and imaginary things like 'permission' and 'authority' and 'managers' which 'forbid access to facilities', but in reality, all there is, is a piece of laminated plastic or a clipboard or certain magic words spoken; the people are merely non-computerized ways of implementing rules like 'if laminated plastic, allow in', and if you put on a blue piece of plastic to your shirt and you incant certain words at certain times, you can walk right past the guards.
Hack your motivation systems. What do you currently do? Try using that "surface" to operate. No reason why you can't write a novel in Twitter drafts except that it'd be inconvenient. But an inconvenient method that you actually use will beat efficient tools that you shy away from touching. (I don't recommend Twitter drafts in particular, but if you must, you must.)
Shoot for 15-20% more than what is achievable. This forces you to edit via execution, to prioritize the essential elements and refine your vision as it unfolds. However, there is no need to frighten or punish or banish your fantasy — your muse. Free her for further play and exploration, to gambol onward as you trail behind. To pursue her is sweet; to chain her is misery.
My friend Visakan says that plans are worthless but planning is priceless. I have found that to be true: As soon as you ACTUALLY START MAKING SOMETHING it no longer looks like the fantasy. It looks messy and shitty and real, in a banal way like grocery carts strewn across a supermarket parking lot. Incomplete. Sloppy.
Well, so it goes. The fantasy should serve the reality, not the other way around. Don't let your dreams of the project — or how it might be received — get in the way of actually making.
I always meta-know that my ambition outstrips what I can realistically accomplish. However, the quality and magnitude of final output is still substantially affected by my excitement (or not) for a potential result that I've envisioned. So the bigger I dream, the more I can get done, at least up to a point. The scope I initially hoped for usually turns out to be naive (at best). So it's natural that I had silly expectations going into this, 100%, but I was aware that unknown unknowns are, uh, unknown.
Aggressively reevaluate, the plan is a map of territory we haven't reached yet so of course it's wrong.
I'm not saying give up on quality. What I am saying is: You must learn to be satisfied with a result achievable at your skill level. Ruefully satisfied, ideally. If there's nothing you'd do differently next time, if you didn't fuck up at all, then did you learn anything? Which is fine, you don't have to push yourself every time. A slam-dunk to keep your confidence up feels good. But there are steeper peaks to scale next!
BE BRAVE. I'm good at this part. It's one of my strengths. But I'm still terrified every time. Bravery has only ever always been doing it anyway.
Somebody's asking me like, what are you waiting for? And — and my honest answer is that I'm waiting for the fear to subside... And I have to accept that the fear will not subside, you have to do it while you're scared — so be it.
I won't lie and say that attention, recognition, and praise aren't big priorities for me. They are. But I would do it regardless — and plenty of people create without receiving or even seeking attention. Crafting an artifact that reflects your soul is a reward that can only be earned. Happily, it can be earned in abundance.
Accomplishment is permanently yours. Having done it, whatever it may be, becomes an intrinsic part of who you are. Even if you eventually want to repudiate your past work, on the deepest level it's impossible. Disavowing history does not erase it.
To finish, you have to prioritize finishing — over tempting procrastination, over that perfect vision in your head. Finishing is satisfying to the ego, but it is also a kind of ego death, profoundly vulnerable: the work leaves you, no longer a part of yourself but apart from yourself. It becomes an independent object to be experienced and assessed by others.
When it is done, the work is of you, begat by you, and yet foreign. The work slides out from the membrane of Self into the strange realm of Other. It is no longer contiguous with your mind. That too can be a sacrifice, a loss, though not everyone feels it as such.
For some the release is wholly joyful. But many creators feel ambivalent about finishing a work. To finish is to spoil many dreams, tempting potentialities that mighta-coulda been. Mourn if you need to, there's no shame in wanting more. I always want more.
The Other is without; set apart. Foreign, elusive, mysterious — sinister and alluring by turns. An adversary with whom you long to dance.
The World is the game board, the arena, the stage. It is a forest, a tangle, an open horizon. A roaring wave. The coarse wet sand into which our footsteps grind. And a mystery in its own right.
The Self: both refuge and cage. Brain and body, mind within matter, heart over mind. A duality inextricable from oneness, the voice that circles back into the small head bones, the ones lodged in your ears. Inversion, contradiction, to regard and be regarded in one instance, one rhythmic confluence of blood. Your cries reverberating in your lungs. Through your lungs. Through your throat. Out of your mouth.
And who hears it? Your companion, that dear provocateur, the Other. What do they think of you? What do you think of them?
Life Lessons from Paper Collage
- Seek serendipity.
- Embrace and adapt to what happens.
- Work in layers.
- Accept the discovery process.
- Accept that creation and discovery are inextricably linked.
- Let things unfold. Find balance and harmony in the chaos.
- TRUST THE PROCESS.
The process to trust: You work and bang your head against the wall and get frustrated. And then make a breakthrough. And move forward. The process is hope and faith, the belief that something better is possible through sacrifice and devotion. The process is trying really hard. Believe in magic so you can coax it out of yourself.
- Don't get too attached to the previous vision or the vision that you started with.
- Constraints force creativity.
- Step away to take a break then return with fresh eyes.
- Internally "disagree and commit" with your objection-selves.
- Anything can be used how you want to use it, no matter what it was originally intended for — anything can be repurposed.
- See elements transformed by being combined, the combination and transformation being the very same process.
- Use your best material so you'll love what you make. There's always more where that came from, you are an infinite fount!
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The header image is a collage of: