Many of our false starts, failures and tendencies to procrastinate come from our psychological fears about our creative ideas. These fears can be overcome with some simple techniques.
Most people would like to have more creative ideas, but other things get in the way. We fear we are not good enough or that we are wasting our time. We also worry that it is irresponsible to spend time on creative ideas and projects when there are so many other things in life we need to take care of. We also think we don’t have the time, the skills, the resources or the talent.
The thirty-day project can overcome all these fears and obstacles.
In this article I will describe:
- how the thirty-day project overcomes these obstacles to our creativity
- the structure of the thirty-day project
- sample project ideas
To achieve our creative dreams we need to:
- overcome our fears
- overcome procrastination
- find time
- prepare our resources
- improve our skills
Here’s how the thirty-day project annihilates these obstacles
The thirty-day project helps us to overcome our fears because it is achievable and relatively easy to do. Our fears often come because we are over-ambitious. We have grand ideas but give up early because they seem impossible to achieve. The thirty-day project is a training exercise that can improve our creative stamina. Just as we wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without training and preparation in techniques, neither should we attempt a creative goal without similar preparation.
Procrastination often comes from fear and overwhelm, but it can also come from too much choice. We often have too many ideas, or too many paths we want to follow. We can become crippled by indecision. The thirty-day project helps because we make the decision about what to create at the beginning of the project. After we have decided we stick with our choice come what may. If we have a new idea then we can easily schedule it for our next thirty-day project. Yes, we may have to choose what to draw, cook or plant, but the major decisions about what the overall task should have already been made. This makes it easier to get going each day and build momentum.
The first time I did this project I decided to write five hundred words a day. The problem I encountered was that I sat down at the blank page each morning and couldn’t decide what to write about. I discovered that having a theme helped me overcome this procrastination. The theme can be a subject, such as to write about disappointment or joy, or just an idea of the type of work to be produced, such as one flash fiction piece or one blog post. In other larger projects, I have written a plan of the steps I need to take each day to complete the project. This way, when I sit down at my allocated time, I can just begin, as the major decisions have already been made.
Finding time to be creative can be hard when we have many responsibilities in life. However, no one should be so busy they can’t find half an hour a day to spend on themselves. Your creativity is not a luxury or an optional extra, it is part of who you are. Without the opportunity to be creative we can become jaded, resentful and burnt out. Allocating half an hour a day for ‘me’ time is not selfish because it keeps us healthy and well-balanced. Ultimately it makes us more useful to those who need us than we would be if we were stressed, exhausted and unfulfilled.
The amount of material required for a thirty-day project shouldn’t be too much. You can begin a thirty-day project with nothing more than a pen and paper if you want. Most of us creative types have stashes of materials for projects we have never got round to completing anyway. If money is tight, try to think of a project using things you have already or by borrowing equipment from others.
Preparing our resources doesn’t just mean buying the materials for our project, it means creating space and support for our creative dreams. Try to create a space where you won’t be disturbed for your half an hour. Do your work when the children are otherwise occupied or being taken care of by others. Don’t put it off until you have got ‘everything else’ done—you will never get everything else done. Prioritise yourself and your creative dreams and try to get the support of at least one other person if you can. Encourage your friends to embark on a thirty-day project so you can support each other.
When we begin with a simple project we give ourselves an opportunity to create with whatever our skill set currently is. Even if you haven’t sketched since school, you can begin and build up your skills. Practice is everything and you will be amazed at the progress you make in thirty days in whatever medium you have chosen. It may take hours and hours to become an expert at something, but a proficiency level you can be proud of will come much quicker. Daily practice will lead to your skills developing much more quickly than erratic bursts of creative activity do. Many creative people have spent a lot of time studying a creative medium, reading about it and looking at others work. This is an opportunity to stop thinking and start doing—it’s the only way you are ever going to gain the skills you desire.
The structure of the thirty-day project
Choose a creative outlet that you are passionate about or that you have always wanted to try. Follow your heart’s desire with this one. Creativity incorporates so many possibilities, whether you want to cook, make a pot, paint, sew, build a shed or put up a shelf, write a story or a poem, learn to dye clothes, learn herbalism or aromatherapy. Even learning a physical skill, such as scuba diving, is a creative pursuit—you are creating a new version of yourself whenever you learn something.
2. Date. Time. Place
Choose your start date. This is a thirty-day project so starting on the first day of the month can be good. Or set a date for a few days time to allow an opportunity to prepare. Don’t put it off too long, though; this is a simple project that will take less than half an hour a day to complete so don’t feel that you need to wait until you have a block of free time. Putting things off until the right time is procrastination, the right time will never come. Grab the opportunity and begin as soon as you can.
Even if you have others relying on your needs you should still make time for this project. You will be in a better position to help others if you ensure your own well-being is prioritised. The happiness and well-being you will gain from this project will help those around you. Your joy and contentment at finally choosing to make time for your creative needs will spill out onto those that you care about and lift their lives as well.
So, allocate time in your schedule when you will complete your chosen task each day. Tell your family and friends and ask them not to disturb you at those times. Ask for the support of anyone that might be able to help you in advance. Decide if you will need space allocated for your project and if so, prepare that space now.
Clarify what it is you will do each day of your creative project. Choose tasks that take around half an hour a day to complete. Keep your project relatively simple so that it does not feel overwhelming. If you haven’t produced much creative work recently then start off as small as you can—you can always extend the project later or start a completely new one. I have written a list of sample projects at the end of the article to give you an idea of the size and style of project to aim for, but the rules are ultimately up to you.
You may choose to spend half an hour making a drawing or photo each day or creating a meal. You may choose to spend half an hour a day working towards a larger project such as a story. Five hundred words a day would make a larger story of around 15,000 words over the course of the project, or alternatively, you could create a flash fiction piece or poem every day.
If your project is to complete something larger, such as building an item of furniture, then make a list of which tasks you will do each day. Allow extra time for unforeseen setbacks and remember these things always take longer than you expect so don’t be too ambitious at first. Transforming one bed in your garden is a better goal than restructuring your whole garden. Write down clearly what the project is and what you will complete each day.
Shop for, order or borrow the materials you need to get started with your project. Try to anticipate your needs for the first few days at least, but remember that things may change over the course of the project so you don’t necessarily need to buy everything at once. For example, if you are refurbishing a piece of furniture, you might buy sandpaper and primer but leave the choice of final colours until later. Don’t overbuy at the early stage, just get the basics for what you need. This gives you the option to move in different directions or, if the creative project turns out not to have been in a field you want to continue with, to change direction and choose a different area for your next project.
You might also want to buy or borrow books or look up tutorials that will help you over the next thirty days. Remember to choose simple tutorials and guides that are specific to your chosen project to help you stay on track. You might also like to buy something to record your progress. This isn’t entirely necessary, you could record your progress with a star drawn each day in your diary, but extra stationary is never wasted in my opinion so, by all means, create a chart, buy stickers, print off calendar pages or whatever you choose to check off your progress.
Start your project and mark off your progress on your calendar. Keep everything you make, even if you don’t like it because it will enable to look back and see the progress you have made. Take photos if you can’t keep the actual items, (for example, food). Stick with the project even if you don’t like the results so far. Practice makes perfect and you are learning to stick with a task through the tough parts to achieve the satisfaction of completion. Remember to work on your project everyday—even if you did extra the day before—because part of the purpose of the project is making a habit to be creative every day. You might like to create a journal for the thirty-day project and include any writing, or artwork or photos of your creative results.
6. Finish and repeat
When you finish your project, take time to consider how much you have achieved. You might not be the next Picasso- yet, but you will have made progress. Store or display your work carefully and record what you have done so that you can look back at this starting point in the future. Decide what your next thirty-day project will be!
Sample creative ideas
- Create a meal or cake every day
- Create one photograph, film, digital or polaroid every day.
- Paint or draw a picture
- Create a print or collage
- Write a poem or piece of flash fiction
- Start on a longer piece of work such as a painting or longer story for half an hour every day
- Work towards creating a piece of sewing or embroidery
- Work toward knitting or crocheting something
- Make an item out of wood, clay, or any other material each day
- Work towards creating a more substantial piece of work from wood, clay, or any other material each day
- Refurbish an item of furniture over the course of the project
- Create something gorgeous in your home, such as an arrangement of flowers or an arrangement of candles.
- Work towards creating a piece of music by the end of the project
Choose something you are curiously passionate about — and have fun!
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