Greetings PaperDemons. Today, I'm going to be sharing with you some practical tips to help you get started on that creative project. If you're new to PaperDemon.com or to my YouTube channel, welcome to the community. I'm BogusRed and I'm here to help motivate you to become more awesome!
In my last article and video, Five Ways You're Sabotaging Yourself as a Creator, I explained the many reasons why we sabotage our growth and productivity. In this article, I'm going to continue that story by covering some practical tips that you can use to overcome those hurdles.
Below is, on the whole, the same content from the video in article format for easier reference and reading. I've made a few minor adjustments for the sake of clarity and grammar. I've also added some additional details about resources.
Whether you are experiencing a creative block of not having created anything in a long time or you have left yourself a trail of unfinished projects in your wake, this video is to help you pick up that project again and get it done. I have indeed navigated these treacherous waters before and here are some of the strategies that I've used to pick up that pencil again and start creating again.
One key point I want you to keep in mind throughout this is through the act of creating your confidence will grow and your motivation will increase. Just like I talked about in the previous article/video...
It is through action that you create motivation, not the other way around.
Tip 1: Web surf
Give yourself permission to do a little Googling. It's not procrastination, it's actually productive!
Take a little time to read some articles or watch videos related to a topic on what you're creating something for. Researching and reference gathering is an important early step in the creative process and can be loads of fun and easy to do.
If you're creating a comic, illustration, or fictional story that is in a fantasy genre, you might
draw some inspiration from history, perhaps medieval time
read some articles/books on fantasy
look up some pictures of castles
Fun fact: Game of Thrones is actually based loosely off of the Wars of Roses from our own history.
Why this works
The reason why this is really effective is because it's super easy. It's very low friction. It can get you started creating right away without a lot of effort. Through the act of doing this researching it can inspire you to take further action later.
Tip 2: Interview friends, family, or strangers
Several months ago I attended a writers workshop taught by one of our community members, Nyatara, and learned this really easy technique that can be used for inspiring your next story or character.
The way it works is you spend five minutes interviewing someone who you may not know very well. This could be a friend, a family member ,or someone you've just met; it doesn't really matter. Ask them to tell you more about what kind of work they do, something about their childhood, or some memory that they have. Guaranteed there will be something in there that sparks your interest which can then be used as the basis for an original character or a story.
Fun fact: The personality of one of the main characters in my new animated series Dragon Mall Quest is actually based off of a friend of mine.
You never know where you will find inspiration. You don't have to make a big deal out of this by scheduling time to do this hour-long interview or anything like that. It can simply just be being at a social event and spending five minutes being curious and asking someone some questions.
Tip 3: Start a Collection
This tip goes hand in hand with the previous two. Through your process of researching you're going find a lot of stuff that's not going to be very useful to you. But there are going to be a few nuggets in there that do inspire you or give you an idea that you can use later. So it's really important to invest some time in collecting these useful ideas together so you don't have to go hunting for them later.
This is also an easy getting started task. You can set aside as little as 5-10 minutes to put together those ideas in some organized way that makes sense to you.
This collection might take many different forms, maybe even more than one.
a folder on your computer with a bunch of images in it
a Pinterest board
a physical notebook where you write down your ideas
a sketchbook where you sketch out your ideas
a digital notebook on your computer or phone
Personal story time: I actually have a digital notebook that I use specifically for all of my ideas for YouTube videos and for ideas for challenges for PaperDemon. And it's really important for me because when it comes to time to do the next video I can go back and reference that notebook, see which of those ideas pops out at me or sounds interesting to me, and then I'm off to the races.
Why this works
Spending that time to get organized or get your ideas and thoughts together will pay off at a time later down the road when you're ready to take further action on it. Additionally, this task is a really easy task. It's something that you can spend five or ten minutes on or more and the act of doing it will help to inspire you to perhaps go further with it.
Pureref – Great for artists. Allows you to assemble images into a large canvas which you can easily zoom. You can also force it to always be ontop so it's visible while you're drawing/painting in your favorite art application.
Pinterest – ideal for images. Good for both searching and collecting images.
Joplin – digital notebook that works on your desktop and mobile devices. Can sync across devices. Ideal for text but also supports dragging and dropping images and file attachments. Free and open source. Has browser extensions to make it easier to clip content from the web.
Evernote – very similar to Joplin but nicer interface. Free account has limited file size. Works well with snipping content from the web.
Tip 4: Use Pomodoro's
This tip is especially useful if you find yourself in a position where you know what you need to do but you are just having trouble doing it.
Perhaps you have a larger project that you're overwhelmed by. This is a common thing that happens to many creative people. I've been overwhelmed with my animated series Dragon Mall Quest which I've been working on for 10 years now (and I'm finally releasing it next month. Yay! I'm so excited!)
It can be really overwhelming. You've got this really big project you know exactly what you need to do, but there's just so many things to do that it just freezes you from doing anything.
With Pomodoro's, you're changing your metric of success. (“Pomodoro” means tomato by the way) Instead of your metric of success being “completing it,” you're just moving the metric of success to time-based progress.
The way Pomodoro's work is to...
Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work on the task or you work on your creating during that 25 minutes.
Take a 5 minute break
Repeat. After three or four of these, you'll take a longer break (like 10-15 mintues)
If 25 minutes feels way too long to you, you're not alone. You can modify this and do 10 minutes of working and then a 3 minute break.
Why this works
I'm sure there's some of you out there that are going to say “you can't get anything done ten minutes.” Well, just the act of doing even a little bit can be enough to make you feel some sense of confidence and to keep going. You may find yourself spending more than the original target of 10 minutes (which is a great thing!).
Eventually, you might not even use the Pomodoro's anymore. This happens to me quite frequently where I'll start off doing Pomodoro's for the first hour of a task and then after that I don't really need it anymore. I keep going without the need for breaks or timing.
At the end of your working session, even though your creative project may not be finished, you'll have that sense of accomplishment. You'll feel good about yourself for having completed something and that good feeling is going to be enough to help motivate you the next day. You'll have built some confidence in your reserves which will help you the next day with creating.
To do Pomodoro's you can use a simple timer or clock app that's on your phone or you can use apps that are specifically for Pomodoro's like these:
Marinara Timer – I like this one because it shows the clock really large and it makes a sound when the time is up. It's also more customizable and shows a history
Tomato Timer – A nice and simple interface. Has sounds and desktop notifications.
Best android Pomodoro apps – I haven't personally used any of these but if you find a good one, please reply in the comments below with your recommendations.
Tip 5: Touch It
My coach Brett Thornhill has given me advice many times in the past to help me when I've been procrastinating on something. And one of the pieces of advice he's given me quite frequently is to just “touch it.”
You have the intent to just spend a minute looking at your project, touching it in your hands. Or, if this is something that's digital maybe it's just opening it on your computer.
Why this works
The reason this is effective is it's easy. It takes away all of those barriers to getting started and is enough to actually get you to do something. Oftentimes you'll open it up and while you're there you'll tell yourself “Well, since I'm here, I might as well do a little bit of this or do a little bit of that.”
One way that you can simply touch a project is to review where you left off. For example, if you have a large project, perhaps a large animated series you've been working on for 10 years, and you haven't touched it in a long time, just take some time to see where you left off, see what the last thing you created for it was.
Just to give you another practical example, when I was first writing the content for this video and article, I was originally planning to use some livestream footage that I had and I was procrastinating on editing the video. I wasn't inspired, I wasn't really happy with the livestream that I had made, but I told myself
“I'm just going to touch it. I'm just going to review the footage. I'm just going to watch it and see what's there.”
And the act of watching it was enough to inspire me to take the next step. I ended up writing three YouTube videos that day.
Just to review, the first five tips to help you get started on your project are:
Be sure to join my mailing list because I do have a Part Two coming out with five additional tips. I've been creating like a madwoman lately working on my Dragon Mall Quest animated series which is kind of why these articles and videos have been coming out a little slower lately. But I'm super excited about it. Join the mailing list and you'll get access to an early preview of that series.
Please reply and let me know what's one thing you're going to do right now to get started or if you have additional getting started tips for our community. I always welcome and enjoy reading your comments so please let me know what you think about the article and/or video.
Until next time!