Mar 142012

As an artistic person, how do you decide what to work on? Do you focus on one piece of work for a long time, getting deep into it until it is finished? Or do you do a little here and a little there? Maybe you are good at thinking up interesting ideas, but you struggle with turning those ideas into tangible, finished pieces. Or you might be someone who is great at creating little pieces and building blocks, but finishing your work is really tough.

I like to think of all the possible artistic things I could be doing as projects. Perhaps that comes from many years working as a software engineer. The word “project” feels like a well-defined goal and the time and work it will take to get there.

For some artistic personalities, thinking in terms of projects will be helpful by making the work seem attainable. A project is just a bit of work that you want to get done. You might find it helpful to focus only on a bit of work. Thinking about your entire career, about all the possibilities over decades, can bring a feeling of inadequacy or overwhelming despair. If you need to focus and calm your brain down, try focusing on one small project at a time, letting go of some of those bigger concerns for a while.

For others, thinking about a “project” may sound like a soulless, rigid, left-brain approach to things. What are we going to do–plan to have an inspiration at 9:00 am on Tuesday, to keep the project on schedule? I certainly do not use the word “project” to mean anything but a piece of work, no matter how you define that work and how you get it accomplished. For a songwriter, a project can be a song, a gig, or a recording session. For a playwright, a project might be a scene, an act, a finished script, and eventually a stage production. The mystery and soul and inspiration are all still part of the work, but it helps to clearly define what that work is.

So a project can be whatever size feels good to you. If you feel overwhelmed, then a small project can help you focus more on the moment. A small project might be something that you can accomplish in an hour, a day, or a week.

For folks who feel bored, unmotivated, uninspired, or discouraged, a larger project might be the ticket. A larger project could be a novel, a play, or a series of paintings. Dreaming up some big plans and ambitious ideas might help you get out of the doldrums. When was the last time you sat back and dreamed some big dreams about your artistic work?

Try writing down your thoughts on one of these questions.

  1. Do you think that the idea of artistic projects is helpful for you? Why or why not?
  2. What is one small project you can finish today?
  3. What are three things you can accomplish to make this week feel successful?
  4. Describe one of your big dreams. Write it down in as much concrete detail as possible. For example, I recently had a coaching client who told me, “If I could make $30,000 a year from my music, I would have all the success I could hope for.” That number is very specific, and it will help that person know the goal and the steps to reach it.

Take fifteen quiet minutes and write out your answers. Putting your thoughts into actual words on paper or computer screen will help you think more clearly.

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