If you've ever tried to move forward on a creative project, you probably know the frustrating feelings of being blocked – or not having enough time to make progress – or working so sporadically that you can’t maintain your focus.
Check out National Novel Writing Month. This is an example if where you do something daily over an extended period.
- Because you have to get so much done, you don’t have time to listen to your internal critic. You just get something done and keep moving, instead of sitting, paralyzed.
- Progress itself is reassuring and inspiring. Panic tends to set in when you find yourself getting nothing done, day after day.
- Because you’re so focused on your project, you begin to make deeper connections and to see more possibilities, instead of being constantly distracted by outside concerns.
- Because of the intensity, you can hop in and out of the project, without having to take time to acclimate yourself. I have a writer friend who’s married to a painter, and she says their test for working well is when they can sit down and work if they have a spare ten minutes.
- You lower your standards. If you’re producing a page a week, or one blog post a week, or one sketch a week, you expect it to be pretty darned good, and you fret about quality. Often, however, folks achieve their best work from grinding out the product.
- Practice, practice, practice. My novel was terrible, but I think the sheer doing of it helped my writing, just the way practicing scales helps a pianist. The more you practice, the better you’ll become.
- Because you have a voracious need for material, you become hyper-aware of everything happening around you -- and ideas begin to flood your mind.
- You can use this approach even if you're working on a creative project on the side, with all the pressing obligations of a job, family, etc. Instead of feeling perpetually frustrated that you don't have any time for your project, you make yourself make time -- for a specific period.
- It’s fun! I don’t have the urge to climb mountains or run marathons, but I got the same thrill of exertion from writing a novel in a month.
When you are having trouble getting work done on a big project, my impulse sometimes is to take smaller, easier steps. Sometimes that helps, but sometimes it helps more to take bigger, more ambitious steps instead. By doing more instead of less, you can get a boost of energy and focus.