Taking any project from idea to completion is like a spiritual journey. It’s filled with ups and downs, love and hate – a roller coaster of emotions.
Such projects take on a life of their own, but they all follow a fairly familiar pattern that begins with excitement, but is filled with struggles. This is my spin on the Life of a Project (stolen and adapted from Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon).
Everything is perfect at this point. You have the best idea since sliced bread and you’re ready to take on the world. You dive in head first. That’s when the real work begins.
The honeymoon phase doesn’t last too long. You quickly realize what your idea truly means. It’s not going to be a cake walk, but you’re still optimistic. You’ll figure it out after all, so you keep going.
Now you’re in the thick of it and you’re struggling. The idea you were in love with not too long ago, you suddenly hate with a passion. Things are hard. You’re beginning to doubt everything.
I don’t know about you, but this is the point where I get most easily distracted. It’s far easier to fall in love with a shiny new idea, then it is to finish the difficult one in front of you. I think a lot of people may give up here and add their project to an ever-growing pile of unfinished work. That is, unless you’re really serious about your craft.
It always gets worse before it gets better. You’re at an all time low and hate what you’re working on, but you know you have to keep going, otherwise it was all for not.
Somewhere along the line you’ll get into a flow and start to pound out work. You’ll get a majority of the project done and be feeling good. Things are looking up.
Unfortunately, getting across the finish line is the hardest part. Perfecting your work, tying up loose ends, and applying the polish takes far longer than you ever anticipated. It probably feels even longer since you can see the finish line.
At this point there’s no turning back. You have to finish because you’re so close and any other outcome would be devastating. Ideally you embrace the struggle, put your head down, and grind away.
You finally finish and you’re overwhelmed with joy at the accomplishment. You’ll probably even start to tell yourself how it wasn’t so hard after all (it was). The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re done. You finished and you can move on to the next thing with pride.
It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.
That’s usually how it goes. You can tell stories of how easy it was or how it just came to you in a moment, but in reality it was hard, it took hours and days and weeks and months of effort, but you did it.
Moreover, it’s important to understand that every project is like this. They’re all filled with ups and downs. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll have setbacks, and you’ll hate it before you love it again. This is all normal. It’s part of the creative process and a part you should get used to.