As the saying goes, there are no great ideas, only great finished articles. Sidestepping the pretentiousness of saying something like this with a straight face, the core sentiment is important. An idea in and of itself is formless with the nuances that make it great stuck inside someones head. It’s only when that idea is brought into existence that its quality can be measured.
I have plenty of ‘good’ ideas for side projects yet so rarely do I manage to see them through to the bitter end. I have a few enthusiastic conversations, do some half baked doodles and then my magpie mind is seduced by a shiny new idea.
So, with the wind of good intentions in Studio Lovelock’s sails, our focus this year is on completing things. Even when something more exciting comes along.
Why is it important to finish stuff?
Aside from the desire to create my masterpiece and bask in all it’s associated glory, the key incentive to take on projects that no-one’s paying me to do is to improve as a designer.
Quite simply, the further we progress with a project the more we learn. Unforeseen obstacles are overcome and fresh flashes of inspiration strike. Slowly but surely that abstract idea becomes tangible, evolving in ways that we could not have conceived of without doing the work.
Eventually we succeed in bringing that idea into existence and it’s quality can be measured. It might be incredible, it might need a bit of tweaking or we might want to start again. Whatever the outcome, we will have improved in ways that would not have been possible had we given up half way through.
So, what practical approaches can we take to increase our chances of getting to the end. Based on a bit of reading, watching and experience here’s 3 tips.
01/ Decide on something and stick with it.
Paradoxically what often stops us from starting is not a lack of ideas but an abundance. Like choosing a film or food from a menu, too much choice can be paralysing.
We all want to create something incredible, and provided with no constraints it seems there’s no excuse not to. However as soon as we make a finite decision it can feel as though we’ve eliminated an infinite amount of better ideas. So instead we flit from one thing to the next without ever really making any progress.
Obvious as it seems, choosing a single idea and sticking with it is the difference between finishing something and half starting 10 things. So rather than focus on the infinite potential, set yourself some limitations by asking yourself the following:
* What do you want to get out of it?
* Is there a particular skill you’re looking to develop?
* Are you wanting to promote yourself?
* What specifically do you want to say?
* How much time do you realistically have?
* Is it something you can do by yourself?
* Can you afford/persuade someone else to help you out.
* How will you measure it’s success?
The answers to these questions should help you figure out which of your ideas is the best one to progress with. And if you still can’t decide then just flick a coin.
02/ Break it down
Congratulations, you’ve settled on your idea. You’re imagining the feeling of finishing it and the overwhelming love it receives from your industry peers. The awards, the job offers, the super models…
But as you drift back to reality it’s starting to feel like a big task. Despite all our complaints of clients refusing to follow the design process, given free reign we do exactly the same.
The key to progress is small tangible goals that we can grasp and complete. That means that no matter how small or large the project, it needs planning out and addressing in a sensible order, breaking each phase down in to clear steps. Whether you have a spare hour or a straight two months you know what you should be getting on with. This will also help provide a sense of progress which is really key in helping to maintain interest and motivation.
03/ Completion is more important than perfection
We all want to create a master piece but be careful about getting hung up on perfection as it can often get in the way of making progress.
One thing i’m guilty of is getting stuck polishing a tiny detail long before it’s necessary. Like painting bricks before you’ve built the wall, in the long run this a waste of time.
You may get to a point where you realise that the project you’re working on is not going to be quite as good as you wanted it to be. This can be a pretty disheartening moment but if it’s any comfort I’m fairly certain this happens to even the most talented.
Firstly, just because it’s not perfect doesn’t mean it’s rubbish. Secondly, remember that part of doing these projects is to improve. To be blunt, that dissatisfaction is most likely because you’re not quite as good as you want to be. You look at what you’ve done and feel like you could do better. You’re right, you probably could, but you’re only going to get better by putting the work in. So suck it up, get it finished, and make the next thing even better!
So in conclusion, plan your project, stick to your plan and finish it – despite the little voices of doubt that may break your confidence. The journey will teach you many things, you will learn new skills and your skin will toughen. We are after all our own worst critics.
I found this post really hard to finish and ironically came quite close to giving up. I’m not really a writer though it is something I’m trying to get better at. This post is far from perfect and fittingly is not quite as good as I was hoping it would be. That said I have managed to complete it, albeit with a little help and have learnt quite a bit in the process. Consequently the next one will be better!
We did manage to complete a couple of side projects last year. The one that I like the most is a chrome extension called the Loveclock which you can find here
And we are close to finishing a project that has taken 3 years to complete. Theres perseverance for you.
We’d love to see your side projects – please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will blog about the best ones!