Successful Creativity is Planned Like a DIY Project

Photo is a close up of a hand, holding a hammer, about to strike a nail protruding from wooden boards of a deck with a bright blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds.

It’s a funny quirk of being human that we assume the ease or difficulty of an activity based on the basic skill. For example, if you can accurately hit a nail with a hammer, you assume you can build almost anything. If you can delicately apply paint with a paintbrush, you figure art is easy. You can use a pen or pencil or read or tell a story, so writing a novel is no biggie, right? And your assumptions don’t stop there. If you’ve been at this creative thing for a while, you figure you got it down. You know how to do this. But, every creative project, no matter your skill level, no matter the creative path you follow, every new project requires a process very much like a DIY project. 

Before You Begin

DIYers are advised to start with a relatively simple, not too time-consuming task. Attempting a gigantic task first may become a lesson in overwhelm and plummeting self-confidence. So choose a relatively small, simple task. Decide you’ll take a basic how-to course, build a small bookcase, knit a baby blanket, write a short story, or draw a teddy bear. Now you need a plan. Even if you are an experienced creative and are choosing to do a larger project, you still need to make a plan. Plans help keep you on budget (time and money-wise) and on course, no matter how small or large the project is.

Why Start Small

Another quirk we humans have is that we either over- or underestimate what we can do despite having a rather fragile ego. Yes, fragile. 

When a project is too big, and the end is always out of sight, you can lose your direction. With a loss of direction, you may also lose your motivation. Motivation is also more difficult to maintain in a longer, bigger project. 

Finally, many of us are far more confident on the outside than we are on the inside. Smaller projects are easier to manage because both their scope and the time needed to complete them are bite-sized. Also, starting small gives you the opportunity to learn or perfect skills and to build confidence in your skills. As you grow in confidence, your ability to weather the struggle to complete larger, longer projects grows too.

Make a Plan

Yes, even if you are a by-the-seat-of-you-pants creative, you need a plan. What’s the scope of your project? Do your research and figure out how long it will take to complete. This may take some educated guesswork, but you need this understanding in order to move forward without wasting time, money, and energy.

What’s your budget? Look at the expenses you’ll incur as well as your time. How much time will you be able to commit to this project each week? Each day.

Do you have the materials and skills you need? Make a list of the materials you need. Research is your friend, particularly if you are new to this area of creativity. Are there tools, materials, or skills you need to gain before you begin? Perhaps you need to refresh older skills.

Make a health and safety assessment. For many projects, it’s not just your health and safety you must consider. Consider that your commitment to your project will also affect partners, children, pets, and friends and perhaps day jobs. Make certain your plan includes physical and mental health safety for everyone.

Write your plan on paper or electronic device. Some projects take weeks, months, even years to complete. You will not accurately remember the plan over that time period. So no matter how silly or useless you think a written plan is, write it down anyway.

Validate Your Plan

This is common advice to DIYers and project managers. What they mean is to talk to everyone who has a stake in the project. The idea is to get everyone to understand what the project is and what it will take to complete the project. 

It takes courage to work on a creative project. Courage comes from within, but it’s much easier if you and your creative courage have some support.

So, tell your partner and children know what you want to do and how long it will take. Listen to their concerns. Maybe your kids are afraid you won’t watch their ballgames or you’ll need them to take the bus and that’s scary for them. Your partner may be concerned about date night or having to pick up extra household chores while you’re working on the project. Listen, make adjustments to your plan as needed. Helping them understand your commitment to them and your project will help them support you in this endeavor.

Family Won’t or Can’t Validate?

If your family doesn’t support your desire to express this creativity project, consider their feelings. Also, do some soul-searching. If this project still feels important to you, acknowledge and respect their feelings, but don’t give up. Respect your need to be creative. Find your community, in-person or online, and ask for validation and support there. 

Why Plan

There is no such thing as a perfect plan, so why go to so much work before the work begins? True, there are always things that don’t go according to plan, but without a plan everything goes awry. Without a plan, you’ll spend more money, spend more energy, and have to back up and re-do things that didn’t go right. Scope-creep is a term used in project management that refers to how a project’s definition and size changes as time passes. In a team effort, this shift is often due to too many chefs in the kitchen or poor communication. When it’s only you working on the project, this scope-creep can and will happen without a plan. It’s kind of like when you’re hungry “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” You add this and that, thinking that each is such a small piece, it’s no big deal, but your project has turned into a frankenproject. 

So make a plan. Understand it may need to be adjusted as the project goes along, but don’t make adjustments without reassessing your plan. 

Assemble Your Resources

This assembly may take very little time or a lot of time, depending upon what tools you have to start with and what you need to get. 

Be cautious about who and where you pick up your resources. Knowing exactly what you need will save you time and money. (Another reason you need a written plan.) 

Get the highest quality resources you can. Maybe that means buying something for top dollar. But that can also mean vet your sources. 

Make certain the person(s) you choose as advisors and mentors know what they are talking about. How do you do that? Recommendations from knowledgeable sources. Understand enough of the terminology that you can spot a fraud spouting words to sound good versus someone who speaks from a deep level of understanding. Customer ratings can be helpful as long as you know what you need and in that light, you weigh the positive and the negative reviews to determine if this service or item will meet your needs.

Set Realistic Expectations

If you’ve done this kind of project before, you can more accurately estimate how long it will take you to complete. 

But if you’ve never done this before, you have to guesstimate. Your guesstimate will be wrong because something won’t go according to plan. So give yourself some flexibility. Often in DIY terms, this means pad your plan, your budget, and your timeframe by 10 to 20%. If that sounds like a lot, think again. Life happens to every creative project. Unexpected events, unplanned events, even planned events that take more energy or time or money than you’d hoped. It’s much easier on the budget, your energy, and your ego if you complete your project earlier than if you go way over. 

 DIY Your Creativity Project

Illustration shows 7 cartoonish DIYers holding various tools in front of two wooden boxes shaped with peaked roofs.

Start with a DIY attitude and make your creativity plan like a DIYer. Whether you use a team or you wear all the hats, your skill set will grow to align with your creative dreams and desires. The more your dreams, desires, and skills match, the more you will find fulfillment happening in your creativity.

Did you plan your current creative project or jump in feet-first? Tell us what your project is and how it’s going.

Image Credits

Top image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Second image by Alexa from Pixabay

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