The next time you got a big project to start, here is my number one tip—don’t start yet.
Just let it sit for a while. The most important part of the creative process may actually be the part the comes before you start. Before the actual plan for what you are going to do has solidified, because this is when you have a chance to be flexible, to try out different strategies and tactics in your mind before committing pen to paper, paint to canvas, or chisel to stone. Let the project live, breath and come to life in your head before beginning.
I call this phase Hunting & Gathering. You have your rough idea of the project you want to work on, perhaps it is a song, perhaps a short story idea, perhaps a business model. Whatever it is the initial idea comes to us blurry, distant, like quarry seen across a foggy meadow. If we rush up upon it too fast, we will scare the idea off before the time is ripe. We must get as close to the idea as possible before springing upon it. Also taking the time to let the project you are working on take root in your subconscious will often let you stumble upon insights almost effortlessly.
What to do during the Hunter & gathering Phase.
1.Take lots of notes. Copious amounts of notes. If it is a really big project try to fill up an entire notebook before you begin. Think about the project a ton, but don’t begin it—you see the difference? This delay teases the muse, it provokes her into giving you more and more inspiration. Because the muse is thinking “this is a GREAT idea, why don’t they start yet? I better throw more fuel on the fire!” Trust me it works like a charm.
2. Take lots of long walks. Preferably by yourself. Walks are the best thing ever invented for creativity.
3. Don’t tell others about the project you are working on during the Hunting & Gathering phase. I see way too many people make this mistake. Someone gets a good idea and they immediately rush out and start blabbling to all their friends about how cool this new idea is and blah blah blah. The problem with this is that it lets steam out of the kettle. So the kettle never boil over. I have listened to many friends talk and talk about the story they are going to write, the film they are going to direct etc. . . .which of course they never get done because they deflated all of the creative juice on talking about it. There are two kinds of creative types: talkers and walkers. Be a walker.
4. Finally, don’t wait too long. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are hunting and gathering when you are just procrastinating. Even the biggest idea probably only needs a week or two to marinate. After that it will lose freshness. When you reach the maximum boiling point of the onrush of ideas then it is time to pounce, and begin the actual work.
May your Hunting and Gather be fruitful!