Most creatives go through a phase of starting really exciting projects and then dropping them before completion. In college, that was my MO. I started writing my first play – never finished it. I took classes towards a minor in French – never made it past sophomore year. I started reading Ulysses in Ireland – made it to page 50. I liked the rush of getting a great idea or starting a fun challenge but never really liked the stuff in the middle.
Part of the reason I was drawn to being a creative professional was that there was always a new project around the corner. The excitement of a new endeavor never got old, but not having a complete project of my own to show for it definitely did. After I graduated, I made a decision to put the “D" in GSD and find a way to complete my projects. Here's how:
1. Find Your “Why?"
In stories, all good characters have a "why?"--a purpose or objective that drives their actions. When you're deciding to pursue a project, identifying your reasons for investing hours of limited resources (time, money, etc.) into developing your idea can help you stay committed. Make the connection between your art project and your broader life goals and you will find it much easier to get to the finish line. I personally connect each new film project to my career goals and my purpose as a creative person. Once that's done, the commitment is easy.
2. Share Your Intentions!
Once you make the commitment to initiate a project, tell a friend – or three. It can be tempting to hold a new project close while you develop it to protect yourself from unsolicited advice or interference in the creative process. However, letting people in on your new projects provides much-needed accountability.
The universe can't conspire to make your dreams come true if you don't let the universe know what you're up to.
Put your ideas out into the world and watch as your network works to get you the resources you need to succeed. When I needed a larger crew for the short film I shot in September, I told a good friend of mine and before I could blink he had mentioned it to someone interested in learning more about film. That person joined the crew and helped make my film a reality.
3. Make Your Own Momentum
Nothing eliminates inertia like a looming deadline. That being said, not all deadlines are created equal. Telling yourself you'll finish your project by the end of next week doesn't hold the same weight as a public exhibition of your work. Make an event out of your deadline and you'll have to keep it! Last summer, I made the choice to finish the first draft of a feature script. To move things along for myself, I scheduled a reading with invited guests at my home. Knowing I would have respected friends over to hear my work really lit a fire under my butt and helped me finish the draft.
4. Get Your Multi-hyphenate On
Writers want to write. Directors want to direct. Producers want to produce. However, the reality is that today's creative class has to wear multiple hats. The key to seeing your project through is wearing the hat of whatever roles you have yet to fill. There's no need to wait until you have a complete team to make a plan and get it into motion. Start by figuring out exactly what you want to do and give yourself a hard deadline. From there, plot out your mile-markers – what are the big hurdles you have to clear before you can reach the finish line? Finally, treat yo' self! Give yourself whatever little gift will keep you going until the end: a massage, a manicure, a new pair of shoes. You deserve it! I personally treat myself to a day of binge-watching my favorite shows.
5. Get Some #SquadGoals
Your friends are your biggest fans. They're the ones that want to see your movie get made or your novel finished. They are the ones who call you when they need a hand planning their art exhibition, so why not call in a favor? Too many artists let limited resources get in the way of finishing a project. Acclaimed filmmaker Mark Duplass said in his keynote address at SXSW, "There's no excuse not to make films on the weekends with friends." He's right. You have a script, your bestie has a camera – make a movie! Your squad can be more than emotional support and Sunday brunch buddies.
Your squad is the team that will help you get your project completed. I couldn't complete a single project without my friends and I always pay it forward.
To be fair, not every project deserves completion. Sometimes we experiment and halfway through discover things just aren't coming together. In those cases, we cut our losses and move on. It's when you find yourself in a pattern of jumping ship that signals you may be shortchanging your creative potential. There's a deep satisfaction in completing something you've been working long and hard on. The lessons learned as you finish a long project are invaluable to your development. So keep pushing!
Featured image by Getty Images
Ro Reddick is a distribution strategist and indie film producer. She is also the co-creator of the Little Bright Notebook , which is available for pre- order on Kickstarter.