By Brenda Riojas, I Start Wondering Columnist
Some people dread creativity deadlines. I not only welcome them, I need them.
When it comes to the creative process, we need to find ways to move beyond generating ideas to developing them and putting them into action. Sometimes, determining when a project is ready can stall our progress.
I, for one, have a tendency of taking my time with a project or a piece I am writing, wanting to make sure it is flawless — or as flawless as possible — before I consider it ready and let it go, releasing it for public scrutiny. Part of this is tied to a litany of fears – fear of judgement, fear of mistakes, fear of failure. The downside to such an approach means a project might never see light.
Setting creativity deadlines has helped in three key ways: 1. Deadlines help me focus on a specific project; 2. They provide an end point at which time; 3. They force me to let of go of the finished piece. As an added bonus, letting go allows me to move on to another project.
In the process, I have learned to accept that some “espinitas” (mistakes that I call small thorns) may slip by. But the concept of prototyping, recommended by Tom Peters in his book, “The Pursuit of Wow,” adds a valuable dimension to our creative work.
Prototyping changed the way I look at my projects. It made me less fearful to proceed with a poem, story or other project. After all, if I considered it a prototype, it meant I could continue to fine tune and make changes in the future.
In his book, Peters offers some observations. He stresses, of course, the importance of striving for excellence. He also reminds us to honor errors; “to understand that goofs are the only way to step forward, that really big goofs are the only way to leap forward.”
“Being average,” he writes, “has never had much appeal. Better to fail with flair in pursuit of something neat.”
On the topic of prototyping, Peters quotes Michael Schrage, “Effective prototyping may be the most valuable ‘core competence’ an innovative organization can hope to have.”
Peters explains the concept further in a story he wrote for Fast Company. “The fastest, smartest way to get your project defined and refined is to practice the art of quick prototyping. Don’t keep your project hidden in some private skunk works until you can hone it into a perfect deliverable.”
An Example of Working with a Creativity Deadline
A few years ago I had an idea for a Mobile Journalism Partnership to train teens as photographers and reporters. We didn’t have a budget or a curriculum but started small as a pilot project at a few parishes. We developed the class materials and other components week by week. We have since received two grants and have trained more than 100 teens. Prototyping made this possible.
What projects do you have that have been hidden and need reviving or that could benefit from a deadline? As my fears get pushed to the side by prototyping, my list of projects seems to be growing, as do my creativity deadlines. However, it does help to get an extension from time to time.