How to Finish What You Started: Uncanny Creativity 33

Kari E. McLean (‏@MsMcLean1) shared How to Collaborate More Effectively on twitter. I replied asking her if she had any thoughts to add:

“@sketchee Yes: Getting on the same page from the start. Liked yr thoughts on listening, collective intelligence, & constructive criticism”

Cameron Sutter wrote in response to Fear of Failure:

“Fear of failure is one of my favorite things to talk about. So many people’s creativity is crippled by that fear. Usually they don’t even start, but lots of time they start and then don’t finish. It takes real moxy to go for your goals and push past that fear to a complete product.”

“Creativity Inc. has some great words to say about the fear of failure. “When it comes to creative endeavors, the concept of zero failures is worse than useless. It is counterproductive.” — Ed Catmull”

“We have to fail in order to succeed or else we aren’t doing anything meaningful. The cost of failure is an investment in our future (paraphrased from Ed Catmull).”

Last fall I showed some of my art work and fashion design work at a local art gallery and promoted it to my coworkers. I majored in fine art and painting. I only took up sewing a year before the show, making my own clothes and wearing them. To me it just seemed like a fun way to go having custom shirts and pants in fabrics I picked out. Didn’t seem like people noticed I made my own things or tailored my clothes. My coworker cut out a quote from Matisse in a magazine that said “It Takes Courage to Be Creative”. I loved that.

Let’s figure out why you’re not finishing and find your courage to be creative. Why aren’t you taking the next step. Each of the following tips asks first why and then how to tackle that roadblock.

1. Is it perfectionism?

Perfection is impossible. Set a deadline or a certain number of hours. Whatever is done at the end of the deadline is it.  With my art I love the site Illustration Friday because it gives you one week to start and finish a project. When we did drawing classes in school, we’d do a series of short five or ten poses to sketch. Try setting small goals that you know you can easily finish.

Another aspect of perfectionism is not realizing all that you did accomplish. You made it this far, you bought your supplies, you started a project. You woke up this morning, you tied your shoe laces. You finish things all the time. Perfectionism is an excuse,

2. Is it not sticking to your deadlines?

An external deadline helps! Tell your friends, family, social networks that you’re starting a project and you’re going to finish it by that date. You might even have set deliverables, like daily or weekly progress reports. However, this isn’t about having other people police you. Be accountable to yourself and be prepared to let other people witness your how you do with that.

3. Is it time management?

Making a specific schedule or plan is often very difficult for a lot of people. I’ve struggled with it, I’m sure we all have. One way to manage this is to set a frequency in your head and stick to it. You might make a mark in your sketchbook daily for ideas.

4. Is this a priority?

Is this a project you actually care about? It’s okay to not finish artwork or a design or move on. Leave it as is Just call it done as is, sign it, and hang it on your fridge. Imagine you received a C in math in high school, yet high school is over. So is this painting. Would you spend your life regretting it?

5. Do you have a clear and attainable goal?

If you’re goal is to create the Sistine Chapel and be the next Michaelangelo, it’s time to get real. Look at your current set of skills, pick one thing that you’re trying to learn on this project and then try at it until you know more than you did at the start. Learning doesn’t mean being the greatest master of all time. It just means getting something out of it. Change what it means to finish. Take some time to think about what finishing really means to you. Be okay and even happy with where you are and trust your future self to make it even further.

6. Are you afraid to handle criticism?

You’re already handling criticism at this point, it’s just that it’s coming from your own thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you though and they are often fear. Rather than fear judgement learn to embrace it. For more the episode I did with in depth tips for handling criticism will be linked in the show notes on As I said then, be positive, listen carefully. Your reaction to criticism is a choice, you also are allowed internally decide that certain views aren’t worth dealing with. Just be polite, thank people for looking at your work and move on. What other people say is often just as much about them as it is about you. Not everyone will like you and even if they love you, they might not like your work. That’s not personal, that’s just who they are.

7. Are you too ambitious?

Knowing what you  know now, was it even possible to finish any sooner?

8. Have you started to second guess your idea?

When you started this was an idea you loved. Your painting was going to be the best, funniest, coolest, and awesomest. Now as you face challenge after challenge you’re wondering if it’s all worth it. The time for ideas is over however, so move forward and just take step by step.

9. Is it the fear of failure?

When dealing with the fear of failure, I recommend these six steps:

Step 1: Test the beliefs that cause you fear.

Step 2: Learn from where you are, ask why or how.

Step 3: Be positive and grateful that you were in the position to go as far as you have.

Step 4: Identify your fears.

Step 5: Figure out another step that you’re willing to take

Step 6: Be kind to yourself.

10. Are you overwhelmed?

Just take a single step. A small stroke. And if that’s as far as you can go, then stop and call it finished. Quitting and finishing are often the exact same thing. It’s okay to just finish and decide to end where you are.

If you like this show, do me a favor and share it!

Uncanny Creativity is an art and design productivity podcast helping you to be more imaginative everyday. Brian E. Young is a magazine art director and artist in Baltimore, Maryland. If you have a design and creativity question I can help answer, send me your letters by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *