A lot of people have lists of things they’d like to do before they die; I have a list of things I’d like to make.
As part of my annual review process this year, for personal accountability that I’m actually working towards my creative goals, I’m publishing my creative bucket list with status updates. I’ll plan to come back and update this post in the future, at least annually.
My creative bucket list includes writing and illustration, my current creative foci. In my day job as a graphic designer, I need to ship my work regularly. Many of my creative goals involve shipping projects, not just completing them. To me, sharing the work is an essential aspect of completing it. In 2016, I selected three guiding philosophies for myself: sharing was one of them. I’m sharing this list in that spirit. I understand that the final step of getting a novel published or selling a short story is out of my control — but I can write the best novel or short story I’m capable of to improve my odds.
What’s on your creative bucket list?
Each year since 2010, I’ve conducted a personal review looking at aspects of my life from my creative career to my lifestyle. Several months ago, I decided that I need to up my writing game, so I also dug deep into my writing’s strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s worthwhile for writers to set aside a few hours to complete an honest, kind self-assessment of your writing to help you improve your writing.
The quantified self movement of collecting personalized body data has exploded since its ‘genesis’ in 2007, with a FitBit on every wrist and services like 23 and me offering personalized genetic analysis. I’m a data fanatic who studied to become a scientist, and I’ve bought into personal analytics, with a FitBit of my own, food tracking on MyFitnessPal, a log of my reading on Goodreads, and time tracking on RescueTime. But why should data be limited to our bodies’ data? Why not apply self-tracking to our creative pursuits, too?
I took a critical look at my fiction writing a few months ago, but found that assessing my graphic design practice actually felt more painful. While I subscribe to the tenet ‘you are not your work,’ I make a living from my graphic design and exposing my flaws felt more personal. But as a professional, I need to constantly improve my craft so that I continue to make products I’m proud of and that fulfill the needs of my workplace and clients.
Working on my novel in Scrivener.
I recently turned 30, so I’m taking the opportunity to snapshot my creative skills and challenges. Knowing our weaknesses and instinctive tendencies is just as important as knowing our strengths, and allows us to be better creators, no matter what our medium. Honest self-evaluation – acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses – is the first step to improvement because it teaches me what I need to practice. I can also ask specifically for critiques of those elements where I need the most work. I’ve identified common challenges in my first drafts / mockups, as well as my successes and skills, areas where I excel.
I consider myself a skilled graphic designer within my field of expertise, environmental education – and a passable, almost-good-enough fiction writer. In both writing and graphic design, I tend to excess. With my focus on space opera, I write the grandiose. In graphic design, I prefer daring, out-there designs. I don’t believe excess is inherently flawed, but it’s not always appropriate to clear communication or suitable for branding, so it’s valuable to recognize in my work.