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 in 2016, for personal accountability that I’m actually working towards my creative goals, I’m publishing my creative bucket list with status updates. 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. I’ll update this post in the future, at least annually. (Last updated December 2017.)
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.
What’s on your creative bucket list?
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?
Your boss makes you do an annual review at work to make sure you’re doing your best and constantly improving — why wouldn’t you want to complete a creative annual review for your own work?
Every December, I set aside several hours (generally spread out over several days) to complete a personal annual review and a creative annual review and set goals for the following year, based on Chris Guillebeau’s method. This year I’m incorporating methods from Robert Pozen’s Extreme Productivity to organize and prioritize my goals. I assess all aspects of my creative life — creative work, process, skills, relationships, business — for what went well and what could be improved.
(Article last updated December 2017)
(See my 2017 creative annual review, assessing my writing and illustration for the year and outlining changes to my work practice in 2018.)
Today I begin a massive creative endeavor; in November, I’m going to write a 50,000+ word novel. The fact that I’ve completed the project twice before does not diminish its challenge, but it does improve my confidence in my ability to finish. Last year I jumped in last minute (actually, a couple days late), and found it even harder, so this year I’ve been conscious about preparing. And preparing not just for the novel itself — plotting and planning characters and inventing 100 years of backstory — but also for the act of writing, and living while writing. My plan to finish this big creative project without my life falling into utter disrepair hinges on preparing for the worst by recognizing the points most likely to fail. (What can I say, I’m a Murphy’s Law kind of gal.)
Time-limited personal challenge projects and resolutions pop up everywhere. Buy nothing day! No internet for a month or even a year! Write a novel in a month! Or the original – give up something for Lent! Are projects like these gimmicky and pointless? Or are they worthwhile?
In two weeks, I’m going to be participating in a gimmicky challenge myself – National Novel Writing Month. I will join 250,000 writers across the world in an attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of November, or about 1667 words a day. This will be my third time participating.
Gimmicky? Yes. The word count goal they’ve established is a bit “out of a hat”. But…it seems to work.
I’ve found that participating in a time-sensitive challenge has a lot of benefits:
- Helps build new habits – in my case, daily writing
- Establishes a deadline and concrete goals
- Gives you the support of other participants, if you’re doing a group challenge
- Feels achievable due to the limited timeframe
- Lets you try out a ‘different life’
- Provides a structure that’s easy to talk about and easy for people to understand
- Sets up a mental framework that the project is a fun adventure
- Helps you achieve a hard goal or complete a large amount of work
Of course, you get out of a challenge project only what you put into it. It only works if you take your goal and your timeline seriously and stick to it.
What challenge projects have you tried, and how did they work for you? What challenge project are you interested in?