Why do people give up on creative projects? Often things get terrible. Suddenly you're sure everything you've done is garbage, the mess in your brain will never resolve into a final product, and everyone will think you're a laughable failure.
But here's the thing -- terror is part of the process. Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert has said this, and filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain agrees. In a video she made laying out her own creative process, she confesses that she gave up on her first feature film when things got scary.
"Now that I've learned how to embrace all the stages, the creative process has become a lot more enjoyable," she adds.
By sharing the stages she goes through -- and which she feels are a pretty universal to creative projects -- she hopes to inspire others to stick with their own creative endeavors through all the inevitable rough patches. Here they are:
1. The hunch
"Any project starts with a hunch, and you have to act on it. It's a total risk because you're just about to jump off a cliff, and you have to go for it if you believe in it."
2. Talk about it
"Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your community. They're the ones who are going to support you on this whole treacherous journey of the creative process, so involve them, engage them. (Unless, of course, you're an introvert. Then don't tell anyone.)"
3. The sponge
"I love this stage," enthuses Shlain. "I'm going to tons of art shows, I'm watching a lot of movies, I'm reading voraciously. I'm asking questions on Facebook, and Twitter ... and I'm just sponging up ideas and trying to formulate my own idea about the subject."
"My team and I are building. We're constructing. We're writing. We're reading. We're collaborating. We're building an armature--the architecture for the project."
"Here's the scary part," warns Shlain. "Confusion. Dread. Heart of Darkness. Forest of fire, doubt, fear, every project has this stage for me. But the good thing, as hard as it is--and it is really hard--it that any project... always gets infinitely better after I've rumbled with all of my fears."
6. Just step away
"Take a breather--literally just step away from the project. And I'll build this into the schedule. Just step away. Let it marinate--don't look at it or think about it."
7. The love sandwich
"To give constructive feedback, always snuggle it in love--because we're only human, and we're vulnerable," advises Shlain, who suggests that when you ask for feedback, you "set expectations for where you are in the project. Then ask for questions in a way that allows for the love sandwich: First, 'What works for you?' Then, 'What doesn't work for you?' Then, 'What works for you?' again. If you just ask people for feedback, they'll go straight for the jugular."
8. The premature breakthroughlation
"You'll find in a project that you'll have many false breakthroughs--and you have to celebrate those breakthroughs, because they're ultimately going to lead to the big breakthrough, which will happen."
9. Revisit your notes
"I always do this throughout the project, but especially during that last home stretch. Those late nights. That extra mile. Usually near a deadline. I revisit all my notes and feedback, and always find a clue--that missing link that brings it all home."
10. Know when you're done
"I love this part!" concludes Shlain. Doesn't everyone?
Want to see Shlain's entertaining visuals to go along with this wisdom? The complete video is below for the interested to check out.