One of the things I’ve learned about myself over the years is I can create all kinds of stuff that never sees the light of day e.g. it sits in my house, on my computer, in storage, or only as a half-completed creative project. I think it’s one of the vices of being a creative. I think it's one of the vices of being a creative. We have so many ideas and projects we're gonna publish, paint, film, or present to the world that we forget the most important thing: TO ACTUALLY DO IT! It's always a thing of this year, next month, or in 2025. Those who are creative like myself can fully relate to the multiple projects laying around that were supposed to be finished, supposed to be published, supposed to be made, supposed to be ( fill in the blank)...
Then I read a book that changed how I approach my creative projects.
A few years ago, I purchased a book called The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. The idea of being an entrepreneur with my career and doing it all in only four hours a week fascinated me. While I realized the idea of four hours per week did not fit my creative career logistically, the book presented a way in which I could complete things; things I was gonna do. Up until I read Ferris' book, I was the "I'm gonna" type of artist. I had some publishing success as a writer, but it didn't really click for me until I read Ferris' book. That's when my mindset on creating changed.
I was still a creative. Still living in an organized mess. Still loving my unconventional mind. Still working on projects. Except, I was now completing them. I was actively engaging myself in my creative career and not being a "I'm gonna" bystander.
In The Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris strongly encourages goal setting and completion. He emphasizes much more in this book of entrepreneurship; however, the one that really stuck with me was setting goals. Not just any goals. Effective goals. Goals that will get my projects from idea to creation to finished in the public eye. Ferris breaks the goals into increments: 12 month and 6 month. For me, the six month goal works best. I set up three goals every six months that I want to complete and a deadline for the completion. These goals are flexible depending on the project. Sometimes projects require more time than six months and I have to be flexible; however, flexible doesn't mean leave them to collect dust. Flexible means they get pushed back another month or two due to the amount of work involved.
So, what does this mean for me as a writer? Better yet, what does it look like?
Since reading and rereading Ferris' book a number of times, and applying the goal concept to my life, I have actively published every year in some way, shape, or form since 2011. Eight years of active work that has been seen by the public eye. Am I famous? No. I think if any artist is only an artist for the fame aspect, then they're seriously missing the key point of what art is here to do. I'm more interested in saying "Yes, I published my poetry collection in 2015."..."Yes, I was published in the poetry book Mirrored Voices in 2016." ..."Yes, I was published in The Remembered Arts Journal in 2017." I am now a "I did" artist rather than an "I'm gonna" artist.
Getting to that point wasn't easy for me. It took, and still takes, a lot of commitment on my part. I have to set dedicated time aside to work on projects and see them through to the end. All of my projects also fall under my overall career goal as a writer. My committed goal to myself is to be published every year, and under that career umbrella lies all my six month goals which will help me achieve that outcome.
For example, I am currently working on my next poetry project slated for publication in 2019. I have to create at least 20-25 poems for that project which means setting time aside to work on them. I am also working on a film project with a colleague, actively submitting my writing to lit journals, writing songs, and submitting screenplays to film festivals/contests. I have multiple projects going like any creative does, I'm just adding the extra step of actually putting my work out there. I had to make a choice. Either I was going to be able to say, "I'm a writer." or I wasn't. The choice rested, and always does rest, in my own hands.
Here is my challenge to you:
Where do you sit in your artistry? Are you an "I'm gonna" artist, or an "I did" artist? It's an important decision to make because only one of them allows you to say, "I am an..." or "I did..."