Imagine this: you’re on your laptop staring at a blank word document. Time dwindles as your deadline approaches. You know what you want to do but you can’t seem to make it happen.
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor propose a solution. Their podcast Start with this is designed to set ideas in motion. The podcast helps creators to strengthen their foundations and two short assignments to get them started. One “consume” assignment, one “create” assignment.
In the first episode, they talk about execution. The kind of execution that requires more than the sharp blade of a guillotine or the deadly voltage of an electric chair. This execution requires work. Horrifying, I know.
Before we have a chance to run for the hills, Fink and Cranor remind us that putting in work is an important part of the process. To be more specific, regular creation is an important part of the process.
But what is regular creation? They define it as constantly putting your ideas out there. Working bit by bit, practicing and developing your craft. Building “muscle memory of artistic execution.”
This is something people understand at a fundamental level but might not internalize. They see someone’s work and whether it’s good or bad, they judge based on the end product, disregarding what it took to get there.
This starts with allowing yourself to do it. Resist the urge to disregard your work for “not being good enough.” Just because it’s not the result you want doesn’t mean you failed.
A professor from the Professional Writing and Communication program would often tell us that our first drafts “don’t have to be good, they just have to be done,” as was a way to coax us into putting something out there.
Whether it’s the vague beginnings of an idea, or an emotionally charged rant. Rarely will we submit the first draft during the final. It goes through multiple editing sessions, multiple workshops to temper it into something we can be proud of.
But there won’t be anything to edit unless you put your pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard, sometimes even head to wall.
Consumption is also an important part of the creative process. And yes, I’m pretty sure this includes snacks. You can’t work on an empty stomach. In order to produce something, you must study it. You must be a good reader to be a good writer. A good listener to be a good musician.
Learning from what’s been done and applying it to your own work and then refining it further through practice will help sharpen your skills.
It all seems daunting, but you don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t need to write an entire book or script or symphony. You can start with a short paragraph, even just dialogue, maybe a few bars.
Get into the habit of regular creation. Gradually, you’ll start to improve. After a while you can revisit old work and see it from a different perspective. Not everything you produce will be showcased but everything is important. Whether you manage to refine, repurpose, and rearrange it to suit greater work or whether it simply helps you get your proverbial gears going.
At the end of the episode, Fink and Cranor assign two short assignments. Because that’s definitely something we students need more of.
The consume assignment is to visit the YouTube channel “Song-A-Day” by Jonathan Mann. It shows an example of regular creation. The create assignment is taking an idea you’ve been wanting to work on and spend an entire hour on that idea alone. You can do the whole hour in one sitting or break it up into shorter times spanning however long you’d like. What’s important is getting your idea out there and they advise to start with this.