Today I want to talk about a creative thought that hits close to home. Having too many projects going at once. This is something I have a particularly rough time with. I usually have way too many creative projects going at one. At any given time I have ideas for audio podcast scripts, video podcast scripts, Throwing Toasters songs, completely new show ideas I want to develop and more.
I got the book Jim Henson’s Doodle Dreams and was looking through it and came across this quote by Jim Henson:
“Try to keep enough balls in the air so that when some fall to the ground, you’ve got others up there.”
I immediately loved that quote because I felt it really capsulated my feelings about how I work on creative projects. I read that as:
Be working on a bunch of projects so that if some of them don’t work out, you’ll still have others to work on.
The inherent danger in this, though, is that you have so many creative projects you are working on that none of them get done. This is certainly something I run into, however I like to think I prioritize creative projects pretty well. I will focus on one particular project and work on that one for awhile, but in the meantime I’ll be making small amounts of progress on other ideas. I find that working on multiple projects also keeps me from suffering burnout working too much on one project. Moving from project to project keeps the creativity flowing in my mind. Of course any creative project that someone is paying me to create takes precedence over personal ones that do not pay because, you know, money.
When working on multiple projects, also be careful about ‘bleed through’ unless it is intended. Bleed through is when elements from one project creep into another. I find this is more of an issue for me when I’m writing. I’ll look back through the stuff I’ve written and see that I’ve used the same names or same strings of dialogue. This is fine if I was writing multiple stories involving the same characters but often I am not. Bleed through won’t kill a project, it’s just something to keep an eye out for. In my case, I don’t want people saying, “He’s just writing the same story over and over again.” (As a side note to this, I do often write the same of similar jokes across multiple projects if they fit. I figure if one property hasn’t ‘made it’ and there’s a really good joke in it, there’s no reason not to use to make another property even better. That’s not bleed through as I’m doing it on purpose.)
When working on my own creative projects I often wear many hats: writer, producer, performer, editor, publisher. I can do all those jobs and often do. Though I’m not a rabid fan of Seth McFarlane, I do admire his work etheric on Family Guy. He created the show, writes it, performed in it and more. Back when there was a possibility of a Dr. Floyd television show, I was eager to do all those things should the show go forward. In my own projects now, I’m excited to do all those things.
Sometimes, I find, we MUST be all those things in our own creative work. At least until we are as famous as Seth McFarlane and we can have other people cover some of other aspect.
Are you an artist handling multiple creative projects at once? If so, how do you keep them all straight and get them all done? Let us know in the comments below. Have a great week!
Here’s a cold, hard fact about creating: No one is going to care about your art project as much as you do. Let me add to that, no one is going to care about your project as much as you do unless you are paying them. When money is involved, you will find people who will help you out. Now this is a fact, yes, but it should never be a roadblock to your creative pursuits. It’s just going to make things a little bit harder to keep going.
No one is going to care as much as you do and that is fine. That’s the way it works. If you are creative and have creative friends, I’m sure you think their ideas are amazing, but they aren’t as important to you as your own ideas.
While Dr. Floyd was a creative idea that was created between two people, myself and Doug, in the end there was really only one of us who wanted it to keep going. The other person felt we had put several great years into the project but, besides coming close to a TV deal, it hadn’t really bore any prospect of becoming something that would make money and that created a bit of a rift between us and we went our separate ways. It just wasn’t as important to the other person.
For some creative artists (painters, writers, etc.), practicing their art is a solo activity, so not having other people around to lend a hand is fine. But for some other creators (podcast producers, filmmakers, etc.) you need other people around to help make your dream come to life. But even though the fact that no one else cares as much as you do exists, you can still make progress on your creative projects, even if you need friends to help you carry them out.
One way to get people to help you is to barter. You’ll help them create on their art and they will help you create yours.
I’ve found this the most effective way to get help on a project. I’ll offer to make a website for someone or help them film a video. In exchange, they’ll help me on my project. Just make sure that when you are helping with their project to put as much time and care into it as you’ll want them to put into yours. I find it’s always fun to help people make their creative ideas come true and, hopefully, people find it fun working on mine.
Warning though, some people are takers. That’s just the way it is. You’ll help them but you’ll get excuse after excuse when the time comes for them to help you. At least you’ll be comforted to know that you aren’t like them and you are willing to help out a friend. Sad, but that’s the way it is.
I don’t mean to make it sound all doom and gloom though. One very good way to get people to help you on your creative project is just to ask. A lot of times they’ll say yes. Or offer lunch. That’s a good one too. My office in Burbank is right across the street from a very popular cuban place called Porto’s. I’ve had many a recording session that either begins or ends over at Portos and I always attempt to pay, especially if they’ve just recorded some dialogue or done some puppets for me.
When you need help on a creative project, how do you go about getting it? Let me know in the comments below.
One Sunday night, I was preparing the Creative Mondays post to go out the following morning and as I did I was thinking about the week ahead. I would be traveling back east to work a short puppet job and, as such, I would be getting home late at night next Sunday. I said to myself, “Self, you should probably set up the post to go out next week as well, then you won’t have to do it during the week when your Travel Panic* sets in.”
My body immediately rejected this offer. I was exhausted. Prepping the Creative Monday’s post was the last thing to do on a long to-do list for the day. I had driven an hour out to Oxnard, recorded several wrestling promos, driven an hour back to my office where I prepped some things for the job I was going on. Then I went on a long run, grabbed some dinner, came home and wrote my daily 600 words and wrote out checks for the bills and then, because I hadn’t slept well the night before, I was done.
My brain said, “What’s it going to take? 5 minutes? You can do it.”
My body refused.
But, it really got me thinking about putting things off, especially creative pursuits. We cannot put things off. We have to strike while the iron’s hot. Make hay while the sun shines! And all other manner of sayings like that. When it comes to creative work…DO IT NOW.
Real life is a major pain in the butt and loves to throw things in our way. If we keep putting off being creative, we may wind up never being creative.
It’s hard and sometimes you have to push your self to do it. Give yourself a kick in the ass because that story isn’t going to write itself if you keep putting it off. That painting will never be painted, that dance never learned. You’ve got to win the fight. These days we are hardwired to sit and watch TV of plunk around on our phones or computers. There are so many distractions and so many reasons why we shouldn’t create right now. We have to kill those reasons and create. If we don’t, our art won’t live.
As much as I shouldn’t say it, because I’m trying to build a great creative blog here, if you had time to read this entry, you had time to at least START some piece of creative work or continue work on something already created.
So, I want you to stop reading. Well, after this next paragraph. Stop reading. Think about what, creatively, you could be doing right now. Something easy. Something simple, yet something that will get you just that much further down the patch towards your creative goals. Once you have it in your head, I want you to get up and do it.
Don’t wait. Do it now.
How do you motivate yourself to ‘do it now’? What tricks of the trade make you get your butt up and creating? Share it with us in the comments below! Have a great week!
*Travel Panic is something that sets in before I’m about to go on trip that I, myself, have booked the travel for. Several days before I’m supposed to leave, my body puts itself in a constant state of “everything is going to go wrong.” I believe it’s because, even though I double and triple check everything, I know that something is going to go wrong with the travel. Nothing major ever has, but still the Travel Panic rears its ugly head. Funnily enough, If someone else has booked the travel, say on a Puppet Up! Uncensored tour, I never have Travel Panic. Just a peak into the messed up bundle of nerves that is my brain.
“The right people will get this.”
This one one of my all time favorite quotes. It is a quote by Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Cinematic Titanic. If you have followed my blog or Twitter feed or whatever, you have no doubt read it before. Joel was said it in response if someone asked him if he worried that some people may not get all the jokes on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. His response was, “We never ask, ‘Who’s gonna get this?’ We always say, ‘The right people will get this’.”
To me this statement boils down to not trying to create art for a specific audience. Create art that is wholly and truly for you and it will find an audience. This is what I’ve tried to do in the art I create.
When I came up with the idea of The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd based on characters that Doug and I had created, I never had an audience in mind outside of the idea pleased me. I don’t even think at the beginning Doug was all to sure why I wanted to create a silly little radio show based on these characters. But once we got going he got on board full force and the show soon became something that in it’s base elements, just made the two of us laugh. This is how we made the show and the show found an audience.
I will say that we did make a small change in how we wrote the show at the very beginning with the audince in mind. In the beginning we were fine with double entendre. In the Wright Brothers episode the joke was that the Wright Brothers wanted to invent the plane because they were secretly peanut farmers and if they invented the plane, they would required peanuts be served on every flight. One of the Brothers had the line, “Someday the world will know the wonders of our nuts.” (A tip of the hat to the line in the Ren & Stimpy Show’s Rubber Nipple Salesmen episode.) We found this funny, but once we began podcasting and we received emails from families saying how much their kids loved the show we thought twice about doing jokes like that. Other than that though, we did a show that made us laugh.
When ‘Hollywood’ stared calling us talking about the possibility of turning it into a TV show, one of the first questions we would be asked is, “What’s the demographic?” This was so hard to answer because we never, ever, thought about it. We would say it’s a kids’ show or a family show, but we’d never have a specific demographic in mind and that’s what Hollywood wants. A specific demographic. We would say, “Our demographic is everybody.” Because we’d get phone calls from people ages 3 to 80. But Hollywood wanted a specific age range. Did THe Muppet Show have a demographic when it was pitched? If so, I’d say that’s the demographic. Everybody.
With Dr. Floyd, the right people ‘got us.’ They got our sense of humor, our references, our jokes and for a little radio show that was recorded, mostly, in the living room of my tiny, one bedroom apartment, we did pretty good.
So create art that excites you and put it out there. The right audience will find you.