It’s a few weeks into January now, so, if you’re like me, the shiny new penny that is 2016 might have lost a bit of its luster. Maybe you’ve started setting goals and resolutions around your creative work, art, or handmade business.
Maybe you’ve started a new project, and it’s going great. (Yay, good for you!) Or maybe you’re trying something new and it’s completely and utterly draining to you.
How do you know if you are experiencing the usual doubt and lack of motivation that comes with any new project or, if you have made a mistake, and are actually de-railing yourself from the important stuff?
I think the true answer is: it can be hard to tell. I’ve been there. I’ve made several medium-sized “mistakes” in my creative venture in the two years since I’ve been making and writing. I am cheekily using the word ‘mistakes’ because truly these are not–I’ve tried a lot things out. Some have stuck. Some haven’t. Some weren’t exactly the right thing to be focusing on but others have led to me to that next, crucial step in my business.
Today’s post outlines the steps to take if you’re truly unsure whether or not you should continue on with a project that feels energy-depleting. How do you know if you should quit or forge through?
First, you’ll want to…
- Set your big picture goals.
If you’re struggling to figure out if it’s worth it to invest your time into certain projects or tasks, the first step is to zoom out and look at the big picture. Schedule time for a strategic planning session with yourself, a business partner, or an accountability partner. You can do this monthly perhaps. I have a full house with two young children so I like to take a long walk by myself. I leave my phone behind and just think. I loosely set an intention: What do I want to spend this next year working towards? What do I want to accomplish in the next few years? Don’t over think this too much. Just pay attention to those few things that rise to the top.
Next, write it all down. (Here’s a trick: If you can’t fit your list on a post-it note, it’s not a list of big-picture goals, it’s a to-do list.)
Here are mine:
Big picture goals for 2016
- Add digital sewing patterns to my shop to generate passive income
- Zero in on my target audience to strengthen my brand
- Connect with a mastermind or accountability partner
Big picture goals for the next 2-3 years
- Write a children’s book
- Write a DIY crafts book
- Put it to the test.
Now ask yourself: how does this thing or project I’m working on today fit into my vision for my business or my creative body of work?
Here are some tasks on my to-do list right now:
- pitch and write guest posts for the handmade, crafty community
- develop new designs of my handmade bamboo products
- finish creating PDFs of my sewing patterns
- take a Skillshare class on how to write a children’s book
When I hold each of these up to my big picture goals, it is easy to determine if it’s worth it to pursue each task or project (yes, no, yes, and yes in my case.)
It becomes crystal clear once you’ve done the hard work of big picture visioning.
- Get real.
Life is messy and of course isn’t perfect.
Sometimes we need to continue on with projects that don’t align with what we want to be doing five years from now. I know I’ve been guilty of saying yes, sign me up when I should have said heck no.
Coloring outside the lines with pilot projects and getting side-tracked with a just-for-fun new series on the blog aren’t always a bad thing. Sometimes they DO lead to wonderful new paths for your creative work.
But… if you’re feeling overwhelmed and as though you can’t actually get to those things you really want to be doing, it might be time to look at these distractions for what they are: busy work. It’s OK to start letting some of these things go.
Or, if you’ve made commitments that you can’t break, plan for your exit strategy. (And practice saying “thanks for thinking of me but I won’t be able to commit to this right now.”)
- Let it go. (Or, push on through.)
Being uncomfortable with a creative pursuit is not a good enough reason alone to step away from a project.
Here are some common feelings disguised as very good reasons to back away from a project:
“What if no one likes this.” Or, “What if no one notices that I made this thing?”
That’s just fear. And it’s a normal part of every creative process. Elizabeth Gilbert tells a wonderful story of a man in a lobster suit in her book Big Magic. I urge you to read this book if you haven’t yet. (I won’t spoil her retelling of this beautiful tale here, but I will say that I now have a talisman–a lobster– to call up when I am feeling unsure of myself, creatively speaking.)
Fear is a universal part of the creative human experience.
But I’m not talking about quitting out of fear.
I’m talking about quitting in an effort to create space for the work you want to be doing. Greg McKeown says in his tremendous gift of a book, Essentialism:
“Tune into the present. Focus on the things that are truly important–not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now.”
Editing your life, letting go of busywork, and trimming your creative pursuits to work for the one or two things that truly matter–this is the sweet spot. This is the place where the magic will happen in 2016.
How about you?
Are you working on a project that feels heavy? Have you experienced new opportunities from letting things slide and focusing on the important stuff? We’d love to hear, if you’d like to share in the comments below!
Rebecca Pitts is the founder and owner of Hudson + Daughter, an online shop that sells commissioned, handmade family treasures made of eco-friendly bamboo. She writes about running a creative business, making art for and with her daughter, and living in the Hudson Valley on her blog.