I’ve been thinking…

2,184 hours. The length of one Creative Breaks project. A marathon, by any measure. Exhilarating, yes, but you’re really glad when it’s over.

I know how you felt, Sir Steve.

Like those mad marathoners, though, who keep coming back for more; just a few weeks on I find myself thinking about what we did: What went well? Are there things we can improve? How can we run faster do better next time?

In reality, this is a process I try to go through for every project I do. However, it can be challenging. It’s all too easy to see projects as being less than perfect, or not quite meeting the high expectations you set yourself at the outset. Does that mean that you’ve failed? Does that mean that you shouldn’t release your project? Does that mean that you shouldn’t ever work again?

Logically, of course, it doesn’t mean any of those things at all; but it is all too easy to mentally fall into that trap.

The Constant Prototype

There’s an approach called “The Constant Prototype” which I try to apply to what I do, and which exemplifies how I try to avoid falling down that particular rabbit hole. I could write reams and reams about this approach, but thankfully I don’t have to:

video credit: Elliot Gough (@ElliotExplicit)

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I think it’s okay to settle for something that’s second best. Nor do I believe that we should stop always striving to do the best possible work that we can, given the constraints of time, resource and so on that restrict us.

Rather, since failure is inevitable – it is going to happen to us all – life is about finding the best way to fail. And that means failing fast; running into your failures head on, learning from them and treating them as the prototypes they are. Using them to make each project, and those which follow, incrementally better than they would otherwise have been.

Learning from Others

A red book cover, with the silhouette of a cartoon spaceman in the background sites on top of a wooden desk.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed. Catmull. If you work in any kind of creative industry, read this book.

This approach isn’t new. And it’s not something that I’ve developed myself. There is as much to be learned from other’s experience as from your own, and when it comes to creativity, and hard-won success, then there is no greater experience to learn from that of Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation. Reading his book – Creativity, Inc. – is how I developed my own iterative approach to creative project work, and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Candid Feedback

It was one of the points from this very book which came to the forefront when I was evaluating Creative Breaks: the need to be candid. Candid: meaning that we shouldn’t hide from telling the truth about the truth about a project as we see it. Of course, this works both ways and implies that everyone involved also has to be ready to hear and respond to these truths; and it’s important to present them in a constructive and thoughtful manner. However, there is no substitute for being candid. Anything less simply won’t get to the root of the issues and undermines the very purpose of evaluation.

Looking back on the thirteen weeks of Creative Breaks, there are undoubtedly many things I would have changed: about the project, the way we carried it out, my role in it and other things too. And yes, all of those come across in my write up; they have to, as points to learn from for the future.

But I am also fiercely proud. Proud of the film that one of my mentees produced; proud of the website that my team created, essentially from scratch; proud of how each of them grew throughout the three months that I worked with them and proud of the project as a whole.

So now, four weeks on, would I do it again? Well just like Sir Steve, I might not be quite so sure…

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