Hunting Butterflies - The Birth of a Project

It doesn’t matter how you express your creativity, I’m sure you would agree that all too often it is difficult to come up with ideas. You find yourself sitting in front of a blank page, canvas, landscape, or sheet of music with no idea what to do. When you are away from your art, ideas flow like wildfire and distract you from everything. But when the time comes to accomplish something artistic, the ideas aren’t there and suddenly social media, TV shows, chores, friends, and all manner of distractions force their way into your life.

It’s frustrating, to say the least. When this happens, you have a choice. Will you make changes to your process or will you continue to flounder? If you are sick of floundering, I have some tips for you based on a real-life project I’m working on right now. So keep reading!

A couple of years ago, I read this amazing story about a young photographer that went around taking portraits of people and then saying that they were beautiful while she was taking their photos. Her little project went viral and made for a beautiful story that captured the power of positive affirmation in the human psyche. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I was meandering through Instagram when this post by @elephantjournal caught my eye.

elephant journal project idea

These two completely unconnected pieces of content captured my attention and The Relationship Project (working title...was considering going with The Bond Project, but images of Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, and Pierce Brosnan started dancing in my head…) was born. It is still a work in progress, the first session was actually held today, so if you are interested in updates from it be sure and subscribe!

If you are anything like me, you enjoy putting out multiple types of content and see the value in tailoring your work to target multiple viewers. It is important to think outside the box in order to accomplish this. Let me describe how this is possible. Out of this single concept, I have multiple other ideas and options for content. The project itself is photography-centric. However, I will have multiple opportunities to create blog posts and articles. In addition, I plan to provide video from these sessions, and possible print options down the road. As the pieces begin to roll out, I hope to be able to use the excitement from those involved to help spread the project further than would be possible if I were working on it by myself.

So, to nutshell it: One idea = multiple articles (like this one), one finished article piece featuring the people involved that tells the story of the day, plus photos, video, and social media posts.

By approaching every project with an open mind, you can leverage it into much more than a single piece of content for your art, blog, website, etc. Think outside the box and find other ways to engage with the idea.

Sometimes, coming up with other ways to engage with an idea isn’t the problem. What about those times when you can’t think of anything to create? Before you can think about ways to leverage your primary content into other content, you must have the idea to begin with. Unfortunately, creativity isn’t a kitchen sink where you can simply walk in with your cup, turn on the faucet, and walk away with a cup full of creative ideas. Instead, it’s more like hunting butterflies. You have to pay attention. You have to take advantage of the butterflies (read: ideas) when they are there, and if you don’t have a butterfly net, it’s going to be a disappointing excursion. For simplicity’s sake, we will look at two aspects of our butterfly hunt.

Pay Attention

Simply put, it pays to keep an open mind. When random thoughts, impressions, and sparks flutter through your mind, don’t immediately discount them or shoo them away. Take a second to examine them. With my current project, had I not been focused on capturing as many creative ideas as possible, this one would have slipped through the cracks and never seen the light of day. Pay attention to your thoughts, respect your creativity enough to spare some focus as thoughts occur, and they will start to occur more frequently.

You’ll Need a Net

As these inspirational thoughts enter your mind and you take the time to consider them, you need a way to record them. Don’t trust yourself to remember! I shudder to think of the incredible ideas that we’re missing out on today because someone said to themselves, “Oh! That’s such a great idea! There’s no way I’ll forget it!” Probably millions. I would be willing to bet the fabled flying car crossed someone’s mind and they said they’d remember how to make it work, but no, here we are in 2017 (almost 2018) rolling around on technology that’s been around for far too long to be cutting edge.

Here are a couple of ways to capture your ideas as they flutter by.

  1. Good ol’ fashioned notebook. I’m a huge fan of notebooks and tend to go with hipster stuff like Moleskine, Bull & Stash, Shinola, etc., but any old paper will work! If you go this route, check out Austin Kleon’s blog post about journaling! I’m working to implement his tips into my daily routine and definitely feel like it will help me create a steady stream of content.

  2. Electronic notepads. Whether it’s Evernote, Google Docs, Notepad, whatever...Find a system that works for you and use it! I’ve started using Drafts by Agile Tortoise and absolutely love it. Didn’t think it would make a difference, but for some reason, it just clicks with me better than anything else I’ve tried.

These are just a couple practical tips and a little bit of insight into how I come up with projects and ideas. Typically, they don’t all flow together at once so having a way to capture the individual pieces as they reveal themselves is huge. How do you come up with your projects or ideas? Are you journaling? What method do you prefer?

One More Thing!

Don’t forget to check out my eBook, The Creative Journey, if you are interested in leveling up your creative game today. Practical tips and ideas that you can begin applying to your life immediately.

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