Someone up the hierarchy informs you of a deadline. You must produce by a certain time, or else.
What’s the first thing you do?
If you’re Jessica, the first thing you do is look for something to eat. Deadlines always make her hungry.
Then you realise you have no idea what you’re going to produce. What do you do when you have no idea? You turn to your Creativity.
I can tell you, as a Creativity, there’s nothing quite so disconcerting has being stared at and willed into producing an idea. I don’t know about your Creativity, but I get self-conscious – and quickly mesmerised by the stare. Everything comes to a halt as we wait for someone to blink. Stupor sets in.
What should you be doing?
Finding an Idea
How can you break the stupor and help your Creativity find an idea? Try some of these tips.
‘I’ve just been given a deadline,’ you say. ‘I’m on the clock. Now’s not the time to play.’
Actually, now’s exactly the time to play. In order for your Creativity to produce the ideas and answers you seek, you have to release the pressure a little and play the game.
Doodle. Talk to your Creativity out loud (in a secluded place if you’re worried about wandering psychiatrists). Roll words and phrases around in your head. Fire questions at him/her. Give your Creativity something to work with.
I’m serious about the doodling. Get yourself a notepad and coloured pens. Or try a whiteboard. Something you can scribble ideas on as they come to you.
Don’t be afraid to pursue weird and wacky trains of thought. Let your Creativity wander through different possibilities. You’re on a treasure hunt. Who knows where the idea is hiding. So loosen up and play.
Nail Down the Specifics
Tell your Creativity exactly what you need. Do you need a story, poem, concept brief, article? What’s the genre? How many words? Who is your audience? What points do you need to cover?
This information gives your Creativity constraints to bounce off.
But limit the demands to only what you need. Exclude ‘wants’ at this stage. If there’s a little leeway on some of these questions, then leave them open-ended. Give your Creativity a little wiggle room. You can add the wants from your list as the project evolves. At this point be accepting of different angles.
Encourage Multiple Ideas
At some point during all this, your Creativity will hopefully come up with an idea. Do not run off with the first thing out of his/her mouth. Breathe in, breathe out, and ask if there are any other ideas. Give your Creativity opportunity to pop a couple more at you. The first idea is not usually the best. So wait around and see what else there is.
Once you’ve got your ideas flying, move on to the next phase.
Working the Idea
Now you need to knuckle down and create. At this point the stupor will threaten to set in again. Great ideas usually require work to bring them to fruition. How can you do that in time to meet your deadline?
Write Yourself a List
Work out what’s involved in making this idea happen. List every task. Perhaps it’s as simple as just sitting down and writing. If so, go do!
Most projects require more preparation. Do you need to research? Do you need to outline? Perhaps you have to learn more about your characters.
What is it you need to do in order to make this idea a reality?
The list will not only provide you with a guide to what needs to be completed, but will also inform your Creativity about what you expect to accomplish. Sometimes your Creativity will get to a list item ahead of you, just because he/she knew it was coming.
Find One Thing You Can Move Forward On
Often the length of the list and the size of the project is just overwhelming. And I can tell you from experience, the more options there are, the more paralysed your Creativity becomes. So what do you do?
Pick one thing, just one, which you can manage today – or at least start on. Find something you can make progress on. Focus on that one thing until you’re done. Then mark it off your list. Your project will become like a game of Mahjong. Each move you make will reveal another move. Slowly, slowly you’ll make progress.
Set Aside Time
Don’t let every deadline result in the same desperate, eye-popping squeeze on your Creativity the night before. Set aside regular time in the days, weeks and/or months leading up to the deadline.
Be kind to your Creativity. Avoid procrastination. Your Creativity works hard for you so repay in kind.
And if you happen to finish a little earlier than your deadline, what’s so bad about that?
Creativities are usually very easily distracted. If you turn the TV on, or start reading an interesting book, we get caught up in what you’re doing and forget what we’re working on. So while we all need time to replenish our Creative sponges, if you’re working towards a deadline try eliminating the distractions and focusing on what you need to accomplish.
And remember, television or a good book is a great reward for completion.
An Important Consideration
We’ve spoken about how to work towards a deadline, but there is one point you need to keep in mind.
Not all deadlines are worth it. Sometimes you have to say no. Protect your Creativity from unreasonableness – either from your boss, or from your own expectations. If the deadline is too tight, you’re just going to damage your Creativity in the process.
Pick your deadlines, and then work together with your Creativity to make them a reality. One step at a time.
For more ideas on staying creative when facing deadlines, read this post over at Bit Rebels.
How do you generate ideas when facing deadlines?
Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art