TRACKING PROGRESS OVER A LONG-TERM CREATIVE PROJECT.
When we're working on something long term, that nobody else gets to see for a long long time, when it's just us and the blank page, or sketchbook, or wherever - is it still important for us to measure our achievements, to celebrate those tiny, incremental wins along the winding path of a creative life?
And for those projects which are purely personal, the ones we do to learn a new skill, or to relax at the end of the day - is the progress irrelevant or even meaningless to the process itself?
This is something I've been mulling over as I'm slowly chipping away at my own long term creative project - my novel manuscript.
It's a project I'm doing to get better at writing, to relax, and it's also something I hope will be good enough to share when it's finished. Still, recording progress in a daily, weekly and monthly system is something I find helpful as a way to track the work I'm putting into it, something that helps me to feel like I'm moving forwards.
I track my wordcount over the course of the four days in a week I aim to write on. I usually set a goal, but what's more interesting is it's ability to highlight problems and triumphs in my creative process. Using the wordcount (or lack thereof), I can determine if a week had been a good writing week or a not-so-good one, and I can look at why that might be. Often if I've not got much done I'll be able to identify why and set myself some actions in order to get back on track (I might reshuffle my routine to boost my energy, or I might take a few days to replenish my creative well).
I think that tracking progress (however you choose to do this) can be a positive step when used to mark those little milestones along the journey. We can track things in different ways: the days we make time for our projects on; the hours we put in; wordcount; pages in a sketchbook - we can even record our mood as we create.
Tracking can help us find a sense of forward momentum, and a sense of rhythm and growth in our own creative process.
We need to be careful, of course, that this productivity mindset doesn't tip over into the encouragement of burnout.
Too much time focused on the progress and 'how much did I accomplish?' side of our process, and we can easily lose sight of the process itself.
Tracking needs to be used mindfully, as a tool to motivate, but not as a tool to punish ourselves.
Ultimately, when it comes to those long-term projects, we know that by nature they are going to ask a lot of us. They are going to require a certain commitment of motivation, energy, and time - and a willingness to simply do the showing up again and again, even when nobody else is looking.
It's because of this that a long-term creative endeavour can often feel a little lonely and even a little pointless.
We have to shape that meaning for ourselves, take control of it and define it.
A tangible end-point for a project is a good thing to strive towards, and by tracking the progress we make each time we sit down to work on our project we give ourselves a little checkpoint and the chance to get back on track if we've fallen off it.
So, give tracking a go if you need a little self-accountability in your current creative project. Choose something appropriate to record, set up a page in your planner to note it down, and watch your progress and motivation grow in a way that's mindful and focused on your enjoyment of the process where possible.
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