There comes a point in every creative project where you hit the proverbial wall. It might be writer’s block, designer’s block, or an unexpected problem. When you hit the road block you have a couple of choices. You could continue to fight until you break through the barrier. Or you could try hitting the pause button for a while instead.
One of the projects I’m currently developing is a feature-length documentary film that I’ve been calling The Quilting Thing (no, that’s not even a working title). In the early stages it was all research. Everything was zipping along with positivity and sunshine. However, when it came time to turn research into a treatment and a business plan, the storm arrived.
Every time I looked through my notes my frustration increased. It looked like a mess of information that went in ten directions with no connecting threads weaving everything together. Nothing to serve as a foundation for the story. No story? No film.
I decided to suspend all active work on The Quilting Thing for a week. Then I blinked, and the calendar said it had been a little more than four weeks. From the outside that looks like a big chunk of lost time, but in practice it was exactly .
Taking an extended, multi-day or week, break from a project resets your expectations. The longer you spend working on a something you care about, the easier it is to let your personal feelings cloud your creative vision. My frustration with The Quilting Thing fed on itself because my first instincts at the start of it all was that this was an idea with wonderful potential. When the research didn’t appear to support the first instincts, I took it personally. I didn’t want to prove myself wrong, and the hounds of self-doubt came howling around the corner.
Any decent how-to guide for writing will tell you that you need to take at least a short break after completing your first draft and before diving into revisions. The practice applies editing, design, and pretty much any other creative pursuit you can think of.
This is the perfect time to devote some extra time to a side project, read a new book, or pick up an old hobby. Try to make it something that shifts your focus away from the problem without numbing your brain too much. Don’t watch every season of The Bachelor in two weeks, okay? That’s not going to be as helpful as an activity that keeps the little grey cells firing.
Once your perspective has been refreshed, you’ll be able to review your project more objectively. After four weeks of working on this blog and a couple of assignments, I returned to The Quilting Thing with new eyes. A fresh look revealed a new approach that turned chaos into function. Plus, I have an even stronger conviction in the potential of the story.
All systems cleared to proceed, captain!