After spending a year creating the foundation of what I want to work on moving forward, I’m now ready to kick my productivity up a notch. 2015 was my Year of Foundations, and, in it, I built my horizontals ― the foundation for my larger platform. I tested the waters, decided where I wanted to plant my roots, and built as widely as I can currently afford to handle.
2016 is my Year of Production. This year, I begin building my verticals. What I put in place last year will be a firm foundation for my efforts in many years to come. Though I still have more things I’d like to try, it’s now time to work with what I have while I still have momentum.
Here’s an overview of my goals for the year:
Over the past few years (and, really, my entire life) I’ve been slowly bettering my creative skill set. In 2013 ― my Year of Advancement ― I was partially focused on getting really good at the things that I already know how to do well, and improving on what I lacked.
In 2016, I’m taking the foundation of built last year and focusing on making sure what I’m adding to it is of high quality and, additionally, improving the quality of what’s been made.
This is something that will require me to spend a lot of time learning and studying from the very best, and investing more into my education. It will also mean spending more time critically analysing my current quality levels and finding places to improve. It also means focusing on perfect practice. Practice only makes “perfect” when that practice is also “perfect.”
Of course, I know that perfection is a moving target and that nothing is truly perfect. But right now, before I move to the next stage in my creative endeavors, I have a chance to take advantage of the rapid growth in quality opportunities that I may not be able indulge in if things go better than planned.
My editor, critique group, and other creative friends are my quality control group. Like an engineer, my job will be to design, build, test, and improve until each product is shippable.
I’d rather be good than fast. George R.R. Martin is good, but he’s notoriously slow. In the long term, good is better than fast, but fast can allow you to have a long term. This is why speed is part of my Year of Production, and is a close second to quality.
As is the nature of all things creative: an audience can consume what’s made faster than it can be made. No matter how fast you are, someone who enjoys it can be ready for more before you can give it to them.
In 2016, I need get faster. A lot faster. Towards the end of 2015, I realized this truth, and I began taking steps to figure out how to make this happen. I read several books on the matter. I listened to advice from other creative minds, and I began to conduct my own experiments on my own productivity. I began to track when I worked, how long I worked, and how much I got done. This way, I will have objective and empirical data so that I can make informed and unbiased changes to my work-flow and processes.
Another big factor in speed is consistency. I don’t work every day (and, really, I’m not sure that I should), but I need to make sure that my output and the time I invest into my projects are more consistent. I also started working towards this in 2015, and I’ve seen some great strides. But I can do some more testing to make sure I nail my sweet spot.
Systems and Habits
2014 was my Year of Creativity. Some of the most important things I created that year were systems that I still use to allow me to be my most creative while making sure I cover the more technical aspects.
As a creative (and a classic INFP) I’m not naturally data driven. Yes, I’m really into science, math, and engineering, but most of my interest is from the high concept standpoint. It’s not that I wouldn’t learn the lower level concepts (and I have for audio engineering and electronics, because, you know, it’s my job), but I don’t dive into the geekdom unless it particularly rivets me.
Creating systems is one of my favorite things about the creative process. This is where the magic happens. Systems make you faster. Habits make things easier. Systems liberate the creative mind while habits insure creativity happens every day.
In 2016, I plan to refine some of these systems and add new ones. Last year, I needed to create systems that would allow me to build the foundation for this year. So, in a way, this isn’t a new goal at all. But I still have more to build.
First, I need to build a few systems that will make writing fiction a bit faster (which feeds the first two goals). I did a lot of ground work and testing for this over the past couple years. Between the data I’ve already collected about my writing habits and the new systems I’ve tried in the past few months, I’ve learned that I have more work to do on this front.
A lot of my creative writing is done by instinct. I’ve learned a lot about storytelling and I don’t have to fight to make a story turn in most cases. However, it’s the scene-setting and technical literary work that make me slowest. I have a system that I built in 2014 that I haven’t put on the table yet. I will revisit, revise, and begin implementing it. Hopefully, it will take care of some of this grunt work. I’ll still have to do the work, but it’ll make the work quicker.
Second, I need to build a few more systems for audio engineering and song writing. I already have many of them in place, but they’re mostly disparate and disconnected. I need to build a greater framework and workflow hierarchy so that I can cleanly move from concept to production to completion with the least amount of friction possible.
Then we have habits. This basically comes down to two things: consistent practice and mental conditioning. I not only need to practice as much as possible, but I need to be metacognitive in my efforts so that I know what my triggers are. I have to crack open my brain and hack it to do exactly what I want, when I want.
What About You?
You may not use themes, but you may have a goal or resolution for next year.
I’d love to hear about it.
Leave a comment below and let me know what your plans are!