Create: A Magna Carta

If you’ve read my post on magna cartas, or know what they are, then you already know where I’m headed with this post. If not, here’s a recap: When you start a new project, you make two lists. The first is what you want, the second is what you don’t. Do more of the things on the first list, and avoid the things on the second. There’s a bit more to it than that, but them’s the bare bones. Today is about my mantra to create: a magna carta for how I undertake creative projects.

Create: A Magna Carta

A magna carta shapes not only the nature of the project, but the way that I do the work. I group things like deadlines and resource limitations in with my creative do’s and don’ts. Particularly scary things get put into the negative list. I don’t want this to take longer than the 21st of the month! It reframes it from “oh, hell, here comes the deadline” to “this will be done on time because that’s my desire!”.

Things that feel like a stretch get put in the positive list, which also robs them of their power. Instead of worrying whether I can keep a topic to under a certain word count, or that I can find enough to say to fill a specified number of pages, I make it a want. “I do want this to be 2,400 words.”

What I Don’t Want, Creatively

One type of project I try to avoid is something that already exists. Odds are that if I could reinvent the wheel, it wouldn’t be significantly better than what’s already available. Even if it were, it would be tough to get anyone to buy it. Doing the same thing that everyone else is already doing holds no appeal to me, either as a creator or a business person.

I also don’t want to waste time on something I’m not interested in. If I end up with a long list of things I dislike and want to avoid, I have to question whether this is the right project. That much negative could be a sign that I’m interested in doing something adjacent to the project I thought I wanted to do.

Any project with a steep learning curve is another category that I likely want to avoid. It’s not that I don’t enjoy developing new skills. I certainly need to learn a few things. At this point in my life and my career, I need to hone what I already have. To grow my business, I need to be able to produce content and release things on a steady basis. The time and energy required to acquire a new skill is something I’d have to build into my production schedule.

What I Do Want, Creatively

Every project I undertake should present a reasonable challenge. If it’s too easy, there’s the risk I’ll get bored. That carries through to projects that are too similar to things I’ve already done. If the project is too challenging, I run the risk of becoming frustrated or discouraged. The caveat here is that the challenge also has to align with my level of enthusiasm. If I’m pumped up to work on something, I’m willing to do something more challenging.

Projects also need to provide some sense of satisfaction. Selling well is nice, but it’s not enough. I need an outcome I’m happy with. It has to be useful, or solve a problem. The execution has to be up to par. At the end of it, I’ve got to be comfortable releasing it into the wild, knowing that it represents my best effort (within the constraints I had to work with, of course).

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  1. In software development we use the acronym MOSCOW. This lines up the things we Must have in the product, the things we Should have, the things we Could have and the things we might Want to have… it’s a way of sorting priorities.

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