‘What should I create?’
What follows is the approach that I’ve used to answer that question. I’ll be using the projects that I’ve started to explain and illustrate how this framework has worked for me, and how it might work for you.
A Skills-Based Approach to Choosing Creative Projects (S.B.A.C.C.P)
In the summer of 2019, I created Penguin Latte. But I had no idea what I wanted it to be. At first, I wanted it to be a T-Shirt company, a ‘muse’ (I had just finished reading The Four-Hour Workweek) that would help me earn passive income. That didn’t work out. But ultimately, Penguin Latte was created because I wanted to improve in the somewhat meta-skill of leaping into the unknown.
A few months after creating the site, I started to think about more specific, concrete skills that I could improve in.
The first skill that came to mind was writing. Heavily inspired by Seth Godin’s thoughts on blogging, I decided to start a daily blog. A space where, everyday, I could share my thoughts on subjects that I care about. (More about the ‘everyday’ deadline later.)
First, I emailed somebody I know who writes for a living for their recommendations for books on writing. They gave me their copies of On Writing Well and The Elements of Style. I read them immediately. After that, I had to develop an eye for what makes a website look good. Later on, I had to learn how to buy a domain name.
After about three months of daily blogging, I started thinking about another skill that I wanted to improve in – speaking.
Speaking about what? When I’m not working on the blog, I’m usually reading books on psychology, self-development, business, and marketing. To get ideas for what my projects are going to be about, I look no farther than the subjects that I love.
So, I started Readings and Riffs – a show where, every week, I talk about my favorite books. By starting this, I’ve had to practice speaking in front of a camera, and to not be overly self-conscious about any verbal ticks.
Here’s the S.B.A.C.C.P, visualized.
By having a main project, I’ve avoided the paralysis by analysis problem by picking a central theme to base my work on. That central theme is ‘Self-Development through Creativity.’
I pick sub-projects based on the skills that I want to improve.
My main hobby, reading, feeds my ideas for what I want to write about on the blog and talk about on the show.
A Note on Deadlines
Deadlines curb my perfectionism. They demand that I show up as often as I’ve decided to show up.
I’ve picked an ‘everyday’ deadline for blogging because it forces me to notice things.
The ‘every week’ deadline for Readings and Riffs is because I can’t do an episode every day. A ‘do this everyday’ deadline for that project would be too limiting.
To conclude, if you’ve felt like you’re turning to stone because there’s so many things that you could create (podcasts, blogs, etc), then this framework might be for you. Just replace the skills that I’ve wanted to improve with the skills that you’ve been wanting to improve. Then, pick something to create which by necessity allows you to improve that skill.