This tip is part of my Writers Corner series of creativity boosters for my fellow writers.
But it’s such a universally effective tip that it can be applied to any kind of creative project, especially in the middle when you need to inject some inspiring new energy into the process.
The middle of a creative project is a prime time for running out of that early enthusiasm.
And since the bright promises of the Finish Line are still far from view, it’s common for many of us to experience what Seth Godin calls The Dip.
Aka: A creative slump.
Happily, there are simple remedies and today I’d love to share with you one of my favourites.
It’s going to tap into your imagination and sense of playfulness – which are magnets for your creative spirit – so you’ll soon be feeling a new inspired energy that can help to fuel you onwards with your project and progress.
Allow me to introduce to you the Art of Creative Dress-Up, using a popular example of writing a book to illustrate how it works…
First drafts vs Finished Product
When writing a book, like most creative projects, the early drafts look nothing like the finished product.
A manuscript – double-spaced on A4 paper – is a totally different reading experience to a printed book.
Books don’t start out looking like books.
My first book began life as a handful of scribbled notes and unrelated Word documents.
I didn’t even know it was a book until I was a fair way towards completing it.
My writing memoir was born of a pile of old diaries and dozens of Evernotes and MindMaps.
And my first first online course for creatives didn’t look anything like I imagined it would when I was in the middle of creating it.
Or at least, it didn’t until I decided to play Creative Dress Up…
Creative Dress Up
Creative Dress Up is a name I made up for the following game:
Take the raw material – the nuts and bolts of your project – and dress it up to look a little more like the final product.
In the case of a book, this would involve taking your manuscript – your rough draft, work-in-progress, typos-and-all document – and tweaking the layout to look more like a finished book.
This used to be the exclusive domain of magical graphics departments, brought in at the very end of the publishing process – the final step, done only when the endless rounds of editing, polishing and re-checking are complete.
Only then could a writer get to see their ‘book’ looking like an actual book.
But the creative process can be a long and doubt-filled slog.
It can be really tough some days to believe that the scribbles and notes in front of you will ever make it to book stage.
So, being creatives, why not harness one of our most powerful resources – our imagination?
Let’s burst out of the constraints of that A4 document and make it… book-shaped.
Make a copy of your manuscript, or perhaps just the section you’re stuck with, and then create a Dress-Up version.
Lose the double-spacing, just for now.
Fiddle with the settings.
Print out your unedited draft in double-sided, paperback-size pages.
Add page numbers and your name or title at the top.
See it how your fans will see it. (This alone is a great trick for spotting typos.)
It doesn’t need to look exactly like the finished article, just a little closer than the draft stage that’s so easy to get stuck in.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even have a stab at creating a cover.
No-one ever needs to see it, but it may have a powerful effect on your faith in the the project.
The benefits of Faking It WHILE You Make It
Playing this game can really help to visualise the end result – which, some days, will be essential if there is ever to be an end result.
I used this tip when I was in something of a creative slump with my first online course, The Muse Spa.
I had the idea to play Creative Dress-Up, and spent an entire afternoon merrily creating some rough temporary graphics, which I knew I’d never use.
And at first, it did feel a little like wasting my time.
Until I saw my swanky dressed-up version!
I got such a boost from seeing my project come to life, that those few ‘wasted’ hours felt more like a quantum leap forward.
And I’m sure I easily recouped those hours by needing less time for The Wobbles.
(Maybe you know The Wobbles? Those fruitless, dithering, unproductive hours spent wondering how and if a project will ever see the light of day.)
So, I’m fully convinced that a small creative detour – in the name of inspiration and progress – can actually be a highly productive use of our precious creative time.
When I used to work in design agencies, what I call playing Creative Dress-Up was referred to as creating a mock-up.
We’d regularly spend considerable amounts of time and resources on making a temporary (fake) version.
Even though this would end up in the bin when the polished final version was complete, it wasn’t regarded as wasted work – it was an invaluable, even essential, part of the creative process.
Back then, as now, we still had to go back to the drawing board or writing room when the fun of Creative Dress Up is over.
But the insight and motivation we obtained from this little trick may be just the thing to kick-start a new boost of enthusiasm or inspiration.
It can also be curiously helpful in revealing what isn’t working, or highlighting a surprising new direction.
And of course, it can be so inspiring to envision how brilliant your finished project might eventually be.
Which makes it easier, and more likely, to reach that elusive completion stage.
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So, I hope you’ll play with this idea the next time you’re stuck in the messy middle or you feel a slump in your creative energy, and I hope it inspires you to go from faking it to making it.
May it be a catalyst for your happiest creation mode, where you belong.
And I’d love to hear how it works out for you!
PS You could take this idea a step further and mock-up a bestseller list with your name at the top, or write glittering imaginary reviews for your finished book.
This is great for clarifying why you’re doing it. (For those days when you wonder why you’re doing it….)
Feel free to pen your imaginary reviews in the comments below. I’d love to help you visualise them!
PPS If you’re curious about what my dressed-up, rough-around-the-edge, work-in progress project looks like, you can take a look at my mock-ups here.
*** UPDATE *** : Whether or not it was my Mock-Up Magic, sheer tenacity, or labour of love (most likely all 3…) – my Muse Spa project did get finished and is now available.
You can see how it actually turned out HERE.
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