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Begin – 3 Ideas for Actually Starting Creative Projects

You must begin. Until you start, your creative (or any) projects won’t finish themselves. (Don’t you hate that?)

Here are some tips that might be starting points for taking your creativity beyond a concept or imaginative idea. (It will probably come as no surprise that these are exactly what I need now, too.) Do you have other ideas for how to begin? Please share them in the comments or in a mention on Twitter.

Though these might be adapted to commissioned art (i.e., someone else asked you to create it), I’m thinking mostly about the projects you initiate yourself. In my experience, these are the trickiest to get past the idea phase.

Be Your Own Best Client

begin - woods and grassesMany of us have clients or customers for whom we create art. Whether we do work-for-hire, coach others in our field, or many other client-based efforts, we know how to treat our customers: they know best and come first.

Why not take this skill and use it on ourselves? Make yourself priority one. Use the same techniques you would practice on a customer or patron on your personal project.

I’ve had success with this idea. If you’re finding it to be challenging to think of yourself in the same terms as a customer, write yourself a contract. (Hopefully, you do that for your clients. If so, just fill out one for yourself. Sign it, too.) This is a sort of psychological trick on yourself to treat yourself like your own best client. In any case, once you’ve played the trick, be sure to begin.

Take Advantage of Yourself

begin - SunraysHopefully, along the way you and I have learned a lot about ourselves. One great thing about this is that we can use our self-knowledge to motivate and prioritize.

Besides the obvious examples of rewarding ourselves, there are many ways to use self-understanding to move forward on creative projects. Here are some examples:

  • If you enjoy doing the imaginative planning, but are not as fond of one of the implementation steps, intermingle the two processes. In this way, you get some of the process that you enjoy the most and also accomplish some of what does not bring you as much joy.
  • Maybe you love to reinvigorate your imagination with long walks in nature, but you know that this is also a way to avoid the project. Set a timer on your phone for half the time you can afford to walk and return to your studio as soon as the alarm goes off.

The point is simply to think of the way you work and the things you appreciate most (or least) in the creative process. Use these as ways to begin and then keep beginning throughout the project.


begin - SunriseWe all have “to-do” lists. Whether they are on paper, in an app, or in our head, the list of things we need to accomplish is somewhere. The problem with many of these lists (or the items on them) is that they don’t get done.

How about a to-do-go list instead? Rather than big, sweeping goals we need to accomplish, break the list down to a doable number (ten or less) that are incremental parts of the process. Try to come up with things that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. Then, commit to starting 2 of these each day that you work on the project. If you find you have time for more than two, go ahead!

If you are not practiced at coming up with incremental steps, be really kind to yourself as you learn how to do this breakdown. After a while, it becomes fun to split the larger goals or processes into these steps that are easier to begin and complete.


The important thing is to begin. Whether it’s the whole project (beyond the initial idea) or a step in the process, beginning is crucial. What other methods do you use to begin your creative projects? Please leave your ideas in the comments!