From small acorns and all that: Gav Strange shares his thoughts on getting new ideas off the ground

In his latest column, designer Gav Strange encourages us all to keep pushing forward and make a start, no matter how hard it might be.

Hello folks, how’s it going? You’re looking really well y’know. Keep up doing that thing you’re doing, because it’s really working out for you…

‘Agh christ, What are you going to be waffling on about today’ I hear you cry with excitement. Well my sweet, I’m going to tell you, I’m going to tell you… … … … NOW!

Beginnings. That’s what we’re going to chat about. Beginnings, and humble ones at that. I was talking with a friend on email recently and he asked about what one piece of advice I would give to someone in the creative field and instinctively I started talking about the hardest part of any project / creative endeavour: getting it off the ground. I wanted to elaborate more on that here.

It’s really, really difficult to start something. There’s a million reasons why something doesn’t get off the ground: time, money, skills, energy, passion, situation – the list goes on, but there’s also another name for the above labels too; excuses. Yes, that’s unfair, but yes, I’m trying to goad you into an emotional reaction of “SHUT UP! I’M NOT MAKING EXCUSES YOU JERK, I’LL SHOW YOU!

See, that’s the thing – you have to use any means necessary to get motivated to begin, including tricking yourself or others. You need to rile yourself up to make those first few steps, which then turn into bigger steps which in turn become leaps which become bounds. It’s the smallest steps which are the toughest.

Think of it like a workout regime. You have to train to get stronger. Constantly. And if you lapse in training then you get weaker again and you have to start from the beginning.

Gav Strange

Think of it like a workout regime. You have to train to get stronger. Constantly. And if you lapse in training then you get weaker again and you have to start from the beginning. It’s not much different (apart from art & design doesn’t exactly make you look hench) but it does hold the same principles. The more you do it, the more work you make, the stronger you’ll become. You’ll start relying on muscle memory to do the basic tasks you’ve done a million times which then lets you unlock new parts of your creativity you never knew you had!

But, like going for a run in the freezing cold in the middle of winter or getting up early to go to the gym when you just want to stay in bed, it isn’t easy, you have to work for it. With all of this though, once you get over that initial horrible bit, that feeling of pride and accomplishment for just getting up and doing it, is a wonderful thing, and your catalyst to do it again.

 

We’re constantly surrounded by incredible people doing incredible things, which inspire our own paths, but they can also be overwhelming in their awesomeness and leave us paralysed, unsure of how to begin our own journey.

Gav Strange

So you’ve got the energy to get up and make work, and you’re doing it. Awesome. That’s great, but now you’re frustrated and fed-up because what you’re doing is just not at the level you want to be, you see what others are doing and they feel like light-years ahead. It sucks, right?

Here’s the unfortunate thing: There will ALWAYS be someone better than you, quicker than you, smarter than you, doing things you can only dream of. That never ever goes away, at any level. So you only have one option in this situation, to turn that frustration on its head and use it as a catalyst, a beacon of inspiration – a place in the distance to aim for.

That’s the weird thing about what we do, we’re constantly surrounded by incredible people doing incredible things, which inspire our own paths, but they can also be overwhelming in their awesomeness and leave us paralysed, unsure of how to begin our own journey. You just have to be aware of how your inspirations are making you feel, and the second it doesn’t feel like it’s helping, be sure to retreat from these external forces and just concentrate on you, your work and what you’re doing.

It’s easier said than done though, all of these feelings are hard to switch on and off, and sometimes you can be in a slump for months before realising why you’re feeling that way. All you can do is try and be as tuned in as possible to what your brain and your heart are telling you, and then making the necessary adjustments. It’s an emotional process this, so be kind to yourself and don’t let yourself be discouraged when you’re feeling fed up with your creations.

This is why it’s so important to just start making stuff. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll make terrible stuff. Really awful stuff, which you’ll hate, but you need to get it out of your system so you can move onto the good stuff! That’s why passion projects are so vital, as that’s your training ground for getting out the bad stuff, so when you’re working for people, you’re delivering pure gold.

Filmmaker Robert Rodríguez says “Every director has at least 10 bad films in them”, so the only way to get past the bad and onto the good is just make work, make more work, and then when your done, make some more!

My boss once said to me “You’re only as good as your last piece of work”, and that’s something I’ve never ever forgotten, it’s a helluva piece of advice, one that’s relevant to all of us, whoever we are!

Gav Strange

That’s why it’s so important to just start, so we move through all of these emotional blockers and mental challenges that lay ahead of us. They’re also the reason that we put off beginning a project or an endeavour, because we know, in our heart of hearts, that it’s going to be tough. Like anything worth having, it’s never easy to obtain, but a strong and refined body of creations is definitely worth the pain.

My boss once said to me “You’re only as good as your last piece of work”, and that’s something I’ve never ever forgotten, it’s a helluva piece of advice, one that’s relevant to all of us, whoever we are!

Right then, I’m going to leave you with a tune, something that sums up our little chat nice and neatly. Fresh from their belting performance at Glastonbury, it’s JME and his track ‘WORK’:

Until next time, ta-ra chucks!

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Posted on Jun 28th, 17 by

By Day, Gavin is a Senior Designer for the Interactive arm of Aardman Animations, by night he's a Designer & Director going under the alias of JamFactory, indulging in all manner of passion projects. In 2015 he wrote his first book 'Do Fly', published by The Do Book Company, and he co-founded the contemporary design store 'STRANGE' with his wife Jane. He lives in Bristol with Jane, his son Sullivan and their greyhound Peggy.

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