Often, the hardest part about a creative project is the start—for a variety reasons. Sometimes, it has to do with our expectations about the outcome. We're so eager to get to the end that it's a bit overwhelming to plan the journey to get there. Other times, we're feeling that "angsty" pull to create something, but we're not sure what it is we want to create. It's as if we're ready for the journey, but don't have a destination in mind. Then there are times when we have a vague idea about the journey and the destination, but only a few definite pieces to give us an idea about where we're going and what path to take. It's sort of like feeling around in the dark, knowing that you'll know when you bump the thing you need to bump into that will light up a lantern. And you're pretty sure that lantern will help you find your way for the rest of the trip to...to...well, to somewhere you're sure is worthwhile.
Finding Some Matches
All of that hesitation or wandering around is hard to handle which is why it's useful to have a few tricks in your pocket when it comes to creating things. I like to think of these tricks as matches for the lantern; something that gets me going sooner rather than later and minimizes difficulty with the start.
For my storytelling projects, those matches take the following forms:
- Inspiration: Are there any papers (from my stash or online) I want to work with that suggest a story theme through their color, patterns, or texture? What captures my interest? Are there any templates that catch my eye with an unusual arrangement between photos, words, and artistic elements? Or, is there a project that sparks my curiosity?
- Prompt/Challenge: To get myself moving—even if it isn't in the direction of a specific story—I sometimes crack open a book with photography challenges or writing prompts. Just the act of photographing or writing can spark an idea and ignite a full on project for me.
- Favorite Photos or Words: Are there photos I've made or words I've captured in a journal that speak to me? Do they suggest a story to tell? Often, a photo can be just the thing I need to get the process going. As I look at it, I can't help but reminisce and reflect. From there, I begin to interpret the meaning of the moment and the story follows.
Where to Find Sparks
Inspiration can come from a lot of places. Two of my favorites are book covers and Pinterest. Meanwhile, here's a list of places with storytelling supplies to inspire your story project:
- Photos+Words Supplies (that's my collection of freebies)
- Ali Edwards Shop
- Designer Digitals
- Cathy Zielske's Products
- Check out books on graphic design (I have a ton of them and love both poster design books and packaging design books)
Prompts & Challenges
I have a few "go to" resources (and friends) that top my list when it comes to prompts and challenges:
- Take a Susan Wooldridge workshop if you can (seriously) and check out Poemcrazy by Susan
- Check out Old Friend from Far Away or The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg
- Check out the Pocket Muse
- Ali Edward's Just Write subscription
For photos check out the following books:
- 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost
- Photo Idea Index and Creative Sparks by Jim Krause
- The Photo Book by Phaidon Press
Usually, this is where I start—with my photos+words. However, it's not a common a starting place for memory keeping storytellers. Most often, memory keepers start in the visual design space (pretty papers, interesting templates/sketches, an illustration that sparks an idea). But if you are like me, your photos and the stories you want to tell are a great place to start. Follow that spark.
Once you have an idea about where you want to go and how you want to get there, you're ready to:
- Plan the story. This can be as formal or informal as you like.
- Pull together the pieces that will help you tell the story.
- Tell and craft the story.
- Share the story.
What Say You?
Have you ever had a tough time getting started? If so, you're not alone. Research says it is one of the top obstacles for creatives (let alone memory keeping storytellers).
When you are stuck, what are your favorite ways to spark story projects and get yourself going again?