Seven ideas to help you get out of the rut that you get stuck in when in the middle of an art project.
It started with desire, I listened to a song and fell in love with it, and then I heard an idea and I knew that this song could go well with it. My neurons exploded. I wanted very badly to make a piece of art. But I couldn’t. I had work to do that was very involved, and there was literally no time in my schedule for starting a new project.
But then my work ended, and with a measure of glee I began. But I couldn’t get it all made in a day. I have to sleep sometimes. So what can I do now that I am stuck in the middle of a project?
This is a problem that artists have all the time, whether they are writers, painters, or vidders like myself, so I thought that it might be worth writing out a guide of what you can do when you are confused and stuck in the middle of a big project.
1. Make a rough of the complete project.
The project I am working on now is a music video. I have the music, and I have images of the parts where I was inspired, but there are all these little fiddly places in the middle where the screen is black because I don’t know what goes there.
The first thing I did was made a low resolution copy of the entire video, dark screen and all. Why? Because it allows me to see how far I’ve come and how far I have to go. It gives lets me see if my ideas are working or not.
2. Trim the fluff
In my case, I noticed that the song was too long. Most people don’t want to listen to an entire four minute music video, so I needed to shorten it. But how? Music has rhythm and just cutting bits out without damaging the flow is difficult. The ending was perfect. It was essential I didn’t remove that, but the beginning was slow and full of black bits where I didn’t know what to do with. My solution was to cut off the first verse and introduction. This reduced my video’s size by over a minute making it much more manageable.
3. Evaluate the tone
I looked at my rough video once it was cropped, and realized that there were places where it was on point, and others where the images did not convey the ideas I wanted. I was evaluating the tone. Most artworks hope to convey a feeling. Find which parts are doing that, and which parts are distracting from it. Cut the parts that interfere with the tone you want the story to have, and add bits to those that are working.
4. Look at the big picture
When the work is finished, it will have an impact in some way. That was what drove you to make it in the first place. Now is the time to evaluate theme and subtext. What things were you meaning to convey. Are there things that you can add to the work to solidify this message?
Sometimes happy accidents occur to introduce things that you didn’t plan on but make the work better. What can you put into to the work to enhance, draw out, and emphasize those accidents to make them look planned.
5. Search for new techniques
Are your images too similar? Is your cutting too regular? Are you boring yourself? You need to look for techniques that could add new elements to your work. In the case of vidding, I wanted to have three images on the screen at the same time, but the only thing I really know how to do is dissolve and fade images. I need to learn if my program can do split screen, and if it can’t is there another one that can. You can look for techniques that you haven’t employed yet: Repetition, focus color, different speeds. Look at other people’s work and decide if you want to add new ideas and concepts to your project.
6. Remember the fun of the start
Once in the middle we often feel tired and depressed because our images don’t seem to be doing what we thought they would. The important thing is realizing that you are building a work from the bottom up, and in the end it will be better than it was in your mind, because this work is one that others can see.
Remember the excitement of those first few hours, especially remember what it felt like before you started. What did you want to say? What drove you to actually start? If you can capture some of that spirit, you can get a bit of a second wind.
7. Give yourself time off
It is easy to drive yourself hard when you start a project, but remember that you are human and your body needs time to itself. Go outside. Exercise. Eat a good meal. Talk to someone. Sleep. All of these things reset your body and mind which can lead to new ideas that will invigorate your work. Not resting will lower your efficiency and your creativity. Plan in time for thinking and doing other things. They are essential for your mental and physical balance.
Remember the middle of a project can be the most exciting time, but it requires perseverance. Follow these techniques, usually several times, and eventually you will progress to the next challenge. Finishing the work.
My current project is a Sherlock vid with the working title The Youth of Eurus. It may be available in the near future, but given current copyright law probably not.
Update: Here is the finished project. It is one of my best!
Cheers, and good luck on your project!