The following is relevant for all forms of creative work, including writing (anything from short stories to academic papers), design, animation, composing, and everything else.

Have you ever spent a lot of time on a piece of creative work, only to realize that you’ve completely lost sight of what you were initially trying to make? I know I have. Before I started studying the creative process, this kind of thing used to happen to me a lot.

Not anymore, though. Here’s what I do now: I start out FAST. Whether I write, draw, animate or sculpt, I usually complete a rough and dirty version of the piece within 20 minutes or less. This is called blocking, and it’s a very effective solution to the problem of getting lost. Here are 3½ reasons why starting out FAST can be a real creative life-saver.

Reason #1: FLOW

When you work quickly ideas flow naturally, smoothly dissolving into each other. It’s like speaking, like giving a live performance. When you work quickly, your artwork has that vibrant quality of something that lives in the moment. For the rest of the project you’ll have a job trying to preserve that energy; but at least it’s there to begin with!

joy sketch vs finished 3½ reasons to start out FAST

A quick draft is like giving a performance. It may not be perfect, but it has that vibrant energy of something that lives in the moment.

Reason #2: CAPTURE

When you work slowly, the many little details of your work capture your attention. They can easily divert your focus and distort your perception of your work. Working quickly keeps you focused on the big picture, on your initial vision, and on your concept. It helps you make sure your WHAT is there first; then you can safely tinker with the HOW.

Capturing quickly and well is the fundamental skill of the creative process. In my video course Go*Capture I teach a lot of great tips and techniques on how to get better at it. For more information and a special price for CreativityWise readers, click here.

bookcase1 3½ reasons to start out FAST
Working fast helps lay out the overall shape of your subject and postpone all the fancy distracting details. Do you see what’s special in this picture? If you don’t, click on the image to remove the distracting details… Do you see it now?


Reason #3½ : REVIEW

Blocking in a quick and rough version of your work allows you to review it – and get feedback on it – before you’ve invested too much time in it. That’s actually a double advantage (hence the extra ½ reason!): you get to be less emotionally attached to what you did, and changes take less time.

Shelley dad 3½ reasons to start out FAST

In this illustration, the quick draft allowed me to get some feedback very early on. The author and editor asked for Dad’s arms to hold the girl’s hands instead of her shoulders. Had they asked for it after I’ve invested a few hours of work, it would have been a problem; at this early stage, it was a very easy fix.

Blocking in a post

Here’s how I blocked in the post you’re now reading. See how I let ideas flow like free speech, how I capture the WHAT without the HOW, and how easy it is to review and get feedback on my ideas when they’re in this condensed form? See how painless it is to revise?

post blocking 3½ reasons to start out FAST

The Need for Speed

I’m not saying you should ALWAYS work fast. Slow, delicate brushstrokes also have a role to play. All I’m saying is that when you create your very first draft, do it as quickly and as roughly as you possibly can. Your first strokes need to be broad, bold, rough! Then, as you start shaping your work, as you gradually slide from WHAT to HOW, you can also gradually get slower and more careful. This is called ‘working in passes’, but we’ll save that for another post.

verdi in passes 3½ reasons to start out FAST



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