A couple years ago I was aching to get more involved in creative projects. The problem? I had no idea where to start. I was interested in many different things: screen printing, magazine design, video editing, punk music, web design, the list went on and on. I spent days, weeks, and even months contemplating different projects and never actually starting any of them. After a while, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and dread at the enormous pile of “project ideas” cluttering my brain.
One day, a friend started talking about a zine she was making about different acrobatic yoga poses. I had never heard of zines before, but after seeing her little folded creation with black and white photocopied illustrations, I was hooked. I started learning more about zines and experimented making my own.
For the first time in a long time, I was actually making something rather than thinking about making something.
Within a couple weeks, I had finished my very first zine. It was was imperfect, but my own creation nonetheless. I made 20 copies to give to friends and family.
Making this zine led me to table at Albuquerque Zinefest in 2015, 2016, and 2017. I’ve continued making zines, and they get better each time. I’ve also read one of my zines in front of an audience (scary!) and networked with other zinesters who share my passion for creativity, writing, and design. Next year, I plan to submit applications to Zinefests in Seattle and Denver.
From this experience, I learned that focusing on one creative project and taking the first step is the hardest part. However, choosing to work on a small, contained project (like a zine) can make the process a lot less intimidating.
I call these types of projects Minimum Viable Creative Projects, or MVCPs for short 😉
A Minimum Viable Creative Project is a small, digestible creative project that you can start and finish within a week or a couple months. After finishing your MVCP, you can decide if the project is worth growing, expanding, or move on to something different.
For example, making a zine means you already have an end-goal in sight: print copies of the finished zine. From there, you can work backward to determine all of the steps:
- Write and edit the content
- Illustrate images to go with content
- Layout the zine
- Make copies, fold, and staple
After the zine is printed and you get feedback from friends, family, and others in your network, you can decide if this zine has potential to turn into a blog, YouTube channel, or podcast.
In the business world, people talk about creating a Minimum Viable Product, which is a version of your product with enough functionality, features, and benefits to satisfy early adopters. Additional features can be added after getting feedback from your first customers. For example, I signed up for an online financial coaching program earlier this year. A couple months into the program, I was notified that the platform and software were being upgraded. I already thought the program was great but was happy to learn it was going to be even better.
I think creatives and multi-passionate types (like myself) could benefit a lot from taking this tip from the business world by making our own MVCPs!
Characteristics of MVCPs:
- End-goal is a tangible finished product
- Can complete within 3 months or less
- Serves as a test-run for a project with more growth potential
- Allows you to rapidly learn new skills
Here are some examples of MVCPs:
- Write and record 3-5 songs to produce an EP (rather than a full-length album)
- Illustrate a short coloring book (instead of an entire children’s book)
- Write a zine or poetry chapbook (instead of launching a full-fledged blog or podcast or trying to write a book)
- Teach a creative workshop for a group of 3 friends (before launching an online course)
- Create and print 5 recipe cards (instead of creating an entire cookbook)
MVCPs are great because they get the creative juices flowing while keeping you on track to complete something tangible. You’re learning new skills while moving forward quickly. These projects can also serve as excellent portfolio projects. My zines have become a staple in my design portfolio. No pun intended!
What is a MVCP that you could start this week and finish by the end of the month? Let me know in the comments!