Get Better at Creative Self-Evaluation
The most important step is one we often skip
Thirteen years ago, I took a creative methodology class. The teacher — now a friend of mine — broke the creative process down into three simple steps:
It’s a system I’ve since enthusiastically adopted in my own life. For any creative project, I’ve found, it works on multiple levels.
On a macro level, planning is when you do all of your research and sketching and ideation, execution is the actual designing and building of the thing, and evaluation is your post-mortem learnings.
On a micro level, every step can be further broken down into sub-steps following the same pattern. Take planning: First, I need to do research on the creative process by googling five different people’s personal processes. Then, I execute on that by searching and taking notes on what I find. Finally, I evaluate what I’ve gathered: Do I have the information I need to move forward? What’s missing? What logical step could come next?
We’ve all grown up planning: making to-do lists, for example, or adding things to our calendars. And we’re all used to executing: Design. Write. Build. Code. Do the work.
But as a general rule, we’re terrible at evaluating. It’s so much easier to move on to the next thing that it is to face that we might be wrong in how we’ve just spent your time.
And the world makes it easy to avoid facing your own work head-on. You give your essays to your teacher to grade. You put your art on the wall for your class to critique. You call our friends to show them what you’re working on to get feedback. You’re set up to let other people do the evaluation for you.
Admittedly, it’s easier to give a project to someone else for their opinion. But in creative work, whether you’re coming up with your next business idea, painting a picture, writing the next Great American Novel, or shooting your film, the process goes faster and the ideas are stronger if you learn to evaluate your work on your own first.
But it’s hard, I know. Self-evaluation is challenging because you’re so close to your work. It’s tricky…