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This post is a warning, keep your distance from the passion project.
You might be thinking, passion project aren’t that bad. Isn’t this what its all about finding a project that fuels your desire to make something great. Passion is fine, and it will help you. Passion alone is not enough to make your project successful. There’s a dark side to your passion project. Passion will blind you from making the best project you can make.
Once you’re tied up in your project it begins to consume you. Takes you over. Two years ago Isaiah and i started our first comic. We developed the story, we did research and world building. We didn’t know that we would be working on the same comic for almost two years. We kept on reworking it refining it. Half way through we completely restarted the first episode. We also kept it to ourselves. I barely even explained the story to my girlfriend. We had big plans. We would strategize and fantasize about the comic. It was all consuming. When finally after nearly two years of development and work we were ready for people to read it. The first time my girlfriend read it wad when we had finished. The response was tepid. Still we were blind. We thought could rework the dialogue, and fix it.
It wasn’t till I met with a professor for coffee that I realised what we had done. I talked to him about making indie animation. His suggestion was simple, make a series of short 30 second cartoons. Short enough that you can make them in your free time. Then release them consistently for 10 years and you’ll have business. Solid advice. His next line was what hit home. He said you don’t want to choose something too big that you’ll work for a year without releasing it.
We had been working on our comic for two years That night I talked to my my girlfriend, Ali. I asked her about the comic. She went into it. Confirmed all my fears. We had waited too long. We had gotten in our heads and made something for nobody. It didn’t even work as a solid short story. I remember groaning on the bed feeling like I had wasted two years. Worse yet I had to tell Isaiah that he had also wasted two years.
The next day I called Isaiah. We talked about the comic and I let him know what had happened. We agreed that the it was better to start over. Start from scratch. We were too close to this project and we needed to cut our losses.
So my word of warning. Passion projects are dangerous beasts. Take them on at your own risk.
Here are three strategies to test your project and not make the mistakes we did.
Debate about your project/Pro and Con list
This is fun, take the opposite side and try and argue why your idea is a bad idea. Figure out why its derivative, how it’s too niche, why its unaccessible, or too complex. Make it fun and light hearted. In proper debate figure out why it’s good too. If after this exercise you still come back to the idea, that’s a good sign. The good shit sticks.
Burn out the project
This is effective if a new idea comes up that distracts from other projects. (This happens to me all the time) Take a week and rush through developing and writing the project. Every project has a point where it stops being fun and just becomes a lot of work. Rush through the fun stuff like world building, design, writing funny scenes. Trust me after a week of fast paced work the fire will die down. It’ll be easy to get back to your other work.
Start Sharing it
The most potent way to test a project is to get it in front of an audience. Then it gets out of your head and into the world. You start caring less about what it matters to you and how it matters to them. It’ll give you urgency. Or no one will notice. That’s fine too. That means you can retool and keep going. Figure out how to make something that connects.
We all want to create stuff that matters. Most of the time we have to get out of our own way. Just show up and release the work.
All the best
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