What have I learnt? Not much. I’ve failed the challenge I set for myself almost one year ago, I thought.
Until I sat down to take a proper look at it and realised I haven’t failed. I was 92% of the way there…
Time isn’t real
The most beautiful part of finally starting (and finishing) this project is the fact it doesn’t really matter when I get it off the ground.
Just undiluted self-expression I can take at my own pace and carry out completely on my own terms ― but there’s a danger with that.
As all creatives know, personal projects so often get stacked on our internal shelves, getting pushed back further and further into the folds of our grey matter until they likely disappear altogether.
Not this time, I promised myself.
I said I’d lay out the final plans for my exhibition by the end of the year to give myself a clear goal.
- I worked backwards, marking the steps I’d need to take to launch ― 9 in total.
- I’ve been living with intention to work consistently towards the launch, and eventually broke those big steps down to smaller steps.
- All along, my commitment has been to keep things simple. Being clear, not clever, is one of the most important lessons you learn early on as a copywriter (my trade), and the same goes here.
- Have I been doing my own head in along the way? YES! A lot. But between me, two sheets of magic whiteboard and a couple of wiper pens, the plan for my entire exhibition is now up on my wall.
It feels good to reflect on what I’ve learnt this year about how to put this exhibition together and it won’t be long until I can share it.
I can’t build everything
My original idea was to build a version of the immersive exhibition in my own creative space. I wanted something physical people could interact with to see how they responded.
What did they feel?
Was there any mileage in carrying on?
But the idea blew up…
Generative AI hit.
I’m left with an enormous idea, not too much tech, but enough for me to not know how to get the best out of it, and new ways to get my ideas out of my head and out to show people. I realised all I need to build is the concept, the rest needs to go into the hands of experts who can bring it to life.
You have to do the work
It was a post from creator and investor Caterina Fake on LinkedIn that hit this learning home for me. It’s amazing how much you can busy yourself with ‘doing’ without actually doing the work you need to do. “Often what is simple isn’t easy, and those are the things you need to do,” she wrote.
There’s only so much researching and reading and listening and learning you can do before you just have to dive in and do the most difficult task. For me, it was pushing through the resistance of putting my work out there ― for real, into the world. To complete a project, and not just any project, but one that lives as deep in my soul as the gremlins and memories and joys of all life has given me so far.
Just do it <— every copywriter loves the Nike slogan (call me a cliché!) for its pure simple force. It holds just as strong for creativity as it does for sport.
✋ And if you need help with creative resistance, I recommend reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Digging deep is hard
My idea for this immersive exhibition experience hasn’t changed all year. It hasn’t particularly grown, since it started off BIG and felt almost fully formed in my head from day one. The reason it’s taken so long to plot the full experience is because I’ve been doing a lot of emotional work alongside it. It’s no coincidence I drew up all the plans at the same time I had a bit of a breakthrough.
Having to take this at a slow pace around work and family and life in general can be frustrating but, as it turns out, was necessary and for the best. A year later, it feels a privilege to have a personal creative reservoir I can dive into whenever I need a lift, to offload something, or express what I feel. From here, I can turn that around and give it out for others to take in any way they choose to accept it.
And what of immersive?
There’s a lot of different genres of immersive experiences, and there’s only going to be more in future. The Immersive Experiences Network currently lists ten, from theatre and escape rooms to scare attractions and role play. What I see lately is more people besides me asking, what’s next? What’s the point of the immersion? What do we as people get out of it? There are some phenomenal experiences in all genres out there and I’d love to try them all, but am slowly but surely finding my own immersive influence to focus on.
I wonder what little nugget I can take from all types of immersive experiences and what I can do with it. Wellness looks to be a popular new theme and fits my goal well. In my mind, immersive is still the most effective way to give people an accessible, enjoyable way to park their struggles to one side for a short time, so they can connect in a safe space with their inner thoughts and feelings.
Commitment is everything
Writing with every intention to finish this post, it was 358 days after I first launched this project. Another 17 days flew by before I even got to the first subheading. That’s the way life is right now, and that’s okay. I’ve developed a great resilience for holding my dreams in my head and heart like a drenched sponge, ready for the next available time I can dedicate to letting out a stream of consciousness. The key is making deliberate time and space for it to flow.
What I’ve realised more than anything is you’re the only person who can do things the way you do them. Your creative gift is a unique contribution to the world and you have to do everything you can to protect your time, but more fiercely, your energy.
My next goal, besides writing up the exhibition concept and seeking funding, is to get better at balancing my energy levels. Get that right, and there’s no dream too big to aim for.
Main image created using Midjourney