Thoughts on Scaffolding, Completed Work & The Creative Process
The first third of every project is building scaffolding. Don’t fear waste. Don’t fear redundancy. Don’t fear inefficiency. Yet.”
The balance between scaffolding and the finished product is tricky.
I recently shipped a large project (the scaffolding of which is pictured above). It’s a training course on the essentials of website design for people who who are building their own business. It’s that rare connection of “something I care a great deal about” + “something I know a great deal about.” (There’s a video from the course and more about info about it here).
Throughout the project I moved back and forth between scaffolding (notes on a card or post-it note) and polished words a few times as the structure of the thing emerged over time.
I’d create the bones and say, “yea, that’s good.”
And then I’d write it out and stumble on something that was unclear. I’d work to push through the ambiguity and realize I need to restructure the scaffolding a bit.
This back and forth is a bit harrowing. There’s waste, redundancy and inefficiency. The deadline forces this fear on you.
And as you fear the timing of the thing, you’re so hungry for symmetry, for the shape of the thing in the marble to say something more than just what it’s saying. This is what creatives are like. And it makes the normal and expected asymmetry during the creative process feel like it’s shouting my inadequacies to the world.
Acknowledge and move on. Maybe it doesn’t make any sense to you, but it’s been important for me to learn to be comfortable in this in-between state. The work is started but not finished. It is neither good nor bad. I am neither good nor bad. I am not this thing. This thing is its own thing. It is what it is. We’re currently figuring out what it is.
Being in between, dealing with this back and forth, is a natural piece of the creative process. Expect to re-structure the bones of the thing as you go. Don’t cramp up due to the timing and waste. Feel the pressure of it like the presence of someone you trust in the room (not someone who’s saying you’re a piece of shit or a pussy or inadequate).
I wouldn’t have shipped this thing if I didn’t have close to 700 people within Fizzle excitedly waiting for it. The deadline was my lifeline in this one.
Another thing I kept thinking was, “this is 1.0. We’ll learn so much through the making of it and through the feedback on it. So get the guts of it out there and make it better in time.” That made it easier to get the ink on the page and the film in the can as I went.
Here’s some other images of scaffolding from this project and others. It feels to me like the notecards and post-it notes and foolscap are all partners in these projects. The different sizes and the simple limitations of space seem to hint me towards certain directions.
(Larger versions of these sketches and more available here)