The First Project Trap


This is a tricky problem to deal with. Just about everyone I’ve ever talked to has run up against this in some form or another. In fact, having just started working on game development, I find myself running into it again!

When just starting out in a new creative medium (composing albums, writing novels, developing games, whatever) many people tend to have this weird mixture of shame and hopefulness. They don’t want to release the project because they know it isn’t as good as it could be, but they are also excited to bring their own creative imprint to the art.

Everyone wants to be that person who breaks into an industry with a smash hit, but the reality is that this is an incredibly rare occurrence. Most people work for months or years before even getting recognized. To put this in perspective, Rovio made fifty-one games before making Angry Birds.

A beginner’s skill level is years behind where they’ll need to be to create something with the level of detail and quality they often desire. This leads to a dangerous cycle of never being satisfied with the progress you’ve made and being reluctant to release anything publicly.

It’s understandable. You want your first creative piece to be perfect! This actually relates to The Perfection Fallacy, but it goes deeper than that. When just starting out, it can be tough to even know when a project is considered done.

Another factor of this is a rapidly improving skill level. When still learning the ropes, there are far less “plateaus” in skill that more seasoned artists encounter. When a project is nearing completion it is easy to look back and see all the obvious mistakes that were made along the way. This can create a bit of a loop where the same project is polished over and over as skill level grows.

However, my best advice in most of these situations is just finish the project and start a new one. There will always be new things to make and spending so much time re-working the same thing can be a huge time sink.

Alternatively, maybe your first project is just too ambitious. It might be a good idea to take a step back and make a handful of small, simple things before jumping into that big idea. This also will give you experience fully completing a project and moving on from it as well.

When you are an expert and releasing high quality content, nobody is going to go back to your first project and dismiss you as someone who doesn’t currently know what they are doing. If anything, it will be encouraging to new artists to see that everyone starts at the same place.

So go make things! Don’t be shy and be proud of what you’re putting out into the world. Sure, it might be cringe-worthy in 10 years, but for now everything you put out there is more experience you can use in the future.

One thought on “The First Project Trap

  1. Pingback: Your First Project | Becky Hansmeyer

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