Some Smart Advice When Starting a New Project

I have thought about this advice, from designer Frank Chimero, a lot over the last year: once through, cleanly.

It’s very simple: when you are beginning a new project, create it in a format that means you can complete the idea in a single sitting.

If you are developing a screenplay, begin with a one-page treatment that lets you tell the whole story from start to finish in one single sweep.

If it’s a comic, begin with very rough thumbnail pictures that, again, get you from start to finish cleanly in a single sitting.

Once through, cleanly. It’s such an elegant way of phrasing the advice, isn’t it?

It conjures up an image of a sharp knife effortlessly cutting through a big cake, producing a perfect slice.

In a stage of the process which is so often intimidatingly messy, it doesn’t offer control, but direction.

Once through, cleanly.

Here it is, in Frank Chimero’s own words:

“You think about your idea, sketch, then put some glue in your chair and bang it out in one sitting. All of my best work happens this way: posters, collages, essays, outlines for talks, and so on. The work seems to be more cohesive and the energy more concentrated and palpable. If you sit down and what you make is bunk, you walk away, come back later and start over. You don’t keep any of what you’ve done before, you only retain the memory of what went wrong. It’s a silly method, but it works for me.”

Starting something is one thing; it’s only when you come out the other side that you can look back and learn the lessons.

Frank’s method gets you to that point faster. Give it a go!

Adam Westbrook writes The Third Something, a newsletter about creativity and visual storytelling.

Video artist working at The New York Times. I write a weekly newsletter about visual storytelling and creativity. https://adamwestbrook.substack.com/