Let’s cut to the chase. Stop beating yourself up for failing to follow a straight line between your initial idea, the development you do, and shipping the final product. Sometimes, things wind up in your creative inventory, and that works for you.

I say that because cutting myself a break for fits and starts and prolonged stops is an integral part of managing my creative energy. It works for me to work on the things that I can work on right now, even if they aren't the most immediate. That can mean they remain partially completed and part of my creative inventory for some time.

Yes, I start many development projects that never come to fruition. Or at least, they don't realize their full potential when I (or someone collaborating with me) originally worked on them. It may be weeks, months, or years later that we take something created at an earlier date and bring it to life.

Not everyone is comfortable with that approach. Some of my closest collaborators chafe at the idea of working on a project and then not using it right away. There always seems to be a reason why we have a certain piece of work in the hopper, though; it ultimately gets to where it needs to be at the right time.

An Example of Creative Inventory

Creative inventory can generate many new offshoots

One example? A branding offering we've been working on intermittently.

The first day I started work on it, I made huge progress in four hours with the guts of the branding workshop and workbook thoroughly outlined. It was 65% of the way there or maybe more. Then, it sat idle.

Now, several years later, we still haven't released it.

Yet, in the year following that initial outburst of progress, I oriented nearly every new presentation toward building out the content in a deeper fashion. That resulted in expanding the branding exercises and trying out new looks for the content. At the end of that year, I delivered a presentation on performing a brand tune-up was essentially the initial diagnostic and pitch for the offering.

Tear two, we began transferring content into exercises in our online collaboration platform. Emma Alvarez Gibson and I made huge progress in a few days early in the year at a conference in San Francisco and during a mid-year visit to LA, where she is based. Particularly in LA, we learned so much about the offering by working through specific steps AND putting our own brands through it.

Yet we still didn't release it to the market. Instead, we've been using modules of the online collaboration work with clients, testing and trying them out. We also pursued a trademark for the name, only to discover that the working name wasn't one we could legally protect. Yet, this setback led to a more obvious, broad, AND suitable name providing tremendous opportunity when we do release the new product offering.

Getting Back to Cutting Yourself a Break

Have we messed up in how we've pursued developing this branding offering?

If your only criterion is shipping something that looks like the whole offering, then, yes. If you look at shipping as breaking off pieces from your creative inventory and getting them in front of people, it's already been a tremendous success in learning and testing mode.

We said it at the start. Never beat yourself up for a crooked, seemingly oddly-stretched line from original ideas to shipping something. Not every initiative and not every person is destined to progress in a straight line. – Mike Brown

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