I have this Alice in Wonderland trick I play with creative projects. Do you remember how she would encounter things that said "eat me" and "drink me" that would make her grow exceedingly big or surprisingly small?
For me, this elasticity of size is an important part of getting the work done.
Here's how it works:
To begin something new, particularly something that is either a bit daunting or so close to my heart that I nearly don't dare (or both), I have to imagine it as very small. Inconsequential and meaningless.
I speak diminutively about the work.
Everything becomes "this funny little project I'm working on", where we both understand that by funny, I mean crazy.
In other moments, I need the project to grow back to something large in my mind. This happens in times of frustration or weariness, when I'm in danger of throwing up my hands and walking away. Grown large, it's easier to believe things like:
- this work matters,
- it is meant to be made, and
- someone will be glad you did.
I also need to grow the project large near its completion, to help me believe it is worthy of sharing. And not just in a slipping it out the mail slot way, but in a shouting from the roof-tops kind of way. This, for the record, is far more difficult than the making of the thing itself.
With this project, I'd only ever planned to make a 10-minute short film. I never would have dreamed of doing anything larger for my first film project.
It's wasn't until I'd stitched all the pieces together and typed up the screenplay that I counted the pages and realized I'd accidentally made close to an hour-long film.
Looking at the length of the project and the five month coast to coast tour that followed (and international screenings, too), I can see that Indie Kindred became something beyond anything I ever would have said yes to or had the courage to start.
I had enough courage for a 10-minute, funny little film project and not one ounce more.
The drawback of the Big and Small Game is that by the end you can bounce back and forth between "it's really something" and "it's really nothing" until you've lost all bearings with the truth.
But this is what I know right now: its size does not exist as a static, measurable quality. This project is a gift. After its offering, it is up to its recipients to receive it or not, to cherish it or critique it, and those responses are not my responsibility.
We are all asked to make what we do in blind faith that it will be worth it or matter, that we will be glad we did or that someone else will be. I think now this keeps our ego in check--to be of service to the work or to the world is not about growing large and puffed up in baths of recognition. It's about being willing to be small, to fail and to fall. It's about knowing that size is elastic and elusive and while it may get us through the job, it's about knowing better than to try and measure the work we do, the difference it makes or our worth in the world. Big or small, Alice was always Alice.
And so are we.