How I Plan a Creative Project + Bamboo Spark Review

I’m a nut when it comes to creative projects. From launching an Esty shop to writing an eBook to creating a Facebook community, print book, and brand new website, I’m always working on something (if not eight things, all at once). I know that I share this with many college students, as well as with creatives in all stages of life; so for those of you who are curious about how I come up with my ideas and how I make them successful, today I’m sharing how I plan a creative project, and how I use the Bamboo Spark by Wacom in my process.

1. Brainstorming

Think of your creative idea like a romantic partner. Succeeding with your project is like a successful marriage; you want it to be loving (you should love working on your project), fulfilling (the project should help you feel satisfied and actualized), and stable (the project should have long-term feasibility). Brainstorming for your project is like falling in love: maybe sparks are flying, your mind is racing, and you can’t keep up with your thoughts, or maybe it’s a slow and careful process. Creativity (and love) strike each person differently.

For me, brainstorming is that crazy, frantic romance. As a result, my notebooks (and napkins) are often overflowing with content plans, brain maps, and book outlines, and there’s no rhyme or reason to how I keep them. My college life may be organized, but my creative life has always been wild and messy, until I recently tried Bamboo Spark by Wacom.

How I plan creative projects, step-by-step, using Bamboo Spark! - Sara Laughed

My Bamboo Spark! Decorated using stickers from Me and My Big Ideas for a personal touch.

Wacom was kind enough to send me their product to review, and I’ve been loving it. It’s essentially a smart folio that allows you to take notes on paper and then transfer them to your phone, tablet, or device with one click. This is super useful for me, because I have always used pen and paper to brainstorm, but tend to organize my information digitally with emails and computer folders.

Now I find it much easier to save and reflect back on my idea maps and brainstorming pages. Those pages are the foundation for planning a creative project for me. Here’s how I make them.

How I plan creative projects, step-by-step, using Bamboo Spark! - Sara Laughed

My Bamboo Spark with the cover flipped back.

a. Finding the creative spark and choosing your big idea

Usually, there’s something that gets my mind going when it comes to making an idea. Maybe it’s a word, phrase, or quote; maybe it’s a half-baked idea like “eBook about improving GPA.” Whatever that spark is, I write it down in the center of my page and circle it. If you need an idea but can’t find your spark, think about the kind of product or content you’d like to be creating. Who is it helping? What is it saying or teaching? Which other products is it most like? Write down those words in the center of your page and circle them.

How I plan creative projects, step-by-step, using Bamboo Spark! - Sara Laughed

b. Aspects of the idea

Next, I break down my idea into sections or types. Let’s say that, for the purposes of this example, I’m planning on launching a new e-store for my latest project, Seasons Illustrated. My “offshoots” of that idea will be the things that I’m putting in the store. Here’s the idea map that I made using my Spark.

How I plan creative projects, step-by-step, using Bamboo Spark! - Sara Laughed

c. Subsets of the offshoots

You may have noticed bulleted items under some of the items in my e-store idea. Those are subsets of that idea; for example, different kinds of tee shirts, prints, or canvas bags that I could offer. Whatever your offshoots, break them down into smaller parts until you feel satisfied with the amount of ideas you have.

How I plan creative projects, step-by-step, using Bamboo Spark! - Sara Laughed

Now it’s time to turn all this creative energy into a goal!

2. Goal setting

So you met your idea, you fell in love, and now it’s time to make it official. Have a DTR (define-the-relationship) with your idea. Where is this going?

You need a end-goal for your idea. This will keep you motivated during the rough patches, and will help you set up a plan later on. Think of where you want this to go. Do you want to turn your Etsy shop into a career? Make your eBook into a series? Start making your own paintings, and eventually open up a gallery? Find your big goal and write it down somewhere on your brainstorming paper. Underline it, circle it, and surround it in hearts and stars for all I care. The point is, commit to it.

3. Project planning

A goal without a plan is just a wish. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If brainstorming is falling in love and goal setting is making it official, then project planning is getting serious: moving in, getting hitched, and setting up a future for you and your idea. You start talking about your hopes and dreams (by defining what success means for your project), making concrete plans together (by making outlines of what you’ll do and when you’ll do it), and meeting the parents (by, well, telling anyone and everyone you know about how super-cool your new idea is). Here’s how I do it.

a. Breaking down your idea into steps

First, I choose two or three offshoots from my big idea. More than that, and I’m likely to get overwhelmed and swamped. I write down a headline, like “Canvas Totes for Seasons Illustrated E-store” at the top, and underline it. Then, I break it down into as many small steps as I can.

How I plan creative projects, step-by-step, using Bamboo Spark! - Sara Laughed

After breaking down my idea into manageable steps (for example: research canvas bag makers; chose a screen printer; consult with a designer; draft the design; perfect the design; send to printer, etc), I write down two important sentences at the bottom of my sheet. The first is my big why.

b. Finding your big why

Your “big why” is the major reason you want to accomplish this step. For my canvas tote bags, it may be to design something beautiful, to get my feet wet with product creation, or to increase my income. For you, it can be any of a host of things, so try to dig deep and find the reason that this really matters to you. Write it down; having it there will help keep you accountable later.

c. Defining your success

This is an idea that I came across in Lisa Jacobs’ Your Best Year planner. In order to be successful, you need to know what success means to you. For each project you do, have an idea of what success will look like. A 3.7 GPA? 100 sales in your Esty store? 3 paintings finished? Whatever it is, write it down at the bottom of your sheet.

d. Setting a deadline

Time to “save the date” by making a deadline. Figure out how long each of your steps will take you, add a few days here and there for breathing room, and give yourself a deadline for when you’d like to achieve your success.

How I plan creative projects, step-by-step, using Bamboo Spark! - Sara Laughed

There you have it! You’re on the track to success with your idea, and all you have to do now is follow through — you know, the hard part. While all the previous steps could be done with a notepad, I find that using the Bamboo Spark for the next stages of my process makes following through with my goals much easier.

Because I can download the idea onto my phone and laptop over Bluetooth, and edit it using the Bamboo Spark app (which is available for both IOS and Android), I won’t lose my brainstorming, goal setting, or planning pages, and I can easily access them digitally while I’m working to stay focused and on-track.

I also love that the Bamboo Spark is the right size to fit in my purse, which means that I can easily take it with me on the train or subway, on the way to class, or on a walk to my favorite café. It’s light and easy to transport, so I’m no longer stuck writing ideas on the backs of old receipts or napkins. My creative process is the same, but Bamboo Spark enhances it by making my notes more accessible, transportable, and easy to organize. I’ve loved using it for creative projects, and I can’t wait to use it for note-taking and schoolwork once the new semester starts!

How do you plan a creative project? Is your process anything like mine? Let me know in the comments!

This post is sponsored by Wacom and Her Campus Media. I received the product free of charge. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Sara Laughed possible!

Sara Laughed

I'm Sara, a writer, programmer, and American in the Netherlands. This blog is about my life, discoveries, and mistakes. Follow along, and thank you for stopping by!

  1. My process is really similar to yours! Adding a little extra time for breathing room/letting life happen is so key. I’m prone to getting frustrated by being behind schedule, so it’s good to create a schedule that has a little bit of flexibility to it.

    Alexandra Adams | X-Height-Ment

  2. Jenny says:

    Wow, this sounds really awesome!
    Planning ideas can be really daunting sometimes but I love how the Bamboo Spark makes things that much easier.

    xoxo, Jenny

  3. Cristina on Campus says:

    I love Me and My Big Ideas products so that Bamboo Spark is the coolest thing! I think brainstorming is really important on a creative project – giving yourself time to play around with ideas is key.


  4. Amanda Cross says:

    I love all of these tips. My brainstorming is a little bit of everywhere too. Lately I have been using my iPad because I can handwrite things in the notes section and have digital copies. This seems like a fun way to handwrite things (without using the tip of my finger like I do on my iPad) always looking for fun ways to brainstorm!

  5. What a GREAT post! Next time I’m planning something big, I’m definitely going to look back at this to get started! The Spark looks awesome as well!

    Ally | preppylittlelesbian.blogspot.com

  6. Thanks for sharing your process! As a fellow creative, I’m always curious to see others’ workflows. Defining your success is such an important part of any project! I do quite a bit of branding consulting, and my clients are always a bit surprised by that question. The answer may seem obvious at first, but you’ll be surprised how difficult it may be once you force yourself to narrow down what you want the outcome to be.

    XO, Oksana | FOXYOXIE.com

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