Starting a Personal Project

Sometimes it just happens that you stumble across a project. An idea where you have the time and access to make it happen. It takes some effort and commitment but it works out. I was fortunate enough to stumble on a project early on in the pandemic that worked out.


I’ve struggled too though this year. What’s important, or what story could I tell best, or what’s going on locally that hasn’t been discussed yet? It’s easy to want to put a project together, but not so easy to plan a project that will be interesting, available and how you can bring a unique perspective. How to find a story that hasn’t already been told.


I currently have a few ideas, some vague, some very vague, some not quite reaching the ‘very vague’ stage yet. Staring at a few written thoughts in my Notes app wasn’t helping. So I decided to formalize them more. On paper, away from screens. Too much of my good thinking time is taken up by distractions on my phone or iPad. Just write out the ideas but then ask myself a few questions about each one and see where that leads.


I decided to try adopting some principles from authors and film writers. From some of the best stories.


What’s the genre?

What’s the concept?

Who’s the hero?

What’s their journey?

What’s the start, middle and end?

What’s the inciting incident that starts the story?


(Mostly taken from Steven Pressfield’s excellent book, ‘Nobody wants to read you sh*t’).


Maybe not all of the questions fit any project, but I think they’re helpful to consider. Some answers I know might not be obvious until I’m well into the project.


I don’t know yet how much the questions will guide my project ideas, but I do know that just writing out the ideas on paper has shown me what I need to do next to move forward. We always want to know how to get to the end, but we always only need to take the next step. A cliché I guess, but true.



An image from a recent project, about the 7pm ritual of thanking essential workers through the pandemic

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Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City

alastair.arthur@gmail.com

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