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On Keeping a Year-long Project Going

It was a wet and cold Spring weekend in Sydney so I had the opportunity to work on some of my neglected projects. One of those is my version of Project Life (which I've written about here).

This year, I am making a 6x9 photobook (planning to print with Blurb at the end of the year) that is very photo-heavy with a weekly recap every few pages. I'm dividing the book by season, using seasonal digital elements by Paislee Press.

I thought it would be a good time to talk a bit about setting yourself up for success when it comes to a project like this. This is my ninth year-long scrapbooking project, beginning in 2010 with a physical Project Life kit by Becky Higgins, so I've learned a lot about keeping up, letting go and making things easy on myself. A year is a long time to work on something if it is becoming a chore or too time-consuming. While I can absolutely attest that these projects are worth the trouble once completed, I also want to enjoy working on it over the year.

The last few years, I have moved away from page protectors and albums for Project Life towards photobooks, just for ease and less shelf space. So I knew I wanted to make a book this year and chose a smaller 6x9 Trade Book from Blurb (which is a bit cheaper and lower quality than a regular photobook, but I printed one last year and was happy with it).

Once I choose a size, I like to make a design plan. Something simple and very minimal. I am not even using any embellishments this year - just words + photos. Having to create a different design each time doesn't work for me for a long project, there are enough decisions in choosing photos. I make a plan for about six or seven different page designs and just repeat them over and over. For some that might not seem very creative, but for me it's the only way I can keep going. I can let my creativity out in my everyday scrapbooking which I do alongside this project.

You'll notice lots of white space in my pages - this is because I like it and also because it means I won't have problems with things getting cut off in the printing process which is an issue when making photo books. The next step is to create digital templates in Photoshop Elements (I'm planning a series of posts for digital scrapbooking beginners and will share how to do this).

It isn't until I put the first week or two of layouts together in Photoshop Elements that I know if my plan is going to work out long-term (I know myself well by now). You really need to see if your templates work with actual photos from your life.

The hardest about this years' project is the weekly recap. It's the one thing I debated about keeping - am I really going to be able to write a paragraph about our week every year? Honestly? But it is also really important to me to keep some notes to look back on so I made it work. I have made it a habit to write a quick recap of our previous week on Monday mornings when I get to work early so that really helps if I fall behind.

And I have fallen behind. A few times actually. But because I've kept my foundation simple, it's always been easy to catch back up. A few times I have spent a Saturday afternoon listening to music and getting my weeks done. I go through that week's photo's in Lightroom and choose enough to make 4-6 pages using my templates followed by the recap page (which I take from the journal I keep on my computer using Simple Note. Just looking through my photos and planner for that week would also help with that). It's not really hard and I can get a few months done in about two hours. I don't follow an exact recipe of pages - I usually start with a full page photo then do a few collage pages and a few single photo pages and that's it for the week. It all depends of the photos I have.

Now and then I print some of my pages off just to see how they will look - it's hard to not lose steam with a digital project because you have nothing to show for your years' work until you get the book printed.

I think I have honed my process to a point where I am happy with the final result as well as with the work required to make it and I guess that is the secret to getting one of these year-long projects done. I'm in the home stretch now and can't wait to get this book printed.

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