The promises we make to ourselves can keep us stuck and keep us from living the life we want.
Here is one of those promises: “I can’t start any new projects until I get an unfinished project that has been hanging over my head, done. Until I get it done, I have to push away my creative ambitions and I have to feel miserable.”
Unfinished projects and our promises around them tend to crush creatives with more weight than they can handle. The weight is heavy with all sorts of core emotional experiences, and none are too pleasant.
The weight comes from several sources:
- guilt from not following through on a promise made (i.e., to an editor)
- fear of future inability to complete projects
overwhelmwhen we start thinking about finishing the project. Where would we start? Where did we leave off? “How was I doing that again? What were my techniques? Where are my working materials? Will I be able to make sense of them after this long break?”
- overwhelm that comes from recognizing our skills have become rusty. We pull away from the thought of how much work it will take to redevelop these skills.
- self-punishing brought on by assuming that the only reason this project is not done is because of a lack of self-discipline. “Yeah, that must have been the reason, the only reason. I’m a bad, weak person. I fine creative I will be.” The truth is, we are extremely unlikely to remember the full reasons why we stopped the project. We can stop working on a project for many reasons and many of them are rational.
It could be that external events had changed our life situation more than we realized and simply could not juggle everything. Many times we are not aware of how much we are getting ourselves into and we unwittingly overcommit.
Start with an old project or start fre
We underestimate how hard it is pick up a cold old project. We think it has to be easier than starting with nothing but I don’t think so. Cold projects lack the warmth that comes from us having close connections with them and from the heat of daily work. We spend a lot of time poking around trying to recover what we saw in this project and it is anything but easy to find. We recognize the project and our work, but our view is hazy so everything looks odd. So odd we can find ourselves disoriented. Starting with a fresh project
We should approach old projects carefully and when we are good shape in terms of energy, skills, confidence, and knowledge. But if we have been stuck for a while, we have those resources only in short supply. If you want to get creative again, don’t start with an old project. The work is just too tough. Start with something small and something fresh. Later, when you are ready, you can go back and tackle the old project. Or not.
Get Going, Now!
Our future will wait only so long. We have so much to learn, so many experiments to conduct, so much practice, so much work ahead, we can’t be delayed any longer by the ghost of an unfinished project.
We need to be to be working, learning, and experimenting. Give yourself a break and pick one of the options below to get this ghost and weight off your back.
Take Control. Consciously put off the project
You do this by putting the project away, out of your mind, until a future calendar date you picked for yourself. Keep it in a tight mental compartment and you keep working, learning, creating. On the selected date, take it out of the compartment and reexamine where you are and our options for working on the project. Start the project, delay it, or try one of the other options. Notice that you do have options and you are not trapped, crushed, or haunted by your project.
Dump, delegate, or collaborate
All three of these options mean you must release the project from your grasp. Dumping, of course, means total release. Delegation and collaboration mean you retain some control. I realize all these options are not easy to even consider but the time has come for you to take some dramatic action to break free.
Pick an option and get it done. Break free of the old chains today. Be a Houdini!