WHAT?! is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column for the Creative and Perplexed. In which I answer burning questions about the creative process and what might be holding up that brain of yours. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Drooly Dog: I have been working on a project, that I love, for a very long time. Maybe too long. It’s been with me for what seems like forever. And I have put so much of myself into it, I feel that abandoning it now would be a complete waste.
I’m losing faith – in the project, and in myself. What if I have thrown away all my time on something that just isn’t worth doing? It feels like a huge investment that I’ve made for nothing. Should I have spent the time and energy on something else? I don’t know! How do I salvage some part of this?
– Sincerely, Losing My Mojo
There could be a number of things going on here so try these on and see what grabs you.
1.) Often when a project doesn’t seem to want to get finished, it’s because there’s a realization that finishing or publishing or performing or submitting is a level of exposure that maybe you didn’t anticipate. When my first novel came out (oh heck, when I first submitted it) I felt very, very exposed. Once and for all, people could sit in judgment of whether I could write worth a pile of sloth poop. That’s no small thing, and it is a major inflection point in a creative endeavor. Have you played that out in your mind? Does it make you want to go hide? Really examine this.
2.) It’s possible after all this time you’ve lost sight of why you started in the first place. What was it like the first day you worked on this thing? What was in your mind? What was your life like? Did you start it in response to something that isn’t going on any more? Did it come out of a period of tinkering around? Can you update your sense of purpose around the project? Maybe it needs a present-day infusion. There certainly is enough insane stuff going on to react to. Maybe take a look and bring in a whole new set of material.
3.) If this has been part of your life for a long time, maybe you’re not sure what to do without it. The obvious answer here is, start something new. But if you’re enjoying the process, hey, that’s not terrible. I know someone who has worked on a “book” doing “research” for literally decades. It’s clear this is his safe area where he can go think. That’s fine, too.
Would completing and putting this thing into the world make someone’s life better? Would it fling a bit of cosmic fabulous-ness out into the universe? Would it give you an excuse to have a party with people you don’t see much? Would it affect your sense of identity? In what way?
Play out all the scenarios in your head, and let this project fit your life as it is now. There are reasons you started it, and reasons you’re still keeping it around. But you, as creator, get to update, edit, repurpose, and smoosh around your work any way you see fit. Break it into a series. Steal from yourself. Use it to raise funds for a cause. But most of all, peer in at what seems to have gone static, and play around with breaking that party up. And who knows, you might just be ready to unleash something.
Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.
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