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July 16, 2010

What's the difference between completing a project and adding it to a pile of other unfinished projects?

The point at which you give up on yourself.

Many times over the years I've found myself in the middle of the creative process muttering "Why in the heck am I doing this? No one's going to care! This is utter futility!" I've been tempted to rip up my notes and sketches and forget the whole thing (and actually did this a LOT when I was younger).

These days I still throw out many, many more ideas than I use, but this isn't done out of frustration or discouragement. I know now that this is just a part of the process, and no longer berate myself for having so many "unusable" ideas.

Ease and spontaneity aren't the only markers of being on the right track. Sometimes doing what you love involves a lot of starts and stops and do-overs.

So why do we want to give up on ourselves?
Most of the time the cause of wanting to give up is just brain fatigue. Nothing deeper than that. Your brain is just saying, in any language you'll listen to, that it wants a rest. You've overexerted the muscle and now it's complaining. Try not to layer this simple fatigue with cultural biases or personal critique.

There are indeed some projects that take years to come together, needing long "rests" in between bouts of work. And then there are piles of unfinished projects languishing because you gave up on yourself too soon. Why not take one unfinished project--small, not intimidating--and just bring it to completion?

Are you sure you want to give up on yourself?