How to Say Goodbye to a Project and Start Something Fantastic

Alright, you may be wondering what happened to the tea set.

There is one hard truth about making art: Not every project works out.

Sometimes a project breaks.  Sometimes you realize you were off track from the beginning and it isn’t going to turn into one of those happy mistakes.  Sometimes forces conspire to sap your enthusiasm and it is not close enough to the end to tell yourself the upswing is just a few hammer-strokes away.

It doesn’t happen often for me.  But it did with the latest tea set.  It didn’t break.  But it wasn’t working out how I wanted and it wasn’t turning into an opportunity.  Not only that, there were a few mistakes I really wanted to redo.  But I no longer had enough motivation to start the tea set over right away.  It was time to say goodbye.

I have found this to be the best way to say goodbye to a project:

IMG_1917

1. Stop and take a breather.

This might seem like an obvious step, but it is hard!  I don’t like giving up on ideas.  Usually I prefer to suffer and push through the setbacks and malaise of an ailing project.  I tried that with the tea set for a few weeks.  Then I took a week off over spring break.  I didn’t even look at it.  This was the best choice I could have made.

It allowed me to get some perspective and realize I wasn’t having the fun I should be having making art. I’ve never been one to create out of a sense of angst.  I make stuff because I (generally) love every moment of it.  The difficult times and obstacles at least provide a sense of challenge that invigorates me.  The tea set was fulfilling none of these aspects anymore.

IMG_1944

2.  Take the fork in the path that feels right.

Once I realized I wasn’t enjoying the project anymore, I was faced with a difficult choice.  Do I keep working on it, throw it out, or set it aside?

I learned a lot by just starting the tea set.  I practiced forging, had my first attempt at beveling edges to make a stronger seam and generally got a better feel for moving metal into the desired shape.  Learning is always the best goal.

Since I was still in love with the original idea, I was leaning towards tabling the it for awhile and coming back fresh, maybe starting it over from the beginning, taking the mistakes I had made into account and doing a better job the next time.

But then what would I do?  I needed something to fill the void the tea set would leave.

Fearless Window design - closed

3. Get excited about a fantastic new idea

During the week off, I came up with a new idea.  And I fell in love all over again.

This is probably the most important step.  You cannot get dragged down when a project does not go how you wanted.  It happens.  The more you make, the more it will happen.  It’s cool.  It’s part of learning.  Mope around for a bit if you need to.  But then get back to the drawing table and come up with something new.  Dive into it like you’ve never known failure.  Because you haven’t.  Failure is what happens when you don’t learn something from your mistakes.  Everything else is part of living.

Here’s the inside of fantastic new idea (The outside is shown above.  That’s right, it has doors that open up!):

Fearless Window design - open

But more about that next time!  Have you ever had a project that just didn’t work out?  How do you escape the rut and move on to something new and exciting?

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2 thoughts on “How to Say Goodbye to a Project and Start Something Fantastic

  1. My first novel has truly failed my attempts to revive it. So I have placed it in my drawer where I can’t see it, and I destroyed the other drafts. I have named my second novel my official “first novel,” because letting the true first novel die taught me how to approach writing a novel.

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