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Vox Populi: Reasons to Quit

I have a lot of trouble keeping track of what I'm supposed to be doing. It's not that I necessarily have trouble prioritizing my tasks or scheduling things - I mean I do, but that's not the main problem.

The main problem is that I've got too many things I really need (want) to do - too many long-term projects with potential - and I'm never exactly sure when they're a few weeks away from a grand payoff and when they're just wasting my time.

I suppose this is a crisis of faith.

Here's the thing: I'm creative for a living, which means I always have two or three (or 20 or 30) things going on at once, none of which are guaranteed to actually create anything, but all of which could - provided I can focus enough attention to them. You know the kind of thing I'm talking about. Finishing that screenplay. Practicing with the band. Re-editing that short story. Spending the weekend on a film shoot. Learning Photoshop. These are all things that have that point in the middle - the "desperate hour," a creative journalist friend of mine called it - when you're absolutely not sure why you're even there.

And sometimes, the sad truth is, that doubting voice is absolutely right - sometimes, this thing you're sweating over really is just wasting your time.

So here's my question:

How do you know when it's time to move on? What makes you make up your mind?

Because I really need to know.

Metatone's picture

I can't claim to have hit the big time...

so I don't know how much my advice is worth, but...

As I've gone along, I found that I just can't keep as many projects in the air as when I was younger. The context-switching seems to cost more and I also seem to take more down time than before.

Now, that might not apply to you, but it brings up a question that will: Being honest with yourself, how many projects can you keep forward progress on at one time?

My first step once I'd answered that question was to identify which ones seemed really important to me at this time and "park" some of the others. I won't claim to have got it down to the ideal number and the "parked ideas" list is always growing, but, I think a key element of just about every realistic "organisation scheme" is what I tend to call "triage."

That is, there are hard choices to be made, CDE (can't do everything) right now, so some things have to wait.

Creatively, that's really hard, we have the ability to work in many media and the internet is always reminding us how much various media interact. But if you're at the point where you're asking the question of "what to quit" then for me there's 3 sorts of filtering questions:

Am I doing this project for love or money? If it's money, is it going to pay off with a defined effort? If it's undefined, just how likely is it? Is that defined effort worth it for the money? Will this project be worth a lot less if I do it next year?

That can help you find some projects to park on the money side.

On the love side, I think you have to consider your artistic identity a little. Excellence requires some focus. If you currently have 4 kinds of projects going: Writing, singing, film making, photoshop (or still image skills) then it's worth asking yourself, which of these things group together and which group do I tend to introduce myself at parties at?

From your short bio on the site, the feeling is that writing and singing have a big part to play for you, and they go together well, being grouped around words... Maybe it's time to ask if you can "park" film-making or photoshop for a while?

After all, in the end, does "I write screenplays and my own songs, but I know photoshop too" really get you going more than "I write screenplays and my own songs."




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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