43 Folders

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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.

frank@frankschmitt.org's picture


I find having a healthy and uncritical someday/maybe list helps. For me it's sometimes a borderline "probably never" list, but at least once a project is listed there it's not constantly on my mind. It also gets me past the initial high of having come up with an idea and lets me examine it in the harsh light of day a week later.

On a deeper level, I'm slowly growing out of my tendency to pursue things that I'd like to like, but don't necessarily actually like. Paul Graham talks about this a bit in his How to do what you love essay. Basically if I find myself halfway through something wondering how long it'll be till it's over, it's a good sign that maybe it's something I shouldn't be doing.

Finally an oddball outlet I have is halfbakery.com. I have a lot of what seem like semi-decent ideas that I'll never realistically have the time and/or resources to pursue. If I post them there, I can at least claim bragging rights when someone else gets rich off the idea.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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