When overwhelmed by unfinished ideas…

Maybe you’ve worked for hours and it’s still not complete. You have no juice left. You’re impatient and overwhelmed.

Maybe you feel suffocated by the weight of your unfinished ideas. Or drown in the distance between idealized vision and reality.

~

I crashed like that after my creative writing storm several weeks ago.

Clearly it was time to give those rough drafts space to breathe and focus on other things. A half-finished rough draft can feel as raw as a fresh wound. Especially when coming down from a creative high. Picking at the tenderness by constantly revisiting the drafts isn’t helpful.

I recognized that I needed to stop and rest. As the creative inspiration faded, I tried to hold onto the good feelings and eke out just a little more juice. Despair and depletion, spinning in mental energy without making forward progress on projects—it was time for a break.

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The break helped me see I’d lost sight of the progress I’d made. It’s hard to talk about things when they are unformed and developing. How do you describe a baby before it’s born? You know it exists. But you don’t know how it will act or how it will look. You may be excited and uncertain. There’s a tender protectiveness knowing it may not survive or be all that you want it to be.

That’s how I felt about my drafts. Excited and uncertain. Not wanting to name my works before I really knew who they were.

~

There’s a few things that helped me tip the scales back into excitement from uncertainty. And find perspective.

Feelings aren’t always the truth. If you feel despair—saying to yourself “you won’t complete this, you’re just a dreamer and perfectionist”—question it.

You may have forgotten the progress you’ve already made. So check your hard drive, check your folders, check your journal, and remember.

It’s helpful to make lists:

  • What you’ve done already. (Projects, ideas, pieces that are in the final stages.)
  • What’s nearly done. (A midway draft you’ve put significant time, effort, or energy into.)
  • What you’ve begun. (Pieces worked on moderately.)
  • What feels like an exciting idea, but will take a few steps before progress can be made. (The list is a great place for ideas that may not happen for 5 years.)

Remember times when you DID successfully accomplish completion. Notice the good-feeling qualities they contain.

It seems like trite advice, but sometimes I have to ask myself, am I having fun? Or am I doing this because I think I should? That feeling of expansive open excitement can be the best indicator of which idea to continue dreaming on.

Being in the darkness is part of the journey. Along with the highs come the lows.

When you’re in the depths, remember: Progress isn’t always in the mirror. Or linear.

I’m curious how you honor the stages of your creative cycle. Let me know.

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