Overcoming Guilt when Leaving Projects Unfinished

Unfinished works as a learning tool
Studies of the Artist's Left Hand - Meg Konovska Art and Design


How many of you, creatives, tend to start on a bunch of different projects and never seem to finish them?

Say “AYE!” and raise your hands!

*Me looks around the room and sees a forest of hands, mine included*

OK, just as I expected!


How many of you have heard the popular personal development depiction of unfinished projects as a sign of fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection and self-sabotage? How many of you have this sense of guilt creeping in when they look back at all the unfinished ideas left behind?

I know… me too.


The Inner conflict

Now, what if I told you I have always been like this? You know, starting with enthusiasm a number of projects, often simultaneously, working on them for a while and then dropping them? And I had always embraced it as a personality trait, without being bothered, merrily jumping on the next thing to explore… until I learned about this stigma.


This is when anxiety appeared. This is when I started questioning my abilities, my potential for success and my perception in general. You know, why should I keep on doing something which turned out to be slightly different from what I expected, or my priorities changed? And yet — those experts were all unanimous successful people bring projects to completion and never give up


Not that I stopped experimenting — not at all! I just got this increasing sense of frustration and self-blame every time I abandoned a project. And it dramatically lowered my self-confidence, while the stress levels went up!


A Twist of Prospectives

You see, everything starts from the head — the upper one ;)

We cannot control reality itself, but we can cultivate our response to reality.

So… What if we chose a slightly different prospective?


Learning Mechanisms

Quick sketches as a learning tool
A Drawing of an Elf - Meg Konovska Art and Design

What if we viewed any “unfinished business” as a learning tool? Just like a quick sketch in art school.


The purpose of sketching is learning how to lay the foundations to a solid drawing, which can then grow into a painting or a graphic. Nevertheless, each of the stages has its own beauty and fascination.


I may produce a number of sketches before I decide to dig deeper and invest more effort in the next stage. Or I may even decide that I don’t care about next stages but I prefer sketching. I might even become such a damn good sketcher that I can teach others how to sketch effectively! But I won’t be able to find out unless I tried.


Thus, unfinished works translate as a learning tool, a method of exploration, a road to self-discovery, a means of testing new opportunities. They are just like prototypes. Not only are they natural but they are the absolute necessity in any creative endeavour.



unfinished works are a learning tool and a road to self-discovery

Perfectionism = “Unfinished” Work

And now, let me take this even further.

What if the various types of fear mentioned in personal development apply to perfectionism, the state when nothing seems “good enough” to release it to the outer world? And “not completing” a piece becomes more of a subjective opinion? Remember that Leonardo never thought of Mona Lisa as a finished piece but he kept on changing it throughout the years! And yet, today it is considered one of the finest paintings — and it’s probably even THE most famous painting in the whole world!


Good enough!

Knowing when to stop is another crucial skill of a successful creative. Realizing that it can always be better and leaving it just the way it is — because it is the best what you can do at this stage.

Not that there is no room for improvement! Of course there is! But — hey, what are editors, consultants and creative teams for? ;)


And you know what the best part is? Creatives know best.

So relax and go grab these new projects you were wondering about! You don’t need to bring them all to completion anyway ;)


Have your say!

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And now, tell me, seriously, just how cool is that?

  • Just so cool
  • Pretty cool
  • Beautiful cool
  • Gorgeous cool
  • MEGA cool

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