Everyone who has submitted an essay, written a presentation, or undertaken any creative act is familiar with the feeling of failure that can come after it has left our control: a feeling of having missed out a key point, used graceless language, or forged dross. With many people having just attempted the project of writing 50,000 words in a month this feeling will be more prevalent than ever at the moment.
Sometimes–more nearly like every time–after finishing a project, I hate it. – Sarah Peck
If we are lucky we do not need to return to the project so the harsh feelings can fade into memory. However more often we do have to return: whether it is maintaining software or finishing a novel. If we are truly unlucky our inner critic turns dislike of one project into dislike of any similar project, impeding or halting our progress. We must find a way to overcome the after-glower.
Chuck Wendig believes a key to making our attempts have value is to keep going. We can embrace this theory: push through the feelings and keep doing it. This is certainly the path that many people take at work. However, it is harder with personal projects where the only penalty for not getting back on the unicorn is a feeling of failure. It also risks diminishing the achievement of the project by treating the end as a point of continuation.
An alternative is to accept in advance that we will feel this way after a project and budget time to feel that way. By setting aside time to loathe our work and everything it stands for we prime our unconscious to stop disliking the work once that time is over. We could even take the renunciation a step further by not only setting aside time to dislike a project but avoiding similar projects for that time. Often we will have moments when we remember how good it was to work on the project; if there is similar task we are undertaking there is no outlet for our desire to feel that again. At the end we find ourselves unable to not return to similar work.
By choosing to apply the ideas that our works are flawed and the job we are not doing is better than the one we are in a controlled fashion we can turn them from impediments to route markers.
Do you struggle with dislike of finished projects? How do you overcome it?
Project Hangovers and Self-Criticism (Sarah Peck)