Inspiration is a fickle friend. When you’ve been abandoned by your muse, you start to remember those good old days when you could work furiously on a project for hours, not noticing that it was already three in the morning.
But as passionately as that project might have started out, there wasn’t a very tidy or happy ending—or any ending whatsoever. And by now, you probably have a collection of old, unfinished works shoved away somewhere because you couldn’t bear to throw them away. It would have been like throwing out a piece of yourself. And now those pieces sit and wait for your attention, or at least for some closure.
Now is as good a time as any to time to dust off those old projects you’ve forgotten about or firmly tried to ignore because you didn’t know what to say, how to move ahead. Take a fresh look, breathe some new life into your old ideas. Maybe you’ll finally finish a project, maybe you can rework or transform your idea from a new perspective.
Ready to take care of some unfinished business? Here are some ways to take control of those loose ends from your creative past:
Seize the moment
Finally, it’s happening again. You’re inspired! Perhaps you made it to an incredible summer music festival and discovered a slew of new bands that you’ve become obsessed with. Or maybe you finally watched that movie your friend has been recommending for a couple years and it’s blown your mind. Or maybe you made a New Year’s resolution to finally, really, seriously follow through with your projects. Whatever it was that’s got you all riled up, make sure to use this magical moment wisely. It’s the perfect the time to dig out that old project and see if you can apply your new found inspiration to move ahead in a different direction or start over again with a second draft.
Get a second opinion
You probably got little to no feedback on your project before you shoved it far away and labeled it as hopeless. One surefire way to jump start a lifeless project is to get someone else’s perspective on it. After listening to your track for the hundredth time, it’s impossible to get any objective distance from it—but that’s just what you need. So dust it off and show it to a friend whose opinion you trust, your mentor, your accountability buddy, your critique group or a peer at your co-working space. I recently found myself a very cool accountability buddy (via a writers group on Facebook), and it’s almost magical how well this system works. And if a second opinion doesn’t do anything for you, get a third opinion, and a fourth. Share your work with as many people as you can until you get what you need to move forward. Whatever you do, don’t keep your idea to yourself—someone else may see a goldmine where you only see a deep, dark abyss.
Time heals all
That includes the gap between what you dreamed that your project would become and what it actually turned into. As you continue to work on your art, learn new skills and refine old ones, you are evolving as a creative professional. Your progress allows you to become a more confident and experienced artist, meaning that you’ve (hopefully) learned from your mistakes. It could be that you put aside your project for a night or for a week and it all suddenly makes sense. Or it could be a few months or years before you’re ready to attack this project with a more critical and professional eye. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but wait. But in the meantime, while that idea is simmering in the back of your mind, it’s important to keep going with other work, and when the time comes to return to that old idea, you’ll be much more prepared to take it on.
Trash or treasure?
If all else fails, it’s time to let go. Not everything has to be finished. Some ideas are just a stepping stone on the way to an eventual masterpiece. But don’t be in a rush to trash your work—first take a careful look and see if you can recycle or reuse any parts of your project. Again, this is a process where a second opinion can help you sort through and salvage the strongest pieces of your work, which could grow into entirely new projects.