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Over the last few months, a past project has stayed in my mind. It haunts me – could I reboot it? Transform it? Restart it? I find myself re-envisioning how to redo the project, or change it into something else, yet nothing gets done.
I’m sure that you, my fellow creative, have similar haunts. You have projects long dead, on their way there, or buried hastily in a shallow grave. Yet their ghosts are still around, wandering among your thoughts and distracting you from current, living efforts.
I’ve had to confront my current ghost and decide, “you have to rest. The rest of your descendants may pick up the torch.” It was quite liberating, if saddening.
We can’t burn time and energy on endlessly mourning dead projects or battling their remnants in our heads. That’s time and energy that we can use to do other stuff. You can’t ignore the living and focus on the dead.
So let me take this morbid metaphor of dead projects as ghosts and suggest some ways we can deal with them from my own experience.
Put Them To Rest: It’s time to let them go; decide you don’t have time for this. Mourn, acknowledge them, and move on. You can even keep a Necropolis of undone projects, you know . . . just in case. Plus, “interring them” may remove any guilt or fear of losing ideas.
Exorcism: Maybe you need to get something out of your head forcefully. Focus on another project, and store your notes elsewhere (or behind a password).
Resurrection: Sometimes, being haunted means it’s time to return to the project. That’s fine – just do it as part of your planning, be honest about the challenges, and accept you maybe never should have killed the project. Live and learn.
Reincarnation: Reuse the project, but don’t revive it. Do something else in the setting, transplant your ideas elsewhere, etc. Don’t revive the project – help it find a new and hopefully better life.
Frankenstein: It’s fine to take parts of dead projects and make something new. An incredible amount of creative efforts are like this.
We can’t stay haunted forever.
I would add that as you bury or resurrect back projects, ask yourself why it was hard to get to that choice. Some self-examination will help you understand your limits, help you grow – and maybe keep you from obsessing over dead projects as much.
Spend your time with the living.