Finishing a Project is a Skill

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Just about everyone I know, myself included, has had issues finishing a project. It tends to be one of those sneaky problems most people don’t even know they are fighting. No matter how good your creative work is, or how much practice and time you’ve put in; if you can’t look at your project as a whole and say “okay, this is now done”, it is very difficult to move on and start new things.

To be clear, finishing a project isn’t the same as releasing one. This has nothing do to with putting your art out into the world for others to experience. It’s more about learning to be okay with moving on and letting things you’ve worked on go. Learning to being happy with your project existing in the world in its current state without constantly checking on and updating it.

It might sound dumb, but one of the best ways to learn how to finish projects is to just finish them. Have a solid set of goals you want to accomplish for a project and once those goals are done, take a mindful look at what you’ve done and decide if there is something more you want to add.

At this point it can be incredibly easy to say “well it would be cool if I added another song to compliment the ending!” or “oh, this <extraneous game mode> might be fun!”, but this kind of feature creep can really hinder a project.

There are plenty of examples of this, especially in game development. I’ve seen games that should have been simple spiral out of control with extra features. Not only does this create delays in production but it also often dilutes the core gameplay that the developer initially wanted to express.

When it comes to music I still have a hard time deciding when a song or an album is complete. There are always extra features I want to add, or little Easter eggs I want to hide in my songs. However, over time I’ve learned that sometimes simple and streamlined often works much better than large, complicated projects.

On the other side of this, I’ve heard from many people that they want to finish their completed project, but just are unable to make that final leap. This is likely related to a fear of what people might think or worrying that they didn’t put everything they could have into their work.

It’s a hard fear to overcome, but it is important to consider what you wanted to do with this project and whether that has been accomplished. If this is something you’re excited to share with people you care about, then you know you’re on the right track.

Alternatively, another way to overcome this fear is to make a bunch of very small projects. Learn how to finish something with a smaller set of goals. You’ll get more comfortable with it eventually.

Finishing projects is a tough subject to discuss. It’s all very personal and there is no singular solution to every facet of the problem. Like most creative problems, sometimes you need to take a step back and mindfully analyze your entire project to see what else needs to be done.

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