The weight and burden of things left undone

Things eat away at us. Most of us, those with a conscience, anyway. Things we have started and not finished.

I know this is true of me. If I start a project, it could be a book, a film – anything, I usually have it nagging at me until it’s finished. This is good for self-motivation, but sometimes it gets to be a real burden with projects that take years to finish.

I heard a theory a while back, and I don’t recall from who, that having unfinished projects takes up psychic space and thoughts in your brain. It’s always there, prodding you to get back to it, keeping you thinking of ways to complete it, or to avoid it. This causes a subtle level of stress that adds to your total stress load. I think this theory has merit and I’ve experienced it for myself. When the project is finished, the theory states, then that previously reserved mind-space is then liberated, stress is relieved and some euphoria is experienced.

This happened to me recently. I finished my first novel, Brainjob, something I’ve been writing on and off for several years. It just never got finished to where I was happy with it and could put it out into the world. Part of the problem was that I had trouble finding a publisher, and part of the problem was that I just got occupied with writing other things, with making films and videos, and other things in my life. Some of those other projects I started in the interim were long-term projects too, so the cycle continued.

So, the novel was taking up a part of my mind-space for years. I would think about it, turning over story possibilities, what I should cut out of it, or edit. Questions of self-epublishing arose and I looked into that. It took a lot of time, much more time than I thought it would. But, when it was finally finished to the point where I felt it was “done” and ready to share, I felt a weight lift off of me!

It was as if all of those thought cycles that had been trapped in the loop of getting the novel for done for the last few years were suddenly freed! I felt a wave of elation, and I couldn’t quite actually believe it for a while that I had finished the book. I kept telling myself it was done, and it felt very good to realized that fact. I could now call myself a novelist, if I liked! It was getting fun to be a writer again!

Then, the facts began to spoil my party that I was not done with the book yet. There was much work to do and it was likely not to end for some time to come, if ever, as I would be dealing with the book in some form for the rest of my life. I had gone through this post-creation let down before with short film and video projects, but my novel Brainjob was my most challenging and longest-running project to date. Still, the book had to be proofed, formatted, a cover made, an audio book to record, marketing and promotion to be done. It’s a great time to be writer, this is true, but it’s also a time when a writer must do a lot more than just write. Often, a writer spends more time on other tasks related to writing than actually writing. I’m hoping this will change for me as I become more familiar, and faster, with the process of publishing and I think it will. I’ve already gotten the hang of epublishing quite well and am now helping other writers to do it.

It took a change of perspective to change the negative feelings of not ever being free from a project, to ones of joyful creation, being thankful to be able to work on my dreams. There is that saying that “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” and I do think it’s true. When you follow your passions in life, your bliss as Joseph Campbell said, you become a surfer on the waves of life, riding the ups and downs towards your goals. I think it’s a much better way to be.

I came across a video today by Stephanie Shanti where she talked about a lot of the feelings I’ve been experiencing, after she finished her course of going to school for many years. It got me thinking and inspired this blog post: