I always think that the end of a project will be the best part.
As I write, plan, film, or perform, I think about what finishing the project will feel like. I fantasize about happy tears, sighs of relief, and hours of free time resurfacing. I’ll have more time to read when this is over. I’ll have time to pay attention to my boyfriend. I’ll feel so accomplished and unbearably satisfied. I’ll go out for drinks with my friends, buy a fancy cocktail, and toast “me”!
If I can brag for a moment, I’d like to celebrate that I don’t have a problem finishing things. I’ve trained myself to be organized. I set goals and deadlines. I make myself write even when I’m not inspired. I pull together short films and art projects even when the odds are dismal. Yes, hooray, good for me. But now, for the first time, everything I’ve been working on for the past few years is coming to a close all at once. And I’ve been facing a lot of goodbyes. Ending these projects has been sad. I’m saying goodbye to characters that I created, to people I’d grown used to performing and working with on a regular basis. It’s not that there’s nothing on the horizon for me. I am excited to move on to new things. But that’s kind of the issue. I often move on so quickly, that I don’t even take a moment to celebrate. And so, I’m trying to do that. But since I hate writing mushy things about myself, I’m offering up “5 Ways to End a Project,” based off some of my recent goodbyes.
5 Ways to End a Project
1. Cry Quietly in a Public Cafe
You’ve slaved over this final draft. It’s been proofread, formatted, polished, read seventeen times. You love it. Your friends love it. Your mom loves it. It has market potential, you just know it. You are at the local cool cafe, sitting on the patio with a latte gone cold. You’ve been there for five hours, tweaking the last batch of stray commas and chapter titles. And then, you’re finished. Years of work comes to an end. So, your natural reaction, is to cry a little bit. You try to hide it from the teenagers smoking cigarettes nearby, but you are momentarily overcome with joy. The tears trickle for about five minutes, as you stare at your perfectly spaced title page. Someone asks if you’re okay. You quietly reply “I wrote a book.” Good for you.
2. Realize You Still Mean Nothing
You’ve finished your short film. It’s a world-class masterpiece, and will be a hit at Sundance. But the work isn’t finished until you put it into the world! So, you research film festivals and you write a cute little synopsis. You pay the multiple fees for the opportunity for someone in an office building somewhere to watch your short film and decide if it’s good. Each film festival costs you between 30 and 80 dollars a pop. You pay it, time and time again. And it’s not until a year later, that all of the rejections have poured in, and you realized that you’ve just put yourself in debt for something that is nothing more than a private link on Vimeo that not even your own father has watched. Uh-Oh! Take a moment to step down from your high horse.
3. End It Before It’s Over
Did you feel that creeping feeling? Each word you wrote felt sticky, like it shouldn’t have been written at all. When you go back to read your work, it sounds a lot like the writing from the manuscript your distant cousin wrote and showed to you, the one that you made fun of. The one with the sexy zombies. At what point did you become a bad writer? The last time you checked, you were okay, but this is not okay. You have 30,000 words of poorly placed adverbs and characters who say things like “Sometimes friendship is all you need.” The best way to end this project, would be to delete all files, delete the back-up files, empty your trash, and possibly light your laptop on fire.
4. Immediately Start The Next Thing
Oh. Oh. There it was. The last word. You’re done. Good. Now, just keep going. Without skipping a beat, open a fresh document, and as if you had never stopped typing at all, not even for a moment, start the next thing. Just keep going. Never stop. If you just keep going, you don’t have to face the dread of finding an agent or a publisher. Just keep writing. It could be a sequel, or an unrelated project, or even just nonsense! It doesn’t matter. Never. Ever. Stop typing. Whatever you do. Or else, you’ll have to face your feelings. Can’t have that!
5. Take a Week Off and Celebrate Like a Normal Person
Just close the file. Don’t worry about what you’re going to do with it. Just close it. Take a break. You deserve it. You did a lot of hard work, and you shouldn’t have to worry about submitting it anywhere yet. The next project will start in good time. Maybe even consider unplugging from your devices. Spend some time with your friends, maybe go see a movie or go out for a nice dinner. Sleep in. Pat yourself on the back. And whenever the feelings of dread and horror for what is to come creep back, push them down deep. You can revisit those dark thoughts later. Bake a cake for now.
Cheesy takeaway: Give yourself the credit you deserve. You finished a thing. All that matters is that you are happy with it, really. That’s all that matters. No, really. REALLY. Treat yourself.
For more of Marissa, visit marissamacy.com