#ArtistTherapy: Falling Out of Love, with Your Project

"What? Oh that? I'm not working on it anymore. I don't love it, and I'm on to something new." Soon after I left grad school I worked steadily, made a weekly writing schedule and everything, on a novel/novella about a working-class British guy coming to the States for school and falling in love with a well-off African American girl. As you can imagine over the course of their relationship things got complicated.

Colin and Leslie were the main characters and it was a dual POV story. I got through the first draft, then workshopped portions of this work with groups I found online. I went overseas for the inaugural Pan African Literary Forum to get feedback for the first couple chapters. Then, I'd say more than a year, perhaps two years after I finished the first draft and even after acquiring advice from an agent on it, I found myself irritated and downright disgusted with my characters. Why the hell was Colin with Leslie? What the f*** was Leslie's problem? Colin was such a great guy! The ambivalent ending left some in agreement and others wanting a definitive answer to their relationship. When I went back to revise their love story I didn't have the energy to figure these two twenty-somethings out. I was in my twenties. I was engaged and later married. I was working full-time and had my own crap to deal with on a personal and professional level. Who was I to be writing about these two? Who would want to read about these two obnoxious people? Were they even suffering?!

And that, is how I fell out of love with that project. A project I have never looked back on, though I do have the compendium of files and drafts of the time I worked on it in a folder on My Documents drive.

It happens. You have this awesome idea. A thought that may actually make you jump out of your chair or bed and you start to scribe it down. You may start with scenes, an outline. You may start sketching what you think it should look like or how it sounds. The initial fury of needing to get this thought on paper can be a fantastic burst of energy and pride that can have you working for hours, days, weeks, months, and years on end...if you love it.

As a creative person, and especially as an emerging artist who is not making money off this but treating it as a kind of unpaid job you hope will pay off later on (maybe not monetarily specifically but psychologically/creatively), you hope that this will be the thing that gets you noticed. This new love will be the project that gets you into residencies, awards you grants, lands that agent or that publisher, will get the notice for a show to happen, will spread the word so that you are "The Next Big/Best Thing." However, some things may factor into your progression:

1) Critiques: As mentioned before the right (or wrong) critique can get you amped up to continue (or deflate you enough that you stop and second guess yourself). For the Leslie/Colin book I was getting critiques that were supportive and helpful. But did I want to pursue the revisions necessary to really tackle these people? No.

Which brings me to:

2) Passion: Most initial projects will require a lot of work. No one becomes a master through osmosis. (Man, how I wish that weren't true.) Do you see yourself growing with the work? Do you see yourself delving in and taking the time you need to make it a better/stronger piece from what you first envisioned? And once you do finish, will you be able to set it down for a bit and revisit it later on to further correct or improve upon it? Should you begin to submit your work will you have the fortitude and skin to take rejection? Unfortunately there'll be more barriers than open doors to get a work published/publicized. And if you love it, if you truly believe in what you produced you'll see it through to making this project the best it can be in your own hands. Did I have the passion/will to continue on with Leslie and Colin's romance? Again, no.

I have friends who have spent a decade, more than a decade, a couple decades on work because of their belief in it and love for it. Even bumping against rejections or assurances that what they are doing is seen as important and a good addition to the creative realm they have fought to make their work known in some form or fashion.

I'm not saying something you love should take a long time, but if it does and you're still committed to it that says something about your tenacity and willingness to grow as an artist and the space this project takes in your heart that you'd want to (through the good, enlightening, bad, and horrendous moments) continue on with no assured positive outcome. All you need is the knowledge that this work is important to you.

Do I start projects that I fall out of love or lose interest in? Of course. Do I have the projects I love and have remained committed to 'til the end? Absolutely! There will always be that idea that, like other things in life, "seemed good at the time" before it fizzles out into no man's land. But if you have the right support to move forward and you have the drive to make this happen you won't fall out of love with your project--probably out of like when it gets hard--yet the love will remain. Promise.