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The Artist’s Great Dilemma: When to Start Over

Some art projects are not meant to be successful; they are doomed from the start. A great idea, no matter how dedicated you are to seeing it through, doesn’t always turn out like you envision. Sometimes the problem is the concept itself; sometimes, unfortunately, it is the execution. Regardless of the reason the project doesn’t work out, it is important that you as the artist are able to see that it is going south before you invest a considerable amount of time and energy into it. If you stay tuned in to what you are creating, you can train yourself to identify the warning signs that it is time to give up and start over, either with a new strategy or new project altogether.

One warning sign that your project is heading in the wrong direction is that you are feeling extremely frustrated. While even the best artists get frustrated at times, and great projects aren’t created without at least some hiccups, when you find yourself tense, unhappy, and uninspired, it is time to reflect. Think about what is causing you to feel so negatively about your piece. If you can’t identify a way to improve your outlook, take a break from it from a day or two. If the thought of starting on it again makes your stomach drop, it may be time to start over.

Another similar warning sign is when you find yourself dreading working on a specific project. While not everything you create is going to fill you with continuous joy, when you are putting off spending time on a project, there is a reason. Your lack of desire to continue may be because the project doesn’t inspire you, or it could be because you know deep down the finished product isn’t going to be something of which you are proud.

You should also trust the opinions of your friends and colleagues. When they express serious concerns about your artistic vision on a particular project, instead of getting offended, it is important that you see their feedback as a warning sign that you may be off track. Take the time to talk through their concerns. Sometimes, a good brainstorming session can be all you need to get a project back on track.

A lack of a clear vision is also concerning. If you find yourself in the middle of a project with no idea where you are going next, it is a great time to take a close look at what you have created. Decide if it is worth the time to develop a plan to complete the project. Instead of wasting fresh ideas to try and salvage a failing project, it might be wiser to use these fresh ideas as the starting point for a new project.

Finally, if you decide that are going to start over, you should take a few minutes to think about what went wrong with the project. Try and identify the first moment that you had an indication the project was probably not going to be successful. Assess how much time you spent spinning your wheels. This process will help you not to make the same mistake in the future.