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The Quitting Narrative

To round out the month I want to look at the common narrative surrounding the idea of quitting creative projects, the dangers of these narratives and how we can rewrite them to serve our creativity and help us encourage self care as creative humans.

Current Narratives Surrounding Quitting

Creatives already go against the grain, stepping into their uniqueness. They embrace their differences and seek to connect through their art and content. Because of this idea that we are already rebellious in nature, we have to justify our passion; prove our dedication to our creativity. Therefore, if we start a creative project we place this massive pressure to finish on our shoulders - finish or you’re a failure, finish or you’ve wasted all this time, finish or you’ll prove the nay-sayers right, don’t be a quitter.

These stories we tell ourselves about what it means to quit a project, what it means about our character if we don’t finish something we start, are incredibly detrimental. They keep us in a constant loop of betrayal when we ‘fail to finish’ or leave a project, they force our creativity to become toxic when we refuse to end a project that isn’t serving us and these stories gain power whether we prove them right or wrong.

Ways Patterns of Quitting are Detrimental to our Creative Selves

Betrayal: When we quit a project, there can be a pattern of self betrayal lying at the heart of the issue. If you don’t show up for your art, if you make unrealistic goals for yourself in relation to the project, if you deny yourself ease when creating and so struggle to sit down and create, you may be forming a pattern of betrayal through quitting. Because the betrayal is so painful and no longer serving you, we quit those projects whether we want to or not because we have made them toxic.

Procrastination: Putting a project off indefinitely is the pinnacle of procrastination. Quitting means we couldn’t finish, means we aren’t good enough, means we don’t want to face growth; to avoid these stories we procrastinate, we push our deadlines, we break trust, and eventually it fades away and we never come back to it, but knowing that makes us feel guilty.

Guilt: The stories of deserving, of the audacity to be a creative, the rebellion of living life differently, using our time in this frivolous way can lead us to feel guilt over engaging with our creativity. Why put so much stock in a project when you should be doing x, y and z? Your time is better spent doing something actually productive. These patterns of guilt and shame can force us to abandon projects time and again.

Quiet Ways We Quit as Creatives

Shiny Object Syndrome: When one idea leads to the next, and the next and the next, it can be difficult to stay on task and finish what has already been started. Often we jump from project to project in a restless manner as they come up. This is wonderful - so many ideas, so many things you want to pursue, but staying in a pattern of idea hopping without firm execution can be frustrating when confronted with all of the half finished projects. It can be crushing to our psyche as creatives to see we have not finished a creation.

Imposter Syndrome: Creatives often battle with self talk and the inner critic - never believing they are good enough at their craft to claim their title of creative. This battle rages on during the hours we create and the hours we do not. It can become crippling, letting self doubt deny our creative ambition, shatter our confidence. The greatest disservice we can do to our creativity is to compare our work in progress, our beginning, our learning to the finished, polished products of professionals. But time and again this leads us to give up our projects and retreat to where we believe we may be safe from criticism, but we leave a void in the world where our art should be.

Perfectionism: This barrier to creativity is one we have covered before, as with procrastination. Perfectionism often leads to self editing or correcting as you work, stalling progress and sometimes allowing the passion to fizzle out and the project to be left unfinished. Perfectionism stifles creativity until it dries up or fleas.

Rewriting the Narratives Surrounding Quitting

We need to rewrite these harmful patterns and stunting narratives. Quitting our creative projects within these patterns is harmful, but stepping outside of them, learning to make our acts of quitting serve us and our creativity can help us reclaim our power. Quitting projects that do not spark joy or progress are not keeping the flame of creativity burning. Choosing to tackle other projects as a source of inspiration is valid. Developing a practice that includes juggling multiple projects can serve to keep your creativity agile and percolating; propagating ideation, ensuring your zest for creativity does not grow stale.

If we are able to change the narratives we have around quitting by creating patterns of trust in showing up for our creativity, by strategically finishing projects with consistency, and abandoning those that sap our energy, leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Quitting because it serves you is very different from quitting out of fear, guilt or shame. Changing our self talk, silencing our inner critic and validating our own creativity are the first steps to lasting change in our relationship with Quitting and finishing projects.

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