Why I No Longer Feel Anxious About My Unfinished Projects
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
When I quit university after just one year in which I quit my drama course after just one term, my house mates bade me farewell with a mixtape of songs including this by The Smiths...
It was very prescient. Throughout my creative life I have started literally hundreds of projects I can't or won't or simply haven't finished. My internet history is littered with abandoned blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels. My desk is covered in hard drives, used as everything from paper weights to monitor stands, but which are stuffed full of scripts, screenplays and songs that are anywhere from 1% - 99% complete.
I used to worry about the creative babies I had abandoned. I would lay anxiously awake at night concerned for their futures, and my own, convincing myself that my inability to complete anything was a major character flaw. But then, in 2015, at a convention in Cleveland of all places I was convinced different.
I was at Content Marketing World, the world's largest gathering of professional business content creators. I was there to learn the latest methods by which to reach and engage audiences on behalf of my clients but was drawn from the "main stage" into one of the breakout sessions by a vast queue of people waiting to get in. Being British, I can't resist a good queue so I joined them.
Inside, the crowd was different to the main room, which was full of corporate and agency types. These seemed like hobby-bloggers, much more casually dressed and less concerned with marketing automation and metrics than simply how to write better. The lights came down and a handsome preppy chap bounded on to the stage with American bluster and asked how many of us had started - and abandoned - a blog before? Every arm in the room short up in the air, including mine. He then asked how many people had started and abandoned more than one? Every arm stayed raised. Finally he asked how many people had started and abandoned a podcast or YouTube Channel? A few arms retreated but most stayed up, which seemed to make him happy. "Good," he declared, "then you're just like me". He, it turned out, was a massively successful blogger who made his whole living from his blog.
He went on to tell us about his many failed and abandoned projects, how he had jumped on to every new platform and technology thinking that this might finally be the medium through which he could best express himself. He told us that it was normal for creative people to be excited by the NEW new thing and to want to experiment and that it was equally normal to be impatient for results. I felt relieved, it wasn't just me then? I wasn't a failure, in fact, my abandoned babies may even be evidence of my creativity - phew!
The rest of his presentation was about how to create and stick to a writing routine, warning us that action breeds motivation and not the other way around. But rather than plagiarise any more of his speech I though I would share with you some of my own failures so that you may find similar relief. Here then is a list, not of my greatest hits, but my greatest misses, some of which can be found hanging around the Internet still:
SingaMoore (deleted) - Started when I first arrived in Singapore in 2009, this blog was intended to capture my whole expat adventure. I've been here 12 years now, my blog didn't make it past 12 months!
Analogue Living (archived) - Another blog started in the midst of a miserable period working for someone else and which came to an end when I wisely quit my job.
Vintage Media - Started at the beginning of the pandemic as a blog about my collection of punk and Britpop memorabilia amongst other comforting nostalgia. This one still has potential and may yet be resurrected.
Filmmaker Fridays Podcast - Weekly interviews with people in the Singapore film industry, an attempt to build something of a local production community. Pronounced dead after 10 episodes (I did find a sponsor for it though, which gave rise to the CELTX Pre-Production Podcast).
Definitely Not Another Podcast - A podcast review show on YouTube and iTunes that did quite well but still only lasted 5 episodes.
One Year No Beer 90 Day Challenge - A vlog about my experiment with sobriety in the run up to my 40th birthday. Only lasted 8 episodes BUT I managed 150 days on the wagon so, every cloud...
Headspace - A 6 part comedy web-series that I wrote, in full, and tried to produce. I got as far a sizzle reel but no further. Scripts are still available!
Roll With It - A lad-lit novel about a 21st century bloke stuck in his 90s heyday for all of 4 chapters until I ran out of steam.
Berlin Bromley - My biggest ever undertaking. I optioned a book about the notorious Bromley Contingent of punk fans from my hometown to turn into a movie. It cost me a fortune but ultimately fell through due to a court case in which another production company was accused of exploiting UK government tax incentives so they just stopped giving them out and my finance plan collapsed (so, not technically my fault). Here's the trailer I produced to entice financiers and here's the full "making of" story: https://www.vintagemedia.co/post/how-i-almost-made-a-film-about-the-bromley-contingent.
Moore's Lore Audio - My most recent development following the WritersLab Scholarship in which I developed 'MEAT' a TV series too expensive to be made in Singapore, so I thought it could be produced as an audio drama instead, along with 'RUINS' and 'The Dark Reflections Trilogy' - yet more abandoned children!
Plus dozens and dozens of opening lines, paragraphs, even pages from stories, screenplays and songs that may or may not grow up to become fully fledged works one day!
The point is, I no longer feel anxious about these projects. Each one was a step on the journey to finding the right one. Each one taught me a new skill or process. Each one gave me a new experience to draw from and each one satisfied a creative impulse at the time. Right now it's this, next week it could be something else, but trust the process because it is ultimately leading you to your magnum opus. And if, at times, you feel like a fraud...