Creative projects are tough, but especially so when learning a new discipline in the process.
During these projects when I hit a major roadblock, I will end up at same decision point: should I keep going, or stop now and save my time?
There are two forces at play in making this decision.
The first is the concept of a creative taste gap, which comes from Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
The taste gap keeps me fighting my way through creative projects, trying to get my current creative capabilities up to my standard of what is “good”.
The second force is the sunk cost fallacy:
Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort). This fallacy, which is related to status quo bias, can also be viewed as bias resulting from an ongoing commitment.
The sunk cost fallacy reminds me that time is limited, and it’s never a good idea to continue to do something just because I’ve spent time on it already. It’s better to cut losses and make better use of my time in the future.
Fighting through to project completion is very rewarding. Letting go of a project can be liberating.
Both of these are valid decisions. I’ve been down both these paths and respect each one. They are also classic reversible decisions. If you give up, you can often come back to the project at a later date. If you keep going, you can revisit that decision at a later time too.
The most important part is that in both choices, there is learning.