Pressing Restart: Hope for the Projects Left Behind

You've got a project. You're a creative type, right? Everyone is, in their own way. Of course you've got a project.

And you absolutely adore this project—maybe it’s a collection of poems about what each loose sock in your drawer means to you, or a long-form novel about high school and "how it really is."

Whatever it is, this work that you’re doing right now: it’s different. It's not just the rapid thrashing of the keyboard at 2 a.m., but the amount of energy you dedicate to thinking about this project even when you’re not working on it. The sheer endearment of possibility begins to distract you at all hours, until the driving force to form the words on the page—to tell the story only you can tell—becomes overwhelming.

Then something comes up; it could be anything, really: a family matter, more hours at work, perhaps even those socks in your drawer simply don’t mean as much to you as they did yesterday. It’s not that you’re giving up on this project. Not necessarily. But new ideas flow into your mind, igniting your creativity once again, and you think to yourself, "I’ll return to it later."

The project waits, left aside just like the socks you used to write about, smooshed to the back of the drawer. Every now and then, you hover your cursor over the file, thinking, "Maybe it’s time to return." But for some reason, you don’t.

Months pass. Maybe even years. As your drive and initiative are poured into other works, the feeling of inspiration for that old project gives way to nostalgia. You think fondly about how your sole motivation rested in that project; how it drove you each day and night.

Just as you left the project quite suddenly, something brings you back. An old high school memory, or a specific sentence you never used that would be perfect. The scent of that old project returns to your cerebral nostrils, and an essence of that old thrill returns. You finally open the document, eager to pore over those ancient words still alive with that fire, and then…

Oh no. It’s bad.

Or, not bad per se, just... more unfinished than you remember. Rationally, you know this is a good thing—it’s a sign of growth in your craft, a sign that you refused to stagnate—but it’s disappointing, nonetheless.

The unthinkable crosses your mind. I can just take this idea, rip the best pieces from it, and restart. Is that possible? The sheer prospect seems devastating. Years ago, these words meant everything to you, and now, you have this impulse to delete them. To save this as “first draft,” and begin a second.

It’s also a tiring idea—how could you have poured so much of yourself into this project for so long, only to realize it needs intense revisions? How could you end the life of a project you loved so much? How could you kill your darling?

But it’s not killing. It's pruning. It’s growing.

Because sometimes, the rush of the delete button is the most powerful tool of a writer. Sometimes, that feeling of empowerment over one’s own words is exactly the kindling needed to continue. That gem of an idea is locked behind the age-old stone of the writer you once were, and mining takes work.

So, you highlight a few lines. The few pieces that pop with potential, that beg for a new home—they get the Ctrl + C evacuation.

As for the rest? It doesn’t die.

No, it was merely the first bloom of something full and thriving and perennial. You've given it a second season. And sometimes, the only power we have is the ability to start fresh.

Spring is nearly upon us, friends. What's blooming in your brain garden this season?