When to Stay, and When to Walk Away

Clay Portrait Sculpture

Lately it seems like my patience is being tested in a way it never has been before. Patience doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s a skill I’m constantly trying to work on.  I always want to keep moving forward, and when the work comes to a standstill,  it can be torturous. I feel like I’m doomed to linger in Purgatory for an undetermined amount of time. I fight a constant dilemma in my head with every single project I work on in terms of when to stay, and when to walk away.

When I’ve worked on a project for a long time, and start to get an itch to move on, I start to obsess over a stream of questions that have no definitive answers.  Am I just being impatient? Am I not giving the work enough time to truly develop and come to full fruition?  Am I cutting off my work flow prematurely? Or would further work on the project just be repetition of what I’ve already done?  Am I wasting my time if I stick around?  What if there’s something amazing that’s just around the corner that I could discover if I stick around for a few more weeks? What if there’s nothing worthwhile in the future, and I’m just beating a dead horse? What point am I at in the project, is this the end?  Or is it really just the beginning? Should I stop thinking so much? Is my thinking paralyzing the project?

I’ve had some projects naturally wrap themselves up in a neat package that feels resolved and complete. At different stages, I can feel confident about where I am in the project.  I know when I’ve got a long way to go, and I can clearly see the finish line slowly emerging as I approach. That was certainly the case with my last body of work, Falling, which I worked on for four years. When I was working on the mezzotint prints, I knew the project would be over when the prints were finished.

Final state     Final State

Other projects can be incredibly rocky, chaotic, with a million unpredictable factors that are up in the air.  I can’t see the finish line at all. I have the choice to keep running, with the frightening thought that the finish line I’m looking for might never materialize.  Or, I can stop while I’m still ahead, with the possibility of either 1) feeling regret later or 2) feeling relieved that I didn’t waste time on a project that was going nowhere.

Sometimes I get so fed up to the point that I force a finish line by stopping and drawing it myself. This time, I’m going to keep running.  I’m going to wait for a finish line to emerge on it’s own time, no matter how long I have to run.

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