Knowing When to Give Up a Project


There is always a lot of talk about trying and trying until you succeed at something. Finishing what you start and not being afraid of failure. But are there ever times when a person should give up on a project?

Earlier this year in March, I launched a podcast. My plan was to research, record and publish a new episode each week. I produced three episodes, each with a different focus. A co-worker even produced the perfect opening theme music for it.

And then I decided to give it up.

I felt an immense amount of shame as I packed my audio equipment—the same equipment I struggled to get working with my computer—into a box and into my closet. I felt like I’d failed.

There goes another creative project. What a waste.

It took me some time but I finally found peace, contentment and relief when I really thought about it. If you’re thinking of putting a project aside but you’re feeling guilty about it, think about these few things and how I thought things through before I called it quits.

Do you enjoy doing it?

This is the most important thing about a project, especially a creative one. I love historical research and rewriting it to a more digestable format, but I’m not terribly fond of speaking. I don’t mind editing audio but I hated how I sounded as I read over what I’d written. I sounded like I was, well, reading. And that doesn’t make for a great podcast. By episode #3, I was dreading the end of the week when I knew it was time to produce another episode. That was a big hint this wasn’t working for me.

How long have you been working on this project?

While some projects are continuous (podcasting), some end at a certain point (writing a book). If you have been working on a project for several months and an end is in sight, you need to stick with it. It was easier for me to test out the waters of podcasting before setting it aside because I wasn’t terribly invested, financially or emotionally.

Can you afford to pursue this hobby?

Some projects and hobbies are more expensive than others, but this question isn’t necessarily how hard the project is on your wallet.

  • Can I afford it financially?
  • Do I have the time?
  • Do I have the space?

Where in your priorities does it reside?

Even from day 1, my podcast sat rather low on my priorities list and there were other things and other projects I would much rather be working on.

The lower on your list of priorities, the easier it is to discard a project and move on.

How much time does it take in relation to your other priorities?

As guilty as I was about kicking that project to the curb, the rush of happiness I felt when I had time to write and paint again made me know I was making the right choice for me. I had a partially finished painting on my desk as I edited audio and every few minutes I would look over at the painting and wished I was working on that instead. Again, this is a good sign that this hobby wasn’t meant to be. I also found it infuriating that I was working on each episode for a few hours, just to create a ten minute podcast—sometimes shorter! The researching part made the podcast more of a part-time job than a hobby—a part-time gig I wasn’t getting paid for.

It just didn’t make the cut when it came to fitting in between my full-time job as a designer, my side-career as a novelist, my occasional volunteer work, my hobbies I enjoy more and the fact that we would be starting a house hunt and moving soon.

Can you fit the project into your schedule? More importantly, do you want to?

What will the end product be?

I eventually planned to use the podcast as a way to promote some future non-fiction projects. Those projects aren’t supposed to be touched until after Molly Miranda book #3 comes out. The podcast took so much time to produce that I didn’t have time to think about Molly Miranda #3, let alone the non-fiction projects! Yes, that’s right, I got to busy working on a promotional podcast to work on the thing I would be promoting. It just didn’t make sense in the end.

I may go back to podcasting at some point, but not that format. I learned a useful skill. Who knows when it’ll come in handy in the future?

Will your end product be something that will bring you happiness in the future? Why are you pursing this specific project? Is this a project that may lead to some financial gain in the future?

If you consider all of these and decide it’s time to let a project go because it’s right for you, you should do it. Don’t feel guilty and don’t regret it. There’s no point in continuing a project that you don’t enjoy or that doesn’t have a purpose that suits your needs. Life is too short.

If you ever do feel guilty, make a list of all the other projects, hobbies and goals in your life that you stuck with and that succeeded. Just because one project didn’t fulfill your needs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue the next project that interests you.

Have you ever had a project or a hobby you put aside? How did you feel about it after? Think you’ll ever go back to it? I’d love to hear about it.



Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a graphic designer, a history enthusiast, and a dog mom. Learn more.

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