How to Get Past the Post-Project Blues

By Carrie Lewis in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Let me guess. . . you’ve just finished your Big Project, one that took weeks of labor to complete, setting a new standard for yourself both professionally and personally. You put time, effort, and passion into it, and while it was underway, you didn’t think about anything else. For weeks, your focus has been The Big Project.

Now it’s finished. Congratulations!

Suddenly you have free time to pursue artistic goals of your own choosing and. . . well, honestly, you have no idea what to do next. What’s worse, you feel purposeless.

Guess what?

It’s a perfectly normal reaction.

Post art product blues

There will always be an anticlimax after finishing a big, long-term project. It’s sort of like preparing all season to win the NBA championship. All season, your only focus is winning the next game. Then you’ve done it. What then?

I’ve had more than my share of those kinds of moments. I know what it’s like to put my signature on the biggest, most ambitious art project I’ve ever done, and then feel cast adrift in the aftermath, as though all the purpose had rushed out of my life.

(The truth is, I’m there right now. It’s all very fresh in my mind.)

But I’ve been there many times, and the secret is to be aware that this is likely to happen and to plan for it, so you don’t get down in the dumps after accomplishing something amazing.

How do you do that? I’m glad you asked! :) Here’s my strategy for beating Post-Project Blues:

Step 1: Celebrate!

You’ve done a marvelous thing. Maybe you’ve crossed a new threshold or taken your art to the next level. You have a right to celebrate. What’s more, you almost have an obligation to take a minute or two and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.

It doesn’t have to be big. It just needs to be a recognition of all your hard work. If you like to celebrate, a dozen ideas are already taking shape. If you’re not that much of a party animal, you may need to start smaller, with a simple reward of some kind.

My husband is a big fan of rewards. He likes to reward himself every time he accomplishes something. I’m more inclined to mentally acknowledge the completion of a goal, then get right to work on the next one. No breaks. No celebrations, and most certainly no rewards!

If you’re like my husband, just go celebrate! You’re ready. :)

If you’re more like me, then take a minute to do what I do, and just start a list of ways to reward yourself for meeting goals and doing big things.

I wouldn’t try to write down 5 or 10 things right now. It might not work (at least it didn’t for me.) I had to add items to my list as I thought of them, usually in the middle of doing other things.

What’s on my list? Promise you won’t laugh?

Banana splits, steak dinners, and Chinese carryout from our favorite restaurant. (Yeah. I know. I don’t get out much!)

The point is to think of things you really like, but don’t get all that often. Those little treats can easily become the way you finish every big project and celebrate every goal met.

Step 2: Regenerate

Take a rest. A mini-vacation if you like.

You don’t have to go anywhere, just give yourself permission to vacate the studio for a short while and enjoy the other parts of your life.

If you can take a little trip, that’s great, too. There’s nothing like a day trip to one of your favorite locations to move your brain from Post-Project status to Pre-Project status.

I like to go for a drive through the Flint Hills of Kansas. Those beautiful vistas rev up the creative juices like very little else I know. Find a similar place that does that for you and get re-inspired!

Step 3: Evaluate

After the newness has worn off your accomplishment and you can review it with a more objective eye, it’s a good idea to analyze the process at least enough to identify what you learned. Things you might want to look for are:

• New methods or techniques you’d want to use again
• Things that didn’t work (Why not? Can they be corrected?)
• Lessons learned that can be applied to the next project
• New opportunities this project created for you

You don’t need to do a full-scale analysis, but you also don’t want to let the opportunity for discovery pass you by. Every piece you create is a learning opportunity, and these big projects are even more so.

Step 4: Anticipate

This is the biggie for me. Having something in mind to tackle after the end of a project is the single best way for me to beat the post-project blues.

If I have a drawing in progress, even if it’s just a line drawing, I have a new goal waiting. I don’t have to look for one.

It’s still a good idea to go through the previous steps. If nothing else, they’ll give you the opportunity for rest and refreshment. But try to also have another piece of art to work on, or another idea that you’re already excited about.

Hopefully these suggestions help you beat the post-project blues. . . I know I’ve already got my next project ready to go. :)

What about you?


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