Quitting projects is great, actually
Let me tell you about the many things I've quit over the years!
In early 2020, I launched an interview series exploring how people find meaning through work called Modern Doing. It was the first project I had launched on my own, wearing many hats from interviewer, writer, brand designer, photographer, and web developer. I loved meeting folks with such varied careers all over New York and getting to fully own every ounce of this project I had birthed.
Two months later, the pandemic hit. I had a backlog of interviews to publish, which I steadily edited and posted for a while until I lost all motivation. I rescheduled interviews to Zoom but struggled to feel real connection, thus affecting the quality of the interviews. I couldn’t stop thinking that it felt meaningless to harp on “the meaning of work” while essential workers were working for people’s survival. Shouldn’t our attention be on that instead?
So I decided to quit. I stopped working on new posts and let the website domain expire (thankfully all of the interviews can still be found in this archive. Go read them, they are fascinating!) I turned my attention mid-2020 towards various art & craft mediums—weaving, punch needle, watercolor, gouache—and discovered the endless possibilities of illustration.
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Modern Doing isn’t the first project that I’ve quit. Prior to that, I created and led a book club for Asian women called Cosmos Book Club. Again, this was a project that expanded my growth in so many ways. I had to battle my stage fright to interview authors in front of a crowd, strategize on how to lead thoughtful and inclusive group discussions, and learn how to plan events for a community.
For both of these projects, it was difficult to decide whether I should quit. There is a lot of self-induced shame around quitting! You feel guilty that you’re abandoning something you created and loved. You’re embarrassed that people may see you as fickle or commitment-phobic. Most of all you wonder if in another circumstance, or with more traction, you would’ve stayed on your path. You speculate on whether you should try different strategies to quell your quitting urges rather than quitting altogether.
No one truly knows whether you should quit. No one can or should be responsible for that decision but you. But I can tell you, your intuition is your greatest power on deciding whether or not to quit, or leave, or let go. And if you do decide to quit, know that you are bringing your present self who learned so many lessons that will be useful for the next thing you do.
While leading my book club, I learned how to interview people, write regular newsletters, and build a community. I brought over all of those skills to create my interview series, where I had to brand an offering for the first time. All of those skills are coming in handy now as I build out this newsletter and my art business!
I’ve also found that while projects may fade, your interests and values will often stay true. I still care deeply about knowing and advocating for Asian women’s experiences, which I used to do through my book club and now do through my art. I am endlessly fascinated by how work and meaning combine; rather than looking at the breadth of this topic, I now focus more on creative work and how to cultivate intrinsic meaning in a creative practice.
All this to say: quitting is great, actually. If you find that you’re holding on too tightly to something that isn’t working, why don’t you try letting go?
Further reads on quitting:on why she “quit” her dreams of working in animation on why quitting is so hard on how to know when to quit (paywall)