The letdown

I’m turning in a very big project in a couple of days. I know what to expect.


It’s not regret. The book is great. The prose lives. Sure, it has warts, but it’s a major piece of work. I feel pride. I feel accomplishment.

But also, sadness.

When you’ve wrestled with a project this long, you feel its absence, like a partner no longer there on the other side of the bed.

I will miss pushing the boulder up the hill.

I will miss the discussions, the arguments, the ideas, the application of skill and experience.

I’ll miss the flow.

I’ll miss waking up each day knowing what must be done or it won’t be good enough or done on time.

The first few times this happened, it surprised me. Why am I moping? I should be cheering.

And it always lifts after a few days. There’s always another challenge.

But for now I will feel sad, because something important will be missing.

Months from now, I’ll hold the solidity of a book in my hand, still smelling of fresh ink. I’ll riffle through the pages and see headings and graphics, starting back at me like old friends I’ve missed.

I won’t be sad then. But for now, I am.

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  1. That kind of letdown happens often at the end of projects, of any kind – individual or group.

    That’s why “Adjourning” was added to Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model of group development. Adjourning is, in fact, sometimes called “Mourning.”

    The best medicine for your feeling is a bit of non-project rest, and then to get back in the saddle of another project! Good luck!

  2. This is common in the arts and it often surprises those who work mostly in highly-structured business fields.

    After working many weeks with 18 hour days on a film set, wrap day is a mad dash to pack up and the next day (after a 12-hr sleep), the feeling of being adrift descends until the next daily call.

    Orchestral rehearsals are intense and upwards of 60 people all working together on one project and after the applause, there’s the post-show let-down.

    Visual artists spend hours on a piece and they never feel truly finished but the better artists know when to stop. There is an inevitable lull before inspiration is available for the next piece.

    The transition to any new creative work takes emotional energy and that has to be replenished somehow.

    The intensity of creation is addictive and purposeful but takes a lot of energy. The best practice is to find the most healthful means to refill those emotional stores for the next project.

    Congratulations on the book, I look forward to buying and reading my copy when it’s out!