Plans that Come to Naught

Pink Floyd has long influenced me. The band's1972 album Dark Side of the Moon (from which this month's title was culled) was a landmark accomplishment.

Pink Floyd has long influenced me. The band's1972 album Dark Side of the Moon (from which this month's title was culled) was a landmark accomplishment. I imagine making that album must have taken some serious doing, but somehow it was completed and went on to become one of the most popular albums of all time.

Many projects turn out to be more difficult to finish than their creators initially anticipated. I believe that a primary reason for this is the fantastic rate at which moves today. In any case, it's always sobering for me to consider all the ideas I've had that only got as far as some jotted-down notes or maybe a demo, and never came to fruition. Occasionally, it seems as though hanging on in quiet desperation is the American way, as well.

Completion brings me fulfillment. In my line of work, it also results in an aesthetic statement and/or a work that can be distributed or sold. To finish a project is a Very Good Thing, and I've certainly finished a good many in my time, in spite of all those that have never gotten done.

What is the difference between a project that gets done and one that doesn't? The ever-present multitude of circumstantial factors doesn't fully account for it.

I think it often comes down to attitude: the determination to complete the project. In some cases, the "good, fast, cheap" law I discussed in the November 1999 "Final Mix" comes into play. You just might need to compromise to accommodate "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and bring the bacon on home. Other times, relentlessly sticking to your vision against all odds is the way to get something finished. Sheer cussedness prevails on occasion.

Clearly, the key skill is the ability to figure out which approach to take in a given case. Furthermore, circumstances change over the course of a project, so your strategy must be dynamic. Additionally, you must often be willing to face unpleasant realities in order to see what is really happening and steer the project through to completion. None of this is easy.

The starkest fact is that only those with the simplest desires have any hope of doing everything they would like to do. The rest of us must ponder how to choose which inspirations are worth the dedication necessary to see things through.

My ongoing inspiration for divining which ideas to pursue is derived from Tea Bag Wisdom. Years ago, when I attended the Berklee College of Music, I spent my first semester living in the dorms. Every morning, I'd troop down to the cafeteria to pry my eyes open with a cup of Tetley tea. (The coffee was too hideous to even consider.) On the back of the tea bag tags were homilies, most of them corny and hackneyed, like Hallmark fortune cookies.

One morning, as I sipped my Go Juice, I turned over the tag to see: "One is not old until he stops having dreams and begins having regrets." Something about this penetrated the haze enough to make me put the tag in my pocket. Later, I pulled it out, reread it, and decided there was genuine profundity in it. Words to live by, indeed.

Since that time, I have let my gut feeling about how badly I would regret not finishing a particular project motivate my energies and guide my decisions. My choices certainly aren't always right, but I usually end up feeling that my dreams haven't been overtaken by my regrets.