Post Project Completion Syndrome

February 19, 2016

When you’re working on a big creative project, like a computer game or a book, if you’re really invested in it it starts to occupy your every waking moment. Even when you’re not working on it, you’re thinking about it. It becomes a part of who you are. Which, when the project is over, results in the medical condition known as Post Project Completion Syndrome (note: not really a real medical condition).

PPCS accounts for the varied and conflicting range of emotions a person experiences after finishing a large project that is personally meaningful to them. It’s an odd sensation that can only truly be understood by people who’ve completed such a project. That said, I’ll do my best to relate the feelings so you can be aware of the symptoms.

Exhausted (but in a good way). In my experience, when a creative project is coming towards its end it does not gradually wind down. Instead, with the end so close in sight, there comes this urge to put in even more effort to get the project over the finish line. Especially if there’s a deadline. Commonly known as “crunch mode,” this is the period in a project where you put in as many extra hours as possible to finish. Try not to lose sleep over it.

Adrift. Creative projects can take a long time to fully realize. Weeks, months, maybe even years can pass with you focused on a single project. It becomes a constant in your life. You get used to working on it, to putting hours into its development. Then, suddenly, one day it’s done. It’s no longer there to work on. You wander around aimlessly feeling like you should be working on the project but knowing that there’s nothing left to work on.

Relief. Even the best of projects still require a lot of energy from you. A lot of time and a lot focus. I don’t want to use the word burden, but yes, at times they can feel like a burden. And what do you feel when a burden is removed? That’s right. Relief. It joins the ranks of symptoms of PPCS as well.

Nervous. Having completed your creative project, if you show it off to others there will be nerves associated with that. The amount of nervousness is in direct proportion to how personal the project is to you, how long you worked on it, and how public its unveiling is. And if it’s a creative work you’re trying to release for profit, the nervousness ratchets up just that much more.

Excitement. The flip side to nervousness. If you’ve done a good job on your project and you know it, you get excited. You get excited for other people to see it and enjoy it. It doesn’t seem to make sense when paired with the nervousness that showing your project to others also engenders, but there it is.

Pride. You’ve created something. You’ve pulled something into existence that didn’t exist before from the recesses of your soul. And if you’ve done a good job, then, yes, pride.

Joy. After all the long hours, after the ups and downs of waning and waxing interest in your project, it’s done. And it makes you happy. You’ve accomplished something that is personal to you and it’s amazing.

The rollercoaster of emotions of PPCS can last for some time after completing a project. In odd, quiet moments of the day, you never know when one or more of those emotions will sneak up on you. In my experience there are two “cures” for PPCS. The first is time. All those weird feelings will quiet down. Eventually. The second? Why, start another project of course.