Long ago, my main fear when working on a project was that if I stepped away from it — either to work on a smaller project temporarily, or to just take a break — I would lose interest and subsequently stop working on it altogether. For this reason, I never used to set aside a project, and I pressured myself for months to spend most of my free time working on it.
In hindsight, this wasn’t such a wise strategy. It may very well have been my constant refusal to occasionally set aside my past projects that prevented me from finishing them. In fact, throughout Gateway’s development, I’ve taken a couple of breaks — one of them even two months long — with the full intention of returning to it (and I did).
I’ve since learned that taking breaks from a long project is kind of a necessity, at least for me. Continually working only on a single project, especially a big one, can be overwhelming and ceases to be fun if you put pressure on yourself. It’s no longer fun if it becomes a chore. I do, however, have a rule that I like to follow when working on a large project: no working on other large projects allowed.
Small projects are great: they’re fun, probably simple, and don’t carry the risk of being so intimidating that you never finish. They’re also great confidence boosters, and can help ease that urge to finish something while you’re on your way towards a much larger goal. Taking on an additional large project, however, doesn’t have any of these benefits and only adds to the list of massive endeavours that you’re unlikely to finish in any short amount of time. For these reasons, I allow myself to occasionally set aside Gateway to make room for a quick, amusing project that will only take a week or so. Or, sometimes I’ll just take a break in general and not work on anything in particular.
I’ve learned that doing so doesn’t cause me to lose interest in my game. In fact, just the opposite occurs: after taking a break from a fun project, it becomes exciting to think about again, and then I pick everything up from where I left off. Those other tiny projects I occasionally embrace allow me to do something different and explore other ideas, and make me feel great for accomplishing something. They also keep my main project from turning into an obligation.
So, breaks aren’t bad. In fact, they’re kind of necessary. The next time you’re working on something, don’t pressure yourself into giving it every spare moment you have. Feel free to walk away for a bit if you feel something else calling you.