Completion Anxiety

Last night, [WELCOME TO] LEVEL 7, the short film that I have dedicated the last eight months of my life to, was released to the world via the magic of YouTube and the interweb. It was an exciting, exhilarating, and utterly terrifying moment.

I realized when this project was within hours of being completed that the prospect of finishing, the moment that I’d been dreaming about for months, wasn’t coming with any sense of relief. Quite the opposite, in fact. The end of this project was marked with a wave of anxiety and a question I wasn’t ready to answer: What next?

There’s a false sense of security one builds up when immersed in a protracted project with no defined sense of end. When you have your head in one project for so long, it infiltrates your identity, and your existence becomes defined by your daily effort on what can often seem like a task that may never end. And in a way, I think sometimes that’s what the subconscious wants, because the act of finishing the project means detaching yourself from what seems like your very reason for living. You’re severing the umbilical, cutting all ties free, pushing the bird out of the nest. I just can’t seem to figure who the bird is: me, or the project?

Completion of such an all-consuming project would seem like a time to rejoice, to pop the cork on the champagne and toast the project on its merry way. For me, it comes with a strange sense of emptiness. There’s a hole left behind that must be filled with another project immediately, or I start to get a little anxious. This neurotic separation anxiety comes from two aspects of the project’s completion. First, I have more dream projects in my head than one person could complete in a single lifetime. Knowing this, I have to select the next project carefully, for time is a scarce commodity and I’m capable of working on only a few projects at once with any degree of efficiency and competency. Second, there is a gut-wrenching reality one must face when they release a project into the world — judgment.

There is an idea that art no longer belongs to the artist once its offered up for view, it belongs to the audience. To the degree that ‘perception is reality’, I agree with this. If the audience at large perceives that something is great, then it will be successful and great. If the audience at large perceives that something sucks, then it sucks, man. As the old adage goes, numbers don’t lie.

Another phenomenon related to being so completely immersed in a project is that one loses perspective on quality. Where in the beginning, you might have enjoyed a vantage point of objectivity, eventually you can’t see the forest for the trees. The wise man seeks the opinion and feedback of wise people and prays they tell him the truth, and that can help mitigate the blindness that comes with having your head stuck in a project too long. But in the end, all you really have to go on is your planning and the hope that  you have done a decent service to the vision you set out to create.

After 17 or so years of sending art, stories, and games into the world for public scrutiny, I’m fairly familiar with judgment in all its forms. I’ve racked up both great successes as well as great failures. And while I’m in the positive overall, I’ve never released a major project without feeling the butterflies in my stomach. I think that’s why it’s so important to get right on to the next thing — it’s the need to fill that hole with something that will push the damn butterflies out.

So today, this little film goes out into the world, but it’s you who will decide if it has wings or not. I hope you watch it. I hope you like it. If you do, please pass the link on to anyone who you think might be interested.

No matter what, I’m already up to my ears in the next thing; excited, exhilarated, and terrified. Can’t wait to share it with you.



7 thoughts on “Completion Anxiety

  1. I have to say I loved the film. It was absolutely fantastic. You were able to keep me in the palm of your hand the whole time I watched it. I cannot wait for your next project. Regardless of what it is it will probably be awesome

  2. I absolutely LOVED the film. I was actually quite pleased with the way it ended, although my heart was beating quite quickly since I watched it in the darkness of my apartment. I thought it was fantastic and you should be quite proud.

    I’m eager to see what kind of project you want to take on next, but I have a question: will every project you work on be linked to Privateer Press in some way?

    • Thank you! And no, not every project will be linked to Privateer, but at the moment, I’m enjoying bringing my efforts in games and film together. If everything goes right, my next project will be based on WARMACHINE — it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time!

  3. My friends and I have been playing Warmachine/Hordes since you launched it and still love playing it. Lock n Load was the best time gaming we’ve ever had and I must admit I fangirled out a tad when we saw you in the Arena lol.
    Level 7 looks amazing and I love the replay-ability factor. I think the film was great and well done, and we all look forward to playing it. The demos were great.
    I know the anxiety you experience- any person does but artists especially, because it’s bearing an intricate part of our soul out on paper or on film for the wide world to see and scrutinize. Keep bearing yours, Mr. Wilson. It’s shining pretty bright because it’s made of awesome.

  4. hi there mr.wilson,your little movie was really good if i could help with what to do next… advise! anything that you want, you got a great talent mr. wilson so lets your anxiety in the closet and do another great project like we know(the community!) you can do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 9 = fourteen