I have this one friend who has been reworking and re-polishing the same movie script for years. It was the first script he ever attempted and he started it in college. He's 32 years old now. I have another friend who has been editing his "great American novel" for at least the last decade. Yet another friend who has been trying to put together this same short film series for at least seven years.
I suppose most people would be inspired by my friends' stick-to-itiveness in continuing to pursue their labors of love. But, I'm not. These so-called "labors of love" are absolutely killing their careers.
I really wish they'd just put these projects aside and start something new.
Quite frankly, it's irrelevant whether the aforementioned labors of love are any good. (Having read bits and pieces of them I can say that they are.) What is relevant is that they aren't getting made. Whether through lack of courage, lack of initiative, lack of money, or lack of being picked by a studio or publisher. They could of course pick themselves, but I doubt they will. I suspect that people with labors of love like having them over their head. They like identifying with them. They like some built-in resistance in their lives. Think about the Michael Douglas character in "Wonder Boys," a once-great novelist having wasted the last decade stoned and plugging away at a 2500-page opus of a follow-up second novel that will surely never be ready for publication. Because he won't let it be ready.
Having a labor of love is a great excuse for not failing.
"But, I AM working on something. I'm working on the best thing I've ever written! I just can't get funding/studio support/a publisher to back me/someone to release this!"
Sounds like a great excuse to me.
If these projects were truly labors of love, would they really hurt so bad? Quit loving something so much that hurts so bad, that makes you waste so much of your life. Labors of love are just like abusive husbands. "But, he wouldn't hit me if he didn't love me!"
I don't start any writing projects that I don't love, but I, nevertheless, try not to ever make them into labors of love. Easy come, easy go. Love them, but don't labor over them. Still, there's been a couple. A few that "got away." Several scripts or works in my past that I reminisce about, go "Damn, how did that never get made?!," even pull it up on my computer to see if I can rework it again. You usually can't. Thus, you need to be able to cut ties and start something new.
I'm not saying all labors of love are bad. Without labors of love, "Apocalypse Now" would never exist. Nor would pretty much Stanley Kubrick's entire oeuvre. (Having said that, even Kubrick had a labor of love abuse him for several decades and never see the light of day--"Napoleon.")
But, if a project is absolutely controlling the last decade of your life, and no traction is occuring in actually getting the project released, you have one of two choices:
1. Pick yourself and figure out a way to get it out there (self-published, self-funded, whatever).
2. Or, admit you're just dicking around and move on to something new.
I think it's actually more that people are scared about beginning the "labor of something new"--actually figuring out something new to write and then starting from page 0--than they are wedded to that aging labor of love.
If you recall that Michael Douglas character, he actually needed a tragedy to move on from his labor of love and start anew. But, once that labor of love was "tragically" wiped out of his life and he had no choice BUT to begin a new project, the words just flowed and he quickly did complete a new novel.
If you have a labor of love that has been monopolizing your artistic thought for years...how about dumping it today and starting fresh with something new?
Begin your "labor of something new" now.