When To Scrap Your Hard Work


Have you ever found it hard to scrap something that you just knew wasn’t working?

You know you need to get rid of it. But maybe you just couldn’t admit it to yourself.

Maybe it was a song on your album that didn’t fit. You didn’t want to scrap it because you had spent so much time getting it just right.

Maybe it was just a track that you recorded for a song, or a beat that you created. You put a lot of time and energy into it, and can’t bring yourself to admit that it doesn’t sound that great with the rest of the song.

Perhaps you’re working with your band and don’t want to admit that the loud, rock song you’re working on would actually sound better if it was played more chill on acoustic guitars.

Whatever the situation, it’s tough. We don’t want to give up on the hard work that we did.

But sometimes, the best thing to do for a project is to scrap the part that ain’t working.

In journalism, this is called “Killing your babies”. As morbid as that sounds, the idea is very important.

If you’ve worked on something really hard, it’s like your baby. And it’s hard to admit to yourself that you need to scrap it for the sake of the project.

In this case, there are a few things NOT to do:

DON’T keep it if it’s not working

You need to get to that point where you can admit to yourself that it’s just not working.

Sure, you can try to make it work. Or you can decide to just use it anyway, because it’s not so bad. That’s up to you.

But if it’s going to hurt the project as a whole, don’t be afraid to let it go. No matter how “attached” you may be.

DON’T ask for someone’s opinion unless you’re prepared for honesty

I do this all the time.

I ask someone whether they like something, and when they give me a critique, I’ll get upset or offended.

If you’re not prepared for honesty, don’t ask for an opinion. It’s as simple as that.

However, I would suggest asking for an opinion, and listening to the honest feedback. It will help you grow, and help your project to get better.

You don’t have to necessarily agree with everything the other person says. You can hold your own opinions.

But be sure to hear the feedback, and apply it in some way.

Don’t just get mad.

DON’T say “well, at least I learned from that”

Yes you should learn from your mistakes.

No you shouldn’t use that as an excuse.

See, if you just say to yourself “I learned from that mistake”, that really only serves the purpose of making yourself feel a little better.

I would suggest actually learning from the mistake, if you did make a mistake.

Ask yourself things like:

What (if anything) am I going to do differently next time?

Is there anything I could have done to detect this problem earlier?

The fact that something isn’t working doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made a mistake. But if you did, make sure you ask yourself actionable questions to determine what it is you actually learned from it.

DON’T be afraid to try again

Things go wrong. Stuff doesn’t work out.

Don’t be afraid to try again.

When you fail, consider it a victory. You’ve just gotten that much closer to meeting your goals.

The one who never fails at something is the one who never tries.

So when something is not working, don’t be afraid to scrap it. If you’re not sure, accept some honest feedback. If you’ve made a mistake, make sure you know what you’ve learned.

And then, get back out there and create some great music!

What do you think? Have any stories of times you’ve had to “kill your babies”? Leave a comment below!

P.S. I make lots of fun mistakes every month over at Dueling Mixes. And I get better every time. Care to join me?


2 thoughts on “When To Scrap Your Hard Work

  1. Alex,

    I trash stuff all the time. Unfinished, sitting in a journal or on a hard drive.
    I love slaving over the details unless it feels forced. I’ve found that if there is energy behind it then I don’t have to make myself work on it. In fact, its not even work, its fun and hours pass by. Even long projects like albums or video series are exciting to me if I think what I am creating is worth it.

    Sometimes when I am trying something on a track, I will record it, save, shut down and listen to it again in a few hours or the next morning. If I am not excited by what I hear, I usually delete it. I know it needs something else and the track needs to brew a bit.



  2. Hey Joshua,

    Yep, when you’re really into what you’re doing, it doesn’t even feel like work. And as you said, even long projects are exciting if you believe in what you’re creating. There are definitely times when we need to push through the drudgery for the sake of the overall goal.

    I like the idea of listening back the next day to re-evaluate. A fresh set of ears does usually help with these things 🙂



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