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Michael Lee 🍕
Michael Lee 🍕

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Saying bye to a personal project

Two years ago I embarked on a quest to write a book. It was a book on the static-site generator, Jekyll. A piece of software that I had grown familiar with and quite fond of. It's what I use to write my personal site.

Seeing that there was a lack of solid resources about Jekyll and how much of a pain it was for me to get Jekyll up and running, I thought it'd be a good idea to write my first book on it. Helping folks navigate through some of the more complexities of Jekyll.

The initial energy was great for a few months. I had designed a landing page, with a sweet faux, book-cover design and everything, put together a free give away that contained my instructions on how to get Jekyll on your system and started collecting emails for my newsletter to keep folks in the loop.

Turns out writing a book is hard. I probably focused on things that I should've focused on later in the writing process. Because focusing on getting the perfect PDF layout and setting up a flow to generating it exactly how I wanted it was a bit overkill.

I had also let the scope of the book get crazy out of control. Instead of focusing on getting up and running with Jekyll, I felt the need to cover a huge range of things. In doing so, I thought I was creating a great resource for many folks. But I should've just focused on a subset of folks and focused on their needs and pain points.

Instead of killing the project right away, I kept it around for two years...every time I thought about it, I would convince myself that I need to finally get around to working on it. But it never happened. My focus was always split on other projects that would give me a quicker sense of accomplishment because to me coding is easier than writing.

A couple of months ago, I was looking to revive my personal newsletter. I wanted to give it the care that it deserved. I also wanted to build rapport with the folks who had signed up. So I signed into Mailchimp and saw the list for my book's newsletter. I had collected several hundred emails. I felt the temptation to blast everyone on that list to let them know I would be sunsetting the project and give them a chance to hop on my personal newsletter, but instead I decided to just cut ties and move on. I deleted the entire list.

I should've done this a long time ago to be honest. This project as positive as the experience has been — connected with a ton of folks, had opportunities to give talks — it just took up so much head space. Instead of freeing up myself mentally to focus my energy on other things, I kept coming back to this book and feeling bad for not completing it.

I had removed my top-level nav link to the book from my site a while back, but tonight, I finally spent some time to update the sign up page letting folks who come finding it that I've moved on. I also did some cleaning on my personal site's repo to get rid of the book's assets and content. This was prompted by someone on Twitter tonight letting me know that my sign up form doesn't work anymore.

I wanted to wrap up the decision to say good bye to my book by writing this post to share on sunsetting a project. I often announce new projects I'm working on but thought it'd be useful to also share about saying good bye to a project. One that didn't see the goal I had set out for it.

As for what's left of the project, at one point in the life of the project, I had thought about open sourcing the book and writing it in the open. In doing so I had hoped to get contributors. I've gone ahead and open sourced the book but won't actively contribute to it. My reason for open sourcing it is, I think there are still some content that will help folks in their journey with Jekyll but as it was written two years ago, parts are definitely dated.

I learned a lot from the project of writing a book. Perhaps one day I'll find inspiration and a topic of interest to write another book but for now I'm saying good bye to, "A field guide to Jekyll". If you're looking for some Jekyll help, I've listed out all the articles I've written on the generator on the book's once landing page.

Have you ever had to say good bye to a personal project? If so, I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and let me know if it was easy or hard for you.

Originally posted on

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Top comments (3)

kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman

I said goodbye to this project. It was a Dashboard widget for Mac to track skill training for the game Eve Online. It was something I wanted at the time, so I went ahead and released it to everybody. I learned a lot from the experience. If anything it made me more reticent to release software out to the public. Because doing so generates more and more work as more people start using it. People have questions, want more features, the game changes its API, etc. It made a much better product in the end, but also laid claim to swaths of personal time. It was a hard decision to stop working on it... feelings of guilt and failure. However, it was the best decision especially after I stopped playing the game, and then extra especially after I built a new PC for gaming. Several people asked permission to take it over, which I granted. Not sure if anything further became of it.

michael profile image
Michael Lee 🍕

Whoa, thanks for sharing Kasey! I totally forgot about dashboard widgets on the Mac. Really nice looking widget. Yeah I think the feelings of guilt and failure is what kept me coming back to my book. But eventually coming to terms and realizing I was just stringing myself along when I can spend that energy elsewhere was what did it for me.

itsasine profile image
ItsASine (Kayla)

There's a lot of focus in project management about how to successfully start and build up a project, but not a lot of focus on when its best to cut ties. This tends irl to result in sunk cost fallacy, but also results in things like this just dragging on without anyone looking after them.

I'd love to see more people post like this about the trials and tribulations of sunsetting something when its time :)