(For anyone counting, this is post 38 of 56.)
If you know me in real life (and possibly even if you don’t), then you know that I’m a serial starter, not a finisher. I am a non-stop idea factory, and I have countless started-but-never-finished blogs, businesses, books, essays, sewing projects, paintings, and projects to prove it. Routine bores me, and summoning the discipline of commitment to see a thing through to its conclusion is excruciatingly hard work. I think of it as the wet blanket on my creative fire.
But living in a sea of incomplete things is unsettling, and the scales need to be balanced. To make room for fresh beginnings, some things must come to an end.
So I’ve been working, for several years now, to improve the thing I resist: Finishing. And I’ve stumbled on a stunningly obvious truth: The way to improve my completion rate is practice completing things.
I wrote, at the beginning of this little 56-post series, that I had been wondering what I might accomplish if I actually put in the disciplined work toward a goal. What would happen? What of the projects I’ve started might even be worth seeing through to their completion?
This is a kind of thanks, then, for riding along with me as I work on starting, and finishing, something specific, even something as silly and irrelevant as a series of blog posts that lack thematic unity.
Having made it this far – more than two-thirds finished with the 56 day commitment – I’ve learned a few things about myself and about this particular craft. Writing free-form, every day, and putting the end result (typos and all) in the public domain is challenging in general and particularly so without a shtick. I considered, in the beginning, having some clear framework for the entire project. I could write, I mused, about each year of my life, since it was a birthday-inspired self-challenge. I could write about numbers and math – a complete departure from anything I’ve written to-date. I could write a short novel in 56 daily, serial-style entries.
Or I could strip it down to the bare minimum and just write something, every day, from starting day to ending day, and see what might happen.
In the limited research I’ve done about why artists (and writers, and creative types generally) are better at starting than finishing their work, there are a two common theories. One is that creative people have the imagination to see clearly in their minds a finished product, but the actual, tangible work can never match that imagined masterpiece and, thus, is destined to be a failure. The second theory is similar: The work is not complete until it matches the perfection of the imagined result – which it cannot, so the work remains unfinished, always.
So, one way to conquer these two demons, “fear of failure” and its sibling “perfectionism,” is to practice finishing things, to begin with a pre-determined endpoint at which the work will be finished, in all its imperfect glory.
This idea rings true to me. So, tonight, 38. Tomorrow, 39.
Onward I go.
This post is 38/56 in a self-directed challenge to write (or at least post) something (SOMETHING) every day – a birthday gift to me from me, because writing gives me a place to put the clutter that lives in my head.