Yesterday I saw this list on Facebook, “33 Ways to Stay Creative.” I was immediately intrigued and saved the list to my hard drive. Here it is:
Many of these we’ve heard before, of course, but the one that jumped out at me was #33, “Finish Something.” These admonitions are generally referring to writing, of course, but as I like to be creative in multiple areas of my life, I took it to mean finish ANYTHING. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a knitting project I started a couple of years ago and never finished, a set of 4 knitted dishtowels. I’d knitted two of them in a short period of time, then straggled along on the third, as I didn’t love the color, and then the fourth because I really didn’t like the color or the roughness of the yarn in my hands. I had only a little way to go to finish the fourth, however, so I did that. And here they are:
I have several “unfinished objects,” or UFOs, as they are known in the knitting and crochet world. I start projects with enthusiasm, but for one reason or another I lose interest and many of them remain half done, or almost done but not quite. I have a pair of pants I began sewing a few months back; I could be wearing them now except for not having hemmed them. Scarves remain unfinished and too short to wear. I started some coasters, as they’re small and I can easily finish those quickly, right? I did finish a few of them. Over the years many a bag containing an unfinished afghan or two has sat on my closet shelf.
I’m sure many who knit, crochet or sew can relate, and if a project doesn’t need to be completed for a gift or other deadline it’s probably not all that important whether or not that it’s finished in a set period of time, or even finished at all. But this inability to finish what I start carries over into other areas of my life and is especially evident in my writing. It is, in fact, what keeps me from having confidence in my ability to write an entire book.
I have three books in the works that have been sitting unfinished for some time. I have written a novel 3 chapters away from completion that I started writing in 2004. I have a novel half finished that I began writing in the summer of 2010. The third is a biography of my mother’s life that I started in November of 2010 and it remains half finished, too. I have not been able to bring myself back to any of these to finish them. All of these books were started with great enthusiasm, but my interest dwindled and there they sit.
Knowing my short attention span as I do, over the years I’ve restricted most of my writing to short stories, articles and essays, preferably of less than 2000 words. One of the reasons I keep this blog going is because the length of an average entry is right in my comfort zone; I stopped wanting to try anything longer. When I moved to the writing mecca of Portland, however, it seemed everyone was writing a novel, so I jumped into writing one, too, but I couldn’t stay with it. There is a tiny spark inside me, however, that still wants to finish writing an entire book.
In perusing the list above, I’m thinking that, aside from applying a bit of self-discipline, #13 might be the most helpful to me, “Surround yourself with creative people.” When I first arrived in Portland I began associating with local writers and wrote much more prolifically, but transportation issues and personal issues made this more difficult and I let them get in my way; I became a writer alone again, and eventually my writing output dwindled. Not being a loner by nature anyway, I need that interaction with and encouragement from other writers. #13 needs to be an important part of my creative life, and I’ll work at applying that.
What about you? You may not be a writer, but what creative project have you left unfinished?