Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are you a Finisher?

Are you a finisher? Do you finish everything you start?

For the most part, I am--or I used to be. Books and movies are pretty much my exceptions. I have no problem walking away from a boring book or movie. But in other things in my life, I almost always finish things I begin--and within a reasonable time frame. Or I did until lately.

Last year, I got stuck on my book in progress and this tile project (hmm, just about simultaneously. Interesting.) and instead of sticking with it and finding a solution to both, I allowed myself to put them aside trusting that solutions would present themselves.

Looking back, it seems pretty stupid. Whenever do solutions to anything ever just pop up and present themselves? When you're not even working at it? Really? What was I thinking?

Was I expecting that some day at Home Depot the perfect sky-colored pink tile would fly off the shelf and drop on my foot? And by forgetting what my story was about, I'd figure out why I'd hit a brick wall? Really?

Then during the spring, I spent an uncharacteristic week indulging myself and reading the Hunger Game Series. I'd been avoiding reading these books 'cause the topic of kids fighting to the death didn't thrill me, but after listening to all the hoopla for months, I read the opening few pages and was hooked.

Later I dissected the first book to learn from it and it occurred to me that I needed to add another character to my half-finished work not-in-progress. I didn't have enough characters. I reread the first 150 pages and realized it's a terrific story and I must finish it. Since recommitting myself to Secrets, I've been moving forward again. I work on it just about every day and if I'm not physically writing, I'm researching or plotting. I'm b-a-c-k!

Now to the other unfinished project plaguing me. I HATE leaving things undone. It bugs me. It weighs on my mind. It makes me feel guilty. It's going to end. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to search for a pink tile that will work and I'm going to give my rams a sky, finish what I started, and lighten my mind.

Whether it be books, crafts, housing project do you leave stuff half done?

Do you, periodically, make the time to complete things left undone like you eat out your freezer and clean out your panty or is that my obsessive-compulsiveness at work?

Do you think having uncompleted things cluttering your life is a problem for certain personality types—like me—or does it bother everybody onsome level?

Do you think leaving things half done or unfinished leaves a cosmic incompleteness that is unhealthy?

What are you like?


Jessica Freely said...

I used to start lots of things and not finish them. That was bad. But I also find that when I'm stuck, digging in and trying to force a solution is equally unproductive. I can't tell you how many times a problem that seemed intractable turned out to have a very simple, elegant solution that not only solved the issue, but made the whole book better -- after I'd been away from the story and came back to it with fresh eyes.

So now, I do what I call project rotation. I have several works in progress, at various stages. When I hit a wall, I move on to something else. The important thing for me is to always come back.

Theresa said...

Hi Jessica,
I find forcing a solution not helpful either, so leaving a project for a little bit usually works for me, but a year was too extreme.

So when you rotate projects, how long before you're back to one? A few weeks or months or years?

BTW--FOUND the tiles I needed to finish my tile work, so can finish that up next week and get that monkey off my back!

Catherine Stine said...

I don't leave my writing projects undone, but there may be a lag period where I need to think about the plot more. Often reading books can really help, and I'm glad that reading the HG series helped jumpstart you back into writing and figuring out what wasn't quite right so you could fix it!
Catherine Stine’s Idea City

Ron at CM said...

To, uh, paraphrase William Jefferson Clinton - It depends on what your definition of "FINISH" is...

To, uh, paraphrase myself...
"I ain't dead yet! If they're not done when I am then I guess they didn't get finished..."

It's an ADHD thing... B^)

In all seriousness, it is a real challenge for me. Part of which is because the scope of my entire project is massive and I really struggle to get into finishing the little pieces that all make it come together. Plus, I've got that EILTABO malady. (Every Idea Leads To A Better One)

Whew, nice to know I'm not the only one.

Kaki Warner said...

I don't have trouble finishing--my problem is starting. I keep waiting for the perfect line, the perfect paragraph, the perfect scene to pop into my head and start the ball rolling. But in reality, if I just START, even if I don't like the opening, it gets me moving and everything begins to fall into place.
But I also think everything has its time. It's all there, just waiting for the moment you're ready to listen. Then it pops. Whether that takes a year, or twenty-five.

Theresa said...

Hi Catherine, Lag periods are always a positive thing for me and I agree, reading books often helps my creativity. Often I read something, and go, brilliant! I can do something similar and it'll work great in my story.

Ron, yeah that ADHD thing is a problem. My sister assures me that there's medication that really helps with that--just for the times when you really NEED to get a handle on life and finish things. Yeah, you're not the only one, but I'm going to learn to conquer this!

Kaki, you're a perfectionist? I wouldn't have pegged you as one. Or is it just in writing? I agree that everything has their time . . . but sometimes I think I'm a little undisciplined and my time would come a little sooner if I applied at least a little effort.

Anyhow, you guys didn't answer my most important question. Do you think it's cosmically bad not to finish things? It's gotta be, right? I mean, everything was designed to have a proper end--the cycle of life and all that. Things were meant to have a finish. Yes?

Donnell said...

Hey, T, waving hi to everyone. I'm in the process of finishing my novel and fear is a huge inhibitor. I want it to be great, exciting and suspenseful, and I'm in a hurry. Cannot blow this opportunity though, so I will perservere.

As for your question is it okay not to finish something. Yes. Sometimes a project you thought was a great idea just fizzles and you realize it's not the break out novel or whatever that you thought it is. In that case, I think you can set it aside and work on something else.

But here's something amazing that happens. You may think it's garbage now, but later when you come back to it, you may say, what? why did I ever give this up. There Here and Now often play tricks on us!

Lisa P. said...

Hey, Theresa, I really hate leaving anything unfinished, and as long as it remains that way, my level of frustration heightens. So, I have to put it to rest in some way, even if that means, as Donnell said, realizing it's not the project you thought it was when you started it. Aren't you glad, though, you procrastinated just long enough to read the Hunger Games to discover the fix for your story? That's my secret to fixing a problem with moving ahead with a plot that's got me bugged: returning to my research, including reading other fiction---and not necessarily in my genre.

Theresa said...

Hi Lisa,
Hmm putting it to rest in some way, I guess is a way of finishing something. You get closure on that project. I agree that returning to research or making the time to read really helps stimulate creativity and elevate my writing--especially outside my genre.

Wonder why that is. Perhaps when reading outside our genres, we're more relaxed? I always worry on some level about having what I'm reading influence my voice too much and maybe worry about subconsciously plagiarizing and this way if it's a different genre, if I take an idea that worked it might become a fresh twist for my genre --if that makes sense?

I need to make more time to read period. I think I feel guilty about having fun reading, but I always try to read work I feel is more skillfully written than my own in hopes of elevating my own writing.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Theresa
Oh boy, sometimes finishing a work in progress is tough. I have been sick, all last year until recently. So I've got four children's books, my epic fantasy sequel and two novellas partly written by hand. Didn't have a computer so that was a challenge. Now I'm excited to be back. I've gotten some really great reviews that help to inspire me.