U is for unfinished work

The down side of starting new ideas is that I’m not always done with old ones. It’s not just writing, either. Yes, I have what would be piles of uncompleted stories (short stories, novels, whatever) if they were printed out. I’ve also got most of a quilt top that I need to finish putting together. A sweater I was making for when the girl was 1-year-old (and now if I finish, I need to figure out what to do with!). Organizational efforts with papers that still need to be gone through (although I made a good start earlier this month) and shredded, recycled, or filed as necessary. The garden, which will always be a work in progress. And more.

The problem with all these things is that every time I see them and notice them undone, it takes a bit of an emotional toll. “I should do that.” “I don’t have time right now.” “I need to make time.” “Later.” Which means not getting the work done can be mentally exhausting.

People who work monomaniacally don’t have to deal with this as often. They pick one or two projects, pursue to completion, and then go on to the next. It’s great if that’s the way your brain works.

Me, I think my work habits go back to the whole “breadth, not depth” thing. Deep focus just isn’t the way I’m wired. I’m a bee that goes from flower to flower to flower . . . (Extra points for catching the reference!) And it mostly works for me. I do get things done and submitted and even published. I keep my attention fresh and engaged by always having something that fits my mood and attention.

Still, I’m not enchanted by the emotional toll of realizing how very much still needs to be done. I hope to get the quilt top done in May. Ditto the papers. The stories? Well, I’m working on them. I know there will always be some unfinished (at least partly because there are always new starts), but I’m trying to cut down on the backlog over the next year or two. There’s a marathon this coming weekend on Forward Motion that may help with the short stories. That should help.

When it comes right down to it, though, I know that it will never be all done. I’m okay with that. I have to be. A priest once said, “We all die with things on our to-do lists.” The alternative is to stop living before I die. I’m not willing to do that.

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  1. The upcoming marathon won’t be limited to just short stories, unless that’s what you want to focus on.

    Anybody else who is interested can sign up at Forward Motion

    I hear you on the rest. I have no answers, but I know what you mean. My brain depends on having this huge compost pile of rotting ideas, so it can get rich fertile earth out the bottom, but sometimes just the existence of the pile is enough to drag me under.

    • Well, if I could actually complete one of my novels in progress during the marathon, that would be awesome, but it’s highly improbable. Shorts, though, I could.

      Good luck with your own pile! 😀

  2. Kathleen Hammond

    You are not the King of Siam, no matter how many stories you may be working on at any given time.

  3. Kathleen Hammond

    We are not Siamese if you don’t please.

  4. My thought would be if you have a more or less equal number of things that are getting finished as you get new things starting then you’re good to go, but if you have more starts than finishes, then you might want to look at why you don’t finish as much as you start.

    • I do not finish as many items as I start, although I have good intentions. Trying to be better this year. I think I’m afraid, afraid of not doing it right, afraid of being judged — all the fears that lead people not to submit. Once I finish, I’m good about submitting; I just push all those fears to the previous stage.

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