The joys and pains of finishing


The joys and pains of finishingI am sitting here, working on a chapter for a book I am co-authoring. I have been writing the chapter for months and I need to finish it.

In the lounge, my (long suffering) husband is proof reading a rather weighty resource on Creativity for Coaches.  I need to finish it and get it out in the world.

On the dining table is the next “big job” (titter). Another large piece of work (about 30,000 words) that needs shaping, finishing, editing, proofing and releasing into the wild.

Upstairs in the room formally known as my bedroom, are at least 30 paintings, most are nearly finished (ha), most are at least 16” square, some are 3ft by 4ft plus. These too are shouting at me to finish and let them be live…

I hope you are getting a reasonable picture forming in your mind right now, even though I have only given you probably half of it!

I like a challenge, as you can probably tell and I would like to say that all “creative” types are like me, but that’s not true. Apparently creative people, especially the successful ones, do finish things (Kaufman J 2009).  Early in the creative process, there is a lot of intake of material, scanning for ideas and inspiration, playing with possibilities, generating multiple ideas, trying things out etc. But choices are made and towards the end stuff has to exit the pipeline…doesn’t it?

For me, finishing and completing is torture.

It means deciding on a end point for a piece of work, knowing that things could easily stay open and be worked on forever. Finishing something also means I have to accept that someone will view the work (be it a painting, book, or product) at a fixed point and base their evaluation of me, the work and probably other work, on that fixed point.  I hate that. My whole being wants to scream, but “it could have been better” “make sure you look at the painting that followed that one” “that’s just one part of me, that you are looking at” “can I explain it to you – you might ‘get it’ more” ”come and see more of my stuff”….

I also don’t like sitting with the accompanying disappointment I hear in my own voice “oh well, you tried” “it will do Jen, you don’t have the time/resources to do a better job”  Ahhhhhhh the internal talk is so annoying and tiring.

Recently I have realized that I tend to run out of steam about ¾ way through things. I make an amazing start, forge ahead with great gusto and then coming to a grinding halt…whatever the time scale is or the piece of work is! Why does that happen! I liken it to hitting the “wall” in a marathon race (apparently there is a conceptual wall that runners often hit at about 20 miles and find it really difficult to break through- the perfect intersection of fatigue and diminished mental faculties…I can relate to that).

But the book chapter is coming along and I seem to have broken through the ¾ barrier, I am starting to feel how good it might feel when it’s really finished. So here are my helpful thoughts, feelings and re-frames on finishing stuff:

– you get to tick it off the list (even though there will be further edits to do!)

– you might feel less worried about whether its good enough? Well there’s not a lot you could do once it’s released into the world!

– you get to frame it, exhibit it, show it somewhere

– you get to feel free to move onto something else (ha ha)

– you get to talk about it in the current tense, rather than future tense

– you get to use it/sell it/leverage it, rather than just create, create, create without external reward (and whilst I am all for intrinsic reward, I really need some new shoes)

So although I may be a natural seed sower and I find it difficult to tend to plants which need ongoing care (!) some harvesting is required, otherwise I won’t benefit from the fruits of my labours.

Back to the book chapter then…blogging is a wonderful distraction!


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