Monday, February 3, 2014

A Life Unfinished

If there’s one thing writers know anything about, it’s unfinished projects.

Ask any writer and they’ll admit to a good handful of incomplete manuscripts stored under beds and in computer archives, haunting them with their plot holes, not-quite-novella-length word counts and meandering narrative. It’s likely many of them were ill-conceived, half-formed ideas that sprung forth to distract the writer from their writing goals early in their careers. I myself will admit to at least half a dozen of these abominations.

Of course, stories aren’t the only things that are left unfinished in any one writer’s life. It’s hard enough for most of us to go through the motions of living—full-time jobs, cooking, cleaning, shopping, house work, gardening, parenting, pet care, personal grooming and family life—while also creating whole other worlds and spinning stories within them. And yet, we often take on side projects because as people who are natural born creators and fixers, we’re can’t put a lid on our creativity or our compulsion to make things better.

What frequently results is a pile of things left unfinished or undone--more incomplete undertakings that mock us from their respective corners of the house, tasks and ambitions that lurk in the recesses of our minds and whisper “failure” in the night.

I thought I’d share with you some of the random things I’ve got on the go I’ve yet to complete. Perhaps by sharing, I will get around to finishing them.

  1. 1000-piece puzzle: I started this last summer, inspired by my trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario. I worked on it for hours...and then my cat overturned the board and ruined much of what I’d pieced together. Now I seem to be missing an edge piece and I don’t feel as compelled to finish, knowing it could be short one crucial piece.
  2. Crochet blanket: I asked my husband to buy this for me for my birthday. The blanket consists of 255 granny squares that need to be sewn together. I’ve been steadily making these squares since August while watching TV, but I’ve only completed about 86 squares so far. Part of the problem is that I keep buying more yarn to make more scarves and cowls with. On the one hand, I’ve completed lots of scarves. On the other hand, my blanket remains unfinished.
  3. Painting projects: I am a fan of painting wooden boxes but investing the time on these is difficult when there are so many other things I need to do first. Plus, for some reason, I only have four paint colors: black, blue, white and silver. Not sure why I didn’t other colors, but it’s probably a good thing I didn’t. I still have a daily word count to make.
  4. Books: I have the highest (virtual) To Be Read pile ever. I have been halfway through Gone with the Wind for four years now. There are two other books in my Goodreads list that haven’t moved on from their places, either. I get distracted by other books, and just haven’t been inspired enough to continue those other stories. But I can’t seem to give up on any book, even if I don’t want to read it anymore.
  5. Learning to Play the Ukelele: I used to play the guitar. But having to time to practice and no incentive to keep it up since I don’t perform, I gave up the instrument. Seeing my electric guitar mock me from the corner of my office was getting to me, so I traded it in...for a handmade tin-can ukelele. Which I don’t know how to play. But at least it’s smaller and not as flashy or intrusive as the guitar. But then it occurred to me that I’d traded one instrument that I knew how to play with an instrument I didn’t. I’m regretting that now.

What is left unfinished in your life? Do you have projects you keep telling yourself you’ll finish one day? A craft you started, a job you left undone, a skill you wanted to pick up but never had time for? How do you force yourself to do that one thing? 

Let me know in the comments and I’ll randomly pick one respondent to win a copy of my upcoming title, IN HER CORNER, coming March 2014 from Harlequin Superromance. Draw takes place Friday, February 7th!


Sarah H said...

The irony is that I'm supposed to be finishing a writing project as we speak, but decided to lurk on facebook for ten minute (which is timed- I swear!).

I had to recently re-haul everything in my bedroom on account of a fumigation. As it happened- everything I hated about the room (the curtains from the last tenant, third hand and bulky furniture, fourth hand books, lumpy pillow) had to be either gotten rid of or stored away. Last night I looked around my newly spare space with a great sense of peace and the knowledge that I should have done this a long time ago. Sometimes outside agitators work the best. I can't wait for your book!

Rogenna Brewer said...

Oh, don't get me started on all the things I leave unfinished. One year I was going to take up belly dancing for fun and exercise. The "kit" with the book, disk, scarves and zills is still in the box :?

Colleen C. said...

Hmmm, left unfinished... cleaning up my desk... cleaning and straightening up the spare room... making a few Halloween decorations I planned...

BW said...

Cleaning out the spare bedroom and cleaning out my closets.

The pile of books, both print and audio but more so print, that keep growing and growing.

Kristina Mathews said...

It took me about seven years to tile the backsplash in my kitchen. We hired a contractor to redo our kitchen, but wanted to tile the floor and backsplash ourselves. We got the floor done and were burnt out by the time we were finished. I also decided the tile we picked was too plain.

Several years later I bought the glass mosaic tile on clearance and gave it to my husband as a Christmas gift.

I finally put it up last Spring Break.

Mary Preston said...

I must admit to being a finisher. I'm a bit OCD about it really.

Laney4 said...

This week it is finding my desk. I started a new job last week outside the home (in addition to my self-employment at home), and my part-time hours are full-time hours during the "learning curve", resulting in my desk overflowing with note upon note upon note.
Usually my list consists of the mending pile (up to 4 years of items behind) and scrapbooking (I'm up to 1992). Once I become part-time again, I hope to resume such things by using my egg timer each day, setting it for half an hour each time. Usually I end up spending more time on those projects, but sometimes a person barely has an hour to spare so must limit oneself.

Vicki Essex said...

Thank you all for commenting! The winner of a copy of IN HER CORNER is... Colleen C.! Please email me, Colleen, at to receive your prize!

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